City awarded $550K grant for erosion

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mayor Bob Massengill said Tuesday the city has been approved fora $550,000 Natural Resources Conservation Services grant to addressmajor erosion concerns along a large drainage area in the city.

The grant funds, along with $75,000 to $85,000 in matching cityfunds, would go to install rip rap for erosion control along thesides of the ditch near Halbert Heights Road. Massengill said thecity is proceeding with a survey and obtaining easements for thework, which must be completed by April 6.

“This is intended to stop erosion, which is horrible at thatpoint, but it’s also to improve water flow,” Massengill said.

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Officials have estimated the ditch drains 65 percent of thecity’s water. At an earlier board meeting, Massengill said theditch problems were worsened after Hurricane Katrina and threateneda strip retail mall in the area and city sewer lines.

In other action during Tuesday’s meeting, engineer Jeff Greenupdated board members on progress of the city’s downtown pavingproject. He said sidewalk work is expected to be completed in twoto three weeks.

Green mentioned an upcoming prepaving meeting with contractorsDickerson and Bowen. With cooler weather expected around the end ofOctober, he said the paving – which is to be done at night – couldstart before the sidewalk work is done.

Regarding another city project, Massengill said the city hasbeen given an extension until the end of 2006 to spend federalfunding allocated for a multimodal transportation facility. He saidplans have been sent to the Mississippi Department ofTransportation, which is overseeing fund dispursement, forapproval.

Aldermen voted to place liens on property that has been cleanedup by city crews in the past.

Massengill said the work totaled $48,000, and a 25 percentpenatly raised the total to $60,000. He said some property ownershave had more than one year to pay while others have had at leastsix months.

“They could have avoided the 25 percent penalty if they paid forthe work we did,” Massengill said. “They’ve all been billed.”

Tuesday’s board action puts a lien on the property, meaning thebill would have to be paid before the property could be sold.

In hurricane-related discussions, Massengill said contractorswith the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are scheduled to make theirlast pass for debris pick up on Oct. 22. Citizens have beenencouraged to have debris at curbside by Oct. 21.

The mayor said Oct. 28 is the last day for debris removal to bepaid 100 percent by FEMA. After that, there is a 25 percent costshare with the city.

“We’re going to ride herd to make sure as much as possible isdone by Oct. 28,” Massengill said.

Also Tuesday, aldermen approved a request from Homer Richardsonfor Master Gardeners to plant shrubs and bushes to beautify theentrance way and roads in Easthaven Cemetery. If planted now, theplants can be ready for the spring, Richardson said.

In another cemetery matter, Massengill presented budget datashowing it has been operating at deficits between $142,808 and$167,103 over the last three years. The mayor said the cemetery isnot expected to be profitable or break even but there could bethings done to improve operations.

“I just think it would be good if we can look at it,” Massengillsaid.

Aldermen Les Bumgarner, Mary Wilson and D.W. Maxwell wereappointed to a committee to review cemetery operations. The mayorsaid there is no rush on committee recommendations, but asked ifthe panel could meet by the end of the year.

Also last night, aldermen rejected an attorney general’s officeproposal for the city to lease MDOT property on Hartman Street as asite for city barn operations. Legislative efforts to have theproperty donated to the city have been unsuccessful, as haveefforts to secure a long-term, low-cost lease.

Massengill said the latest proposal would be for $3,400 a yearfor 20 years, which would add up to the $68,000 purchase price forthe property. The mayor said the city’s costs to move operationsfrom Willard Street would be considerable since new buildings wouldhave to be built in addition to the lease payment.

Aldermen rejected the lease proposal on the property.

“They can give it to us, but we don’t want to buy it,” said WardOne Alderman Dorsey Cameron.