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Board rescinds pay raises

WESSON — The board of aldermen voted Tuesday to rescind theirself-approved pay raises and the mayor’s state retirement afterlooking closer at the budget for the upcoming year.

Mayor Alton Shaw asked the board to reconsider the raises andhis retirement “for budgetary purposes” at the start of the regularmonthly meeting.

Board member Hollis Cowen Jr. followed Shaw’s suggestion with amotion and an explanation for the board’s reasoning for the actiontaken at the recessed meeting on Aug. 19.

“At the time, we were not aware of the situation we are in,”said Cowen, referring to the town bringing in less revenue thanexpected. “We all said we were not interested in a raise if we weregoing to have to raise taxes or millages to do it.”

Cowen’s motion to rescind the raises was carried by a unanimousvote, gaining applause from the audience gathered for themeeting.

Members of the Concerned Citizens Group had held a meetingbefore the board meeting to discuss the board’s raises. They hadplanned to question the timeliness of the raises, said memberHarold Alexander.

After the board’s vote, the group did not question the board’searlier action.

The group did, however, receive more good news as Shaw announcedthe town would not have to raise taxes or millage rates for thecoming year.

“That’s the one we really need to clap at,” said Cowen.

The board reviewed the budget for the 2003-2004 year, showingthat the town would be in good shape, but not as well asexpected.

For the current year, which ends Sept. 31, the projected revenueis down about $25,000, due in part to lower sales tax returns, saidShaw. Officials expect that number to decrease before the fiscalyear ends.

In order to offset a projected lower revenue for the comingyear, Shaw decreased the budget in some areas, but nothing wasdrastic, he said.

Projected in the budget are two new projects Shaw hopes to startin the coming year. First, he said town hall needs to be madewheelchair compliant in three years, so he hoped to start thenecessary work soon.

Also, Shaw introduced a plan to completely repave every streetin Wesson in 10 years. He budgeted for the town to pave one mile ofstreets in the 2003-2004 fiscal year. The Copiah County board ofsupervisors has already promised to pave one and a half miles ofstreets next year.

Shaw said if two and a half miles are paved every year, theywill be able to improve all of the approximately 25 miles ofstreets in town.

He also planned for the town to start saving money to repaintthe water tank, which is estimated to need work in approximatelythree years. The cost of the project will be around $100,000.

Marty Stroud, a member of the Concerned Citizens Group andformer mayoral candidate, asked the board to consider working on afew other projects as well.

He asked that the board look at spraying mosquitoes more often,mow grass on the town property and rights-of-way and keep ditchesclear of debris.

“The only way we’re going to be able to have that type of moneyis if the town grows,” said Alderman Robert Derrick.

Shaw acknowledged that the town was working on some of thoseareas. He added that he hopes to improve on some of the residents’complaints by keeping an open door and asking for suggestions.

He wants to “regain the community spirit” and willingness towork together. Shaw complimented the recent volunteer efforts byresidents Bobby Britt and Van Graham, who helped the town fix awater leak.

The board will further review the budget over the next fewweeks. They will meet again at 7 p.m., Sept. 15, to vote on thebudget.

Before the meeting was recessed, everyone was reminded of thewelcome home reception for John Whitaker, who has been serving inthe military, at 8 p.m., Sunday at Zion Hill Baptist Church.