Board votes to host ’08 Small Town meeting

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to allow Brookhaven to hostthe Small Town Conference in 2008.

The conference is held every year for towns under 20,000residents, and has recently been hosted by towns like Oxford andNatchez. The Small Town Conference is regularly attended by mayors,aldermen and other municipal officials from all over the state.

“We should take this opportunity to show Brookhaven to the restof the state and let them see the good things we’re doing here,”said Mayor Bob Massengill. “I think this is a great chance to putour best foot forward.”

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The 2007 conference is being hosted by Louisville, but held inPhiladelphia since the casinos have enough hotel rooms. Massengillsaid approximately 150 hotel rooms are needed; Brookhaven currentlyhas 432.

“We’re over a year and a half away, which gives us plenty oftime to plan a great conference so people will feel really goodabout where they’ve been,” the mayor said.

The conference is expected to take place around October of 2008shortly after the city’s sesquicentennial celebration, whichaldermen approved at a recent meeting.

Also Tuesday night, ward redistricting in light of ananticipated city annexation was also an issue at the boardmeeting.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell pointed out to the board thatthe natural extensions of the wards wouldn’t work as far as keepingthe wards balanced, and could upset the demographics in certainwards.

Currently, consultant Mike Slaughter is putting together modelsituations for the annexation to show to the aldermen when theredistricting goes into effect.

“Mike Slaughter suggested two possible ward makeups, and theJustice Department will approve one of them that won’t dilute thevoting pool,” said Massengill. “We have to make sure that no wardis more than 10 percent larger than the others, however.”

Maxwell was concerned because his ward, and Ward One will bothlose voters. Meanwhile, Wars Two and Six will have to gainvoters.

So they can all see how the two separate ideas would affect eachward, board members decided to have a work session once the modelsare set out,

In other matters, Maxwell brought up the issue of absenteeismamong certain city workers. He mentioned a list that showed oneworker with eight unexcused absences.

“I don’t know how this affects the morale of the other workers,”he said. “But I think we need to get their attention.”

Massengill pointed out that the department heads of the citycan’t make a decision based on an employee’s suspension ortermination. That decision was up to the board.

Shirley Estes, Ward Four alderwoman, pointed out the need for adesignation of when a warning could be issued in the case of aworker who has not called in on the day he or she is going to misswork to let supervisors know of the absence.

“I think Bob (Massengill) should get together with thedepartment heads so we can specify limits,” said Ward Two AldermanTerry Bates.

Massengill said he thought the department heads would be happyto do such a thing.

“I think our interest will be appreciated,” he said. “Let’s lookat the handbook and meet with the department heads next meeting andtake whatever time we need to resolve this thing.”

In other business, Ward Six Alderman Buddy Allen brought upMonday night’s hearing about a proposed new low-income housingcomplex. Allen motioned to write a letter to the Housing Authorityto ask the agency to deny tax credits on the city portion of thecomplex, as it is currently both in the city and the county.

City Attorney Joe Fernald said the better way to handle it wouldbe to allow him to investigate the situation and explore thepossibility of the city taking that position on those credits.

The board also voted to allot $10,000 to finishing a walkingtrail so the city will be eligible for other grant funds. At themoment, the $10,000 is all that is needed in addition to an $80,000grant the city was rewarded to build a walking track, but the citycannot apply for other grants until the track is either finished orthe idea is thrown out.

Massengill said among other ideas the city is working towardsare a series of water park-type playgrounds and a bicentennialpark.