Aldermen cite city vision

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Infrastructure improvements, economic development efforts and acommunity center rank among the top goals that Mayor Bob Massengilland aldermen hope to accomplish during the next four years.

Those items were most frequently mentioned by officials whenquestioned recently about their visions for the future. WhileMassengill, Aldermen Les Bumgarner and Shirley Estes have preparedmultiple-point lists, several aldermen said last week they werestill in the process of identifying priorities.

A number of infrastructure projects are already in the works andprogress is being made. Bumgarner mentioned the long-awaited pavingof downtown streets.

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“It’s supposed to be here, but it’s been supposed to be here forthe last three years,” Bumgarner said. “Until that’s done, that’smy number one priority.”

Ward Three Alderwoman Mary Wilson agreed.

“I’d really love to see that completed,” she said.

The sidewalk improvements portion of the project is expected tobegin early next month. Street paving, to be done at night, willfollow.

Massengill said infrastructure includes streets, sidewalks,water and sewer lines and many other things. Improving the city’sinfrastructure and financial condition topped his prioritylist.

“We’ve got to get those in better shape than they were at thebeginning of the term,” Massengill said.

Paving, streets, sidewalks, and ditches were also concernsspecifically mentioned by Aldermen Terry Bates, D.W. Maxwell, BuddyAllen, Wilson and Estes. Water and sewer lines also needaddressing, Estes said.

‘The city has a lot of needs,” she said. “A lot of the needs areunseen because they are underground.”

Drainage has been a particular issue for Maxwell since he tookoffice earlier this summer.

“We have a number of main ditches and arteries that take waterfrom the city,” said Maxwell, mentioning flooding problems in hispart of town. “We need to set up regular maintenance so we can beable to keep ditches clean to alleviate flooding problems.”

Along the lines of infrastructure, Allen called for the city tohire its own engineer. He indicated that would be a more feasiblealternative to contracting with engineering firms for cityprojects.

“I think we’d save a lot of money by hiring our own engineer,”Allen said. “In fact, I know we would.”

Allen said a civil engineer is needed to work on road, water andsewer projects. In other instances, he said a local engineer couldbe hired for projects beyond the city engineer’s expertise.

Infrastructure for the community’s new business park was anotheroft-mentioned goal for officials. They said the business park isvital in attracting better-paying jobs for citizens.

“We’ve done stage one, but we’ve got to go through the wholeprocess,” Cameron said.

Also in the area of economic development, Bates said moreefforts should be made to attract larger shopping developments.

“Brookhaven is in a good position for a mall,” said Bates,citing the city’s ability to draw from other areas and therebyincrease sales tax revenue. “That would be great.”

Estes attended a Thursday evening Main Street Mississippipresentation and touted its potential benefits for the city. Thestate program targets revitalization of areas of communities,particularly downtowns, in hopes of boosting tourism, appearanceand economic development.

“This is one of my goals,” Estes said.

She said community appearance and other efforts have beenimplemented and can be improved upon in the future.

“Community is very important to me. It always has been,” Estessaid.

Infrastructure and a community center were two prioritiesaldermen identified last year when city officials went toWashington to solicit federal funding help, Massengill said. Themayor said the community center concept could be expanded beyondsenior citizens.

“There’s nothing to say we can’t make it for all ages, andthat’s what I hope to do,” Massengill said.

The community center was a priority for Cameron. He said it doesnot have to be built in his ward, but it would benefit hisconstituents.

Citing past efforts that failed, Cameron said city officialsshould recommit to building the community center.

“We had money there,” Cameron said, “but one excuse afteranother, it was taken out and never put back.”

Cameron and Bates said money could be set aside each year untilthere is sufficient funding. Or, Cameron said, grants could bepursued.

“They’re not easy to get and you’re not guaranteed to get one,”Cameron said.

Allen said the center, if built, needs to be centrally-locatedin the city.

“If we can’t find a central location, I don’t think I’d be forit,” Allen said.

While not identifying any particular place, Bates said thecommunity center needs to be accessible to the largest number ofpeople.

“It could be built in anybody’s ward,” Bates said.

Bates said the center could include a basketball court, aninside pool if the center is large enough, computer classes andactivities for the elderly. He said the community center would beuseful in helping the recreation department serve more people.

“There are some young people being left behind,” Bates said.

A swimming pool was another of Bates’ goals. He said thepossibility exists for someone to grow to be 21 years old withoutever learning how to swim.

“That’s going to happen if they don’t have a chance to dosomething like that,” Bates said.

Other officials have cited liability insurance concerns in notpursuing a pool. Bates discounted those contentions, saying thereare liability risks in all aspects of life.

Among his ward visions, Allen questioned if one of them could beaccomplished.

“I’d love to see a park for small children in eachneighborhood,” said Allen. “I don’t think that’s going to happen inthe next four years.”

In her ward, Wilson renewed a call for improvements to theclosed Warren Avenue bridge, which is in poor condition. She saidshe would like to see it fixed and reopened to traffic, especiallywhen emergency vehicles are needed.

“If anybody who lives below that bridge has a medical problem,they’re going to be in trouble,” Wilson said. “Each minute is goingto count.”

Among citywide goals, Maxwell said improved animal controlordinances and rules governing cellular telephone towers areneeded. Both issues have come up during recent city boardmeetings.

And, Maxwell said, policies regarding employees’ job titles,descriptions and wage scales need to be better defined. He alsomentioned developing a policy for employee evaluations anddiscipline and his plans to discuss those in more detail at futureboard meetings.

“I would love to see that implemented,” said Maxwell.

Aldermen’s comments and their lists suggested a good bit ofcommon ground on issues. Bumgarner said officials have been workingon some projects for several years, but all are important.

“It’s different timetables for different things,” Bumgarnersaid.