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Mid-May opening seen for Railcar

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates (left) proposes the board of aldermen consider the full-time hire of a solid waste department employee. "This is absolutely necessary," Bates said.

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates (left) proposes the board of aldermen consider the full-time hire of a solid waste department employee. “This is absolutely necessary,” Bates said.

American Railcar Inc. intends to meet its opening deadline and be fully operational by the “middle of May,” or approximately 45 days from now, noted Mike McKenzie of WGK Engineering at Tuesday night’s board of aldermen meeting.

Extreme weather fluctuations put that deadline in jeopardy over the last two months; however, final work on the 22-acre facility located across from Delphi on Industrial Park Road has picked up steam in recent weeks.

“Some of the issues with construction there have been worked out. We are back on track,” McKenzie said.

ARI will perform maintenance on railcars that deliver products on the Canadian National Railway line that extends from Chicago to New Orleans. ARI Director of New Business Tom Ward, expects to the new facility to employ 25-30 workers, not including contractors.

Also during the meeting, the board approved a 10-year ad valorem tax exemption for Delphi that will now be sent to the state for approval, according to City Clerk Michael Jinks.

In other matters, board Attorney Joe Fernald has been revising Brookhaven’s beer ordinance and presented a final copy of his revisions to the board members for their review Tuesday. Fernald used Mississippi Bureau of Alcohol regulations as his primary guide in drafting the new ordinance.

Also during Tuesday's aldermen meeting, WGK Engineer Mike McKenzie updated the board on city projects.

Also during Tuesday’s aldermen meeting, WGK Engineer Mike McKenzie updated the board on city projects.

In personnel matters, the board voted 4-3 in favor of approving the hire of Melvin Fitzgerald Smith as a part-time driver/operator in the solid waste department. Ward One Alderman Randy Belcher, Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates and Ward Three Alderman Mary Wilson voted against the part-time hire, suggesting the need for Smith as a full-time employee.

“We need to have a better system. We need a full-time employee. Residents in my ward don’t see trucks in their neighborhoods. They seem to be in only one section of town,” Alderman Bates said. “The residents in our wards see the need for Smith’s work. We just advise that he work full-time.”

“Mr. Smith has a CDL license. That’s exactly what we need. To me, it’s a no brainer,” said Belcher.

Mayor Joe Cox suggested the board, Solid Waste Department Manager Willie Smith and Public Works Director Steve Moreton hold a work session on the matter.

Moreton also will take board members on a tour of the FEMA 361 building Thursday morning. Mayor Cox, in recent months, has expressed a desire to use the new building for a wide range of functions including fundraisers, conventions and other events besides its primary use as a storm shelter.

Before Tuesday night’s meeting, the board held a work session to deliberate city plans to expand municipal water and sewer services to previously annexed areas. McKenzie provided board members with graphs depicting the first stage of the planning.

During the aldermen’s meeting, the board voted 7-0 on Ward Six Alderman David Phillips’ request to apply for $8 million in state revolving funds to initiate the first phase of the water/sewer project.

“This is the first step in getting this project going. It’s been on hold for long enough,” said Phillips. (More information regarding the plans will be outlined in an upcoming story in The Daily Leader.)

In other business, the board approved a decision made by the planning committee to rezone a residential building on West Congress Street to a commercial building. It will be used as a daycare.

The board also approved expenses for a clerk with the water department to attend a certification program and expenses for Brookhaven Fire Department Chief Tony Weeks to attend a seminar held by the National Fire Academy.

The board will meet again Tuesday, April 15.