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Engineer: New building better for train station

Brookhaven aldermen continue to explore options regarding astalled multi-modal transportation facility, but the city’sengineer Tuesday expressed reservations about renovation of an oldpower plant building.

“You can build a new building a lot easier than you can renovatean old building, and a lot less costly,” City Engineer Carl RayFurr told the board during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Options presented by architect Michael Barranco at the lastboard meeting included renovating the old power plant building,which would require additional city funds, or leveling the existingbuilding and constructing a smaller facility with availablefunds.

“Each of these options has pros and cons, but cost must be aprimary consideration,” Mayor Bob Massengill said in a letterdistributed to aldermen at Tuesday night’s meeting.

With the value of the land and money already spent serving asthe city’s match, aldermen have about $1 million in federal moneyavailable for the project. City officials have said they do notwant to spend any more money on the facility.

Massengill said Barranco has yet to complete a drawing of thescaled-back building.

In deciding how to proceed, Massengill urged board members toconsider the city’s plans and use for the building, expectedincome, operational costs and space needs. The mayor said otherquestions may arise as officials discuss the project.

Furr expressed interest in maintaining the old smokestack as thefocal point of the development. He indicated a new building couldbe constructed to be compatible with that structure and meet thecity’s needs.

Regarding the old power plant building, which was built on 1890,Furr likened it to the King Edward Hotel, a Jackson landmark whichcity officials there have been unsuccessful in revitalizing.

“It’ll just be costly to rehab it,” Furr said of the power plantbuilding.

Massengill said he would like to have a decision on the facilityat the Feb. 15 meeting or the March 1 meeting. He also suggestedthe board schedule a work session to contemplate how to proceedwith facility plans.

The city has been earmarked an additional approximately $3million in federal money for the transportation facility, but thatwould have to be matched by $750,000 in local funds. A source forthe local funds has not been identified, and city officials haveexpressed little interest in pursuing the project beyond thecurrent $1 million level.

In other action during Tuesday’s meeting, Richard Barker andFrank Moak talked to city officials about plans for a bicycle racein Brookhaven in April. Aldermen approved a motion allowingdowntown streets to be used for the races, scheduled for theweekend of April 22.

Following three races here and one in Natchez last year, Barkersaid organizers want to hold all four races in Brookhaven thisyear. They will include a road race in the county and three racesin downtown Brookhaven.

“It was one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see,”Barker said about last year’s road race in the Heuck’s Retreatcommunity.

Barker was anticipating about 50-60 riders for this year’sraces. He said last year’s event generated about $34,000 ineconomic activity, and he expected more this year because all ofthe events will be here.

Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson, whose department wasinvolved in security and other aspects of the race, said lastyear’s event was “outstanding.” Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estesalso complimented the event and was hopeful that more spectatorswould come out this year.

“It was exciting to watch,” Estes said.

Also Tuesday, aldermen are looking to schedule a meeting withWard Three property owners whose flood-prone homes could bepurchased under a grant program being pursued by the city. Possibledates include next Monday or Thursday, Feb. 17.

The program would offer the owners the appraised value of thehomes to move out of the area. Massengill said the city needed togauge homeowner interest before getting the propertiesappraised.

“If they are interested, we would go to the next step,”Massengill said.

Aldermen also want to have Waste Management officials attend afuture board meeting to discuss some recent complaints with theprivate garbage collection service. Among concerns mentioned lastnight were speeding trucks, missed streets, late collection andtrash cans being left in roadways.