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Officials tout progress made on priorities list

Heading into the last year of the term of the mayor and board ofaldermen, Mayor Bob Massengill updated his fellow officials Tuesdayon the status of a city priority list they established beforeHurricane Katrina.

Massengill said the board has made great strides for the city byfollowing the list in the last three years, but that there is stillwork to be done in the final year of the term.

The list, as put together by the board three years ago, had fivepriorities the board unanimously agreed as being of utmostimportance. They were economic development, revitalizing thedowntown area, systematically replacing city equipment, paving in asystematic manner, and improving and dealing with cityinfrastructure.

Massengill said one of the biggest accomplishments of the lastthree years was the cooperation between the city and Lincoln Countyon the beginning of the Linbrook Business Park.

“I think one of the most important things that we have accomplishedthus far is with the county board and the Industrial DevelopmentFoundation, and that’s the purchase of the Linbrook Business Parkproperty,” he said. “Phase One is well under way and Phase Two issoon to begin, and that really puts the community back in thebusiness of attracting industry.”

Massengill said another major step in the right direction is theover $3 million that has been put toward paving by the MississippiDepartment of Transportation, as well as by the city.

Massengill said MDOT has been instrumental in helping get parts ofHighway 51 and Monticello Street paved. The work was part of the $2million in paving expenditures done in the last three years.

Downtown revitalization has been a big project, Massengill said,and so far a successful one.

“I think another one of the major things we’ve done is therevitalization of downtown, and certainly the merchants andproperty owners in the downtown are taking pride in what they’redoing and I’m excited to see what they’re doing,” he said. “Thecity is committed to making an even better downtown.”

The next step in the downtown revitalization is trying to findgrant funds for the downtown sidewalks.

“We won’t obtain these funds or begin that work immediately,” saidMassengill. “We won’t know anything on that during this last yearof this term, so that would be a little longer goal. But that wouldcertainly be one.”

Work on the infrastructure is always ongoing and is alwaysimportant, officials said.

“Much of that is made up of things that people don’t readily see,but it is tremendously important to the city,” Massengill said.”We’re trying to deal with the problems as they arise and we’retrying to anticipate them as best we can.”

The next five priorities did not carry unanimously, but were deemedimportant enough to be in the Top 10 out of the original list of 20the board listed. They were community appearance, cluster lightingat Interstate 55 Exit 40, annexation, a community center and a busservice.

Community appearance will continue to improve, the list contended,if lots continue to be cleaned and dilapidated houses and buildingscontinue to be demolished. A major part of that project hinges onlandfill recertification, Massengill said.

Cluster lighting is still under way, and Massengill said the citywill keep on pushing for that to come to fruition.

“Then we’ll begin working to have our other exits lighted,” hesaid.

Annexation work is ongoing as the city works to catch up with thewater and sewer needs of the annexed areas.

Massengill said the required number of firemen has been hired.There are still slots on the police force, he said.

Among other ongoing projects are the Field Lark Lane bridge andother road problems inherited in the transition.

The community center project is now headed in the direction ofbeing a senior citizens’ center, and the location across the streetfrom the government complex has been selected for building to beginwhen and if a grant is approved. The mayor said he hopes there willbe a report by mid-July.

The bus service plan is on hold, Massengill said.

“It’s really not in the works until we know what’s going tohappen,” he said. “We have no plans to begin a bus service yet, butif the multimodal moves forward, that should be an ideal time to atleast consider community-wide transportation.”

Massengill said the purpose of listing the priorities was to mapthe progress of the current administration, but also to remindaldermen there are things yet undone.

“We’ve done a lot of things, but I also wanted them to realizeduring last year of the term we still have some more things to do,”he said after last night’s meeting. “Plus I think this would begood for people to know what we’ve done and what we’re going to tryto do before the end of the term.”