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Board affirms renaming of street for King

Although a resident asked Tuesday night that another street beconsidered for the honor, aldermen are standing by their recentdecision to rename Hamilton Street in honor of Dr. Martin LutherKing Jr.

At its March 1 meeting, the board voted unanimously to renamethe east Brookhaven street to Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. Localresident Polly Byrd had requested the renaming as part of a largerplan to recognize historic local and national black people.

Former Alderman Percy Rauls last night presented a petition with41 signatures from Hamilton Street residents who disagreed with theboard’s decision. Rauls was asked whether the residents disagreedwith the decision or that they were not notified.

“All of it,” Rauls said.

If the board decided to rescind its earlier action, Rauls saidhe would like to suggest another street in honor of King. Saying heneeded to do more paperwork, Rauls rejected several requests toidentify a preferred street.

Several aldermen indicated that renaming another street couldopen to door the further objections.

Rauls was encouraged to meet with Byrd and discuss the plan.Neither resident lives on Hamilton Street.

Mayor Bob Massengill pointed out that Byrd approached the boardwith a plan about the street renaming and other aspects that couldbe pursued in the future. Also, the mayor mentioned a desire toconstruct a new senior center and place it near the A.L.Complex.

“What better location than having it on Dr. Martin Luther KingDrive?” Massengill asked.

The mayor said he believes the board made a good decision twoweeks ago.

“I’m pleased they did so,” Massengill said.

When pressed about his objections to Hamilton Street beingrenamed, Rauls said no one travels the road and indicated it wouldnot be visible.

“That’s why it’s the wrong street,” Rauls said. “It goes thougha ‘hood that goes nowhere.”

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron, whose ward includes part ofHamilton Street, took strong exception to Rauls’ use of the word’hood and its bad connotation in describing a part of a community.Rauls said he was referring to a neighborhood.

Following the brief exchange, Cameron said his decision wasmade.

“I wouldn’t vote to change it now for nobody,” Cameron said.

Other aldermen took no action to change their prior decision.The ordinance to rename the street is scheduled to take effect inabout 30 days after the board’s initial vote.

Before addressing the board, Rauls tried to defer to Eli’SaCorley but was denied because Corley’s name was not listed on theboard’s agenda to make an appearance. Corley is a candidate forWard One alderman against Cameron.

In other business, aldermen heard from Waste Management SiteManager Trevor Ash regarding improvements the company has maderegarding collection services. Aldermen earlier raised concernsabout missed streets, late pickups and other concerns.

“We’ve been very proactive since our last meeting on issues youbrought up,” Ash said, adding that a new truck and crew were doinga good job.

Also Tuesday, aldermen took under advisement a request fromClint Gardner and Helen Lynch to give a property tax break on newbuildings constructed at the corner of South Railroad Avenue andChickasaw Street. State law allows the breaks on new developmentsin cities’ central business districts.

While supportive, aldermen said they needed time to study therequest and determine the duration of the tax breaks. Gardner andLynch requested 10 years.

Taxes on the land and school taxes on the overall developmentwould still have to be paid.

The board also delayed a decision on Alderman at large LesBumgarner’s proposal to remove the interim tag from the titles ofFire Chief Bob Watts and Assistant Chief Fred Smith. They werenamed to the offices on an interim basis following Chief PaulCartwright’s retirement earlier this year.

“They’ve shown use they’re doing a good job,” said Ward TwoAlderman Terry Bates in support of Bumgarner’s proposal.

While citing no problems with Watts or Smith, Ward FourAlderwoman Shirley Estes and Ward Five Alderman Tom Smith suggestedthe board wait until an assessment of department practices iscomplete. A consultant was hired recently to evaluate thedepartment, although specific personnel recommendations were notexpected to be part of the report.

The board chose to think about the personnel decisions and voteat their April 5 meeting.

In routine matters, aldermen voted to give city employees aholiday on Good Friday. The board also passed a resolutiondeclaring March as Mental Retardation Awareness Month.