Board backs ‘scaled-back’ train station

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Brookhaven aldermen voted 4-3 Tuesday to continue with a”scaled-back” version of the proposed multi-modal transportationfacility.

While the scaled-back version would require only $2 million,Tuesday’s move leaves open the possibility of using the remaining$2 million in federal funds the city has been allocated for theproject. The federal funds must be matched locally by 20 percentfunds or in-kind assistance.

“Once it’s built, you can continue to expand or stop it whereyou are,” City Engineer Carl Ray Furr told board members lastnight.

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The facility is slated to be built around the old smokestackarea on North Railroad Avenue. Furr said city-controlled propertyin that area would provide the 20 percent in-kind match and notrequire any additional city funds.

Furr said the scaled-back facility would provide train service,a community center and possible restaurant, with work focusing onrenovating existing buildings and reworking the smoke stack to bethe “hallmark of downtown Brookhaven.” With the board’s decision,Furr said architect Michael Barranco would be revising plans forpresentation to the board later.

Furr said the original plan called for an approximately $5million facility similar to a multi-modal operation inMeridian.

Following Furr’s presentation, Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameronoffered a motion to move ahead with the scaled-back plan. It passed4-3, with Aldermen Bob Massengill, Tom Smith and John E. “Buddy”Allen voting against the move.

Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner said federal officials weretrying to help Brookhaven by providing the funds for the facility.He said it was the board’s job to pursue the project correctly andnot have it be a burden on city taxpayers.

“If we do this thing right, it can 100 percent positive,”Bumgarner said.

Massengill wanted to see estimated operational costs on thefacility. With the city facing a number of other projects, he alsosuggested the transportation facility be delayed until afterannexation.

Mayor Bill Godbold said operational costs were not known, andFurr said the budget for the larger transportation facility inMeridian was being modified for Brookhaven. He anticipated costsbeing limited to utilities, cleaning and other maintenanceactivities.

As a result of the facility, Bumgarner speculated that improvedproperty values in surrounding areas would offset operationalcosts.

“It’ll pay for itself in an urban renewal type situation,”Bumgarner said.

Following the vote, Massengill sought board unity.

“We as a board need to stand behind what we’ve decided tonight,”Massengill said.

Smith had suggested the board wait two weeks to consider thescaled-back plans. He sought assurances that local money would notbe needed and expressed concerns about the possibility of citycrews working on the project to the detriment of other needs.

“We surely don’t need to pull them off to get them on somethingelse,” Smith said.

Later, aldermen approved allowing a city crew to be used to haulcontaminated dirt to an approved landfill. Furr said anenvironmental study had uncovered spilled oil but no “terrible”problems.

“With just a little clean up of oil spills and what have you,that area can be put to good use,” Furr said.

Brookhaven was allocated $1 million each in fiscal years 2001and 2002 and $2 million in fiscal year 2003. With the city havingthree years to utilize the money, Furr said the board had untilSept. 30 to obligate the first $1 million.

The prospect of returning the federal funds also factored inFurr’s discussion.

He said the city was “at a crossroads” and needed to either moveforward with the facility or let the funds lapse. He urged boardmembers to think about all citizens, and not just those who may notneed to use the transportation services offered by thefacility.

“I think the scaled-back facility can take care of the city’strain and bus services and serve Brookhaven well in the future,”Furr said.

Furr estimated the transportation facility could be started insix to nine months and be completed in about 18 months.

While leaving the meeting, Furr and his associate Hugh Longpraised the board’s action as a “major decision” to help thecity.

“Never has Mississippi allowed any federal money not to beused,” Long said.

Furr also pointed out that using the transportation facilitymoney would help the city when it lobbies congressional leaders forfunds for other projects. He said the state’s congressionaldelegation would be called upon for possible funding forinfrastructure for the proposed new industrial park.

“That is one of the most pressing major needs Brookhaven andLincoln County have today,” Furr said.