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Aldermen hail funding word on interstate lights

The recent announcement of funding for the lighting atInterstate 55 Exit 40 was a hot topic at Tuesday night’s Board ofAldermen meeting, with officials expressing relief and gratitudethat the project is now under way.

Mayor Bob Massengill said the Mississippi Department ofTransportation has said the city and county will be responsible formaintenance and operational costs of the lighting.

“This project is as important to the county as it is to us, andI’m certain they will help us with the costs,” he said.

Massengill said Exit 40 at Brookway Boulevard will be the firstpriority, with the north Brookhaven Exit 42 to follow.

The mayor also said he has been touching base with mayors ofother cities along I-55 to see if their communities are paying thecosts or if MDOT is handling it for them. Massengill said he hasspoken with officials in eight cities and is working on gettingseveral more responses before he discusses his findings.

“It’s my understanding that the only place where MDOT pays thecomplete cost is Natchez,” said Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell.”As I understand it, the money sometimes comes through federalgrants, which are directed through MDOT.”

The mayor pointed out that Batesville still does not havecluster lighting, in spite of the fact that there is an MDOT officelocated there.

In other action, the board approved the proposal of Dr. SpencerMoody to sell part of his McGrath building to Chuck Farnham for abusiness condominium. At its previous meeting, the board sentMooney’s request to the planning commission for that panel’sinput.

“All of us were unfamiliar with what was taking place,” saidMassengill. “We felt the planning commission should have somethingto say.”

Apparently some of the consternation was caused by use of theword “condominium” to describe the top floor development of theMcGrath Building.

“We’re not building condos, we’re building offices,” saidFarnham. “We’re going to put engineering offices in there.”

City Building Inspector Walter Temple said the planningcommission had recommended approval of the project.

Maxwell pointed out that he did not believe the project wasentirely compliant with zoning laws, but that the ordinances wouldneed to be updated.

“Hopefully this won’t be the only project like this,” saidMassengill. “Hopefully there will be plenty of other projects likethis.”

City officials were divided on a proposal by Director of PublicWorks Steve Moreton to cease rental of city trailers to businessesand individuals locally.

Moreton presented photographs to the board of one of the city’strailers that was brought back damaged. He asked officials toconsider ending the practice of renting them out.

“It took us all morning to get this trailer fixed to where wecould even move it,” said Moreton.

After looking at the pictures, Ward Four Alderwoman ShirleyEstes voiced her support for Moreton’s request.

“I’m concerned about the condition the city’s assets are beingreturned in,” she said.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates agreed.

“We’re getting these things torn up,” he said. “We can’t keephaving this happen.”

On the motion made by Ward Six Alderman Buddy Allen, Estes,Allen and Bates voted to cease the rentals, while Maxwell, WardThree Alderwoman Mary Wilson and Alderman At Large Les Bumgarnervoted against it. Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron chose toabstain.

Massengill broke the tie, voting in favor of stopping the rentalpractice.

“We can revisit this issue if we feel it’s necessary. We’vedefinitely had some damage in the last few days,” he said.

Massengill also said aldermen will meet with consultant MikeSlaughter about redistricting next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Officialswill discuss findings at the next regular meeting of the board ofaldermen on July 17.