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Aldermen OK city employee raise in new budget plan

With the new budget year just around the corner, the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen approved a balanced budget that includes a 3 percent wage increase for all employees.

The new budget also allows new hires’ probationary period on insurance policies to be decreased from 90 to 60 days beginning Oct. 1. Both water and sewer rates will increase by $1.50. The budget was approved unanimously, 7-0

The budget did face an increase in costs from their insurance. Mike Smith, of Insurance & Risk Managers, explained the increase mostly stems from property. He estimated about a $9,000 increase in the insurance comes the city’s new FEMA building.

Slaughter

Slaughter

He also estimated a $4,000 increase came from a change in the wind model that the entire state is facing. Previously, Smith said Brookhaven has avoided it by neither being in the coastal region or the central region.

In other business, Rebecca Bates, director of the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Service, introduced the Mississippi State Extension Service’s new agent, Ashley Tucker.

In joining the local Extension team, Tucker, a Mississippi native, will be charged with the task of community development. Martin Hegwood, assistant extension professor, said Lincoln County is one of four counties in the state to receive this new position.

“You have so much potential, and you’ve realized a lot of that,” Hegwood said.

He assured the board that Tucker would not dictate development project but would follow the direction of the community. If a business, the city or the county has a project, Tucker will be resource for them to use.

Ward Six Alderman David Phillips said Tucker has already begun working on the recycling project for them.

“She’s very capable and competent,” Phillips said.

Tucker

Tucker

Mike Slaughter, of Slaughter & Associates, asked the board to begin thinking about updating their comprehensive plan. Slaughter worked on the comprehensive plan that was approved in 2009, and in general, it is advised to update the plan approximately every five years. Slaughter said they would look at the current plan, see how much has been accomplished, and help the city look 20 to 25 years into the future.

“It’s about protecting and enhancing your quality of life,” Slaughter said.

The board also approved a policy for the adjustment of water bills due to unforeseen circumstances. Whenever there is a leak that results in extreme water bill, the water department will remove some of the sewage cost on the bill to be consistent with their average sewage costs. The policy only allows for one such adjustment in a lifetime. Anything further and an adjustment must be approved by the board.

Perry Price is hoping to start a transit system in Brookhaven and asked for the board’s blessing before moving forward. Right now, he owns a 20-passenger bus that he hopes to run from Home Depot to St. James M.B. Church on Monticello as well as along First and Second streets.

Price would eventually like to have one bus specifically for north and south streets and one for east and west streets. He would also like to have a smaller vehicle that would function as a taxi.

“I see a lot of people that need public transportation,” he said. “I would like to see a transit service in Brookhaven.”

Price has driven a bus with the Brookhaven School District Transportation Department for six years and has worked with other bus companies for more than 10 years.

Price

Price

Henry Ledet addressed the board to express his appreciation for the board’s continued support of the Lincoln County Library. Ledet said this past year they have averaged about 300 people visiting the library per day. He reminded the board they have not received an increase in city funding in five years, but added they were thankful for any amount they could receive. He also expressed his gratitude for all the work the Friends of the Library have been able to do.

Ledet also announced the retirement of the children’s librarian, Donna Kenney.

Due to conflicts with legislation passed by the state, Joe Fernald advised the board to repeal the gun ordinance, which is currently contradictory to state law, and the synthetic marijuana ordinance, which is unnecessary because the state legislature has codified the substance as an illegal drug. The board repealed both.

Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes asked for $1,300 to $1,400 to clean up the trees on the boulevard. The money will come from this year’s public works budget and will complement a $2,500 grant provided by the Mississippi Urban Forestry Council. The board approved.

Estes also asked the board to approve a storm preparedness plan recommended by the Mississippi Urban Forestry Council. As the tree canopy throughout the city ages, the plan suggests trees to replace dying trees that must be removed. The trees are considered more suitable in the event of heavy winds and storms.

The board approved Estes’ request.

Randy Belcher, Ward One alderman, said he has been talking with the Board of Supervisors and said they could pave the few gravel roads that exist throughout the city at approximately $18,000 a mile. The aldermen made no motion but decided to find out the exact mileage and cost in each of their wards before a decision is made.

Other business included:

• Acceptance of James Case Oil’s off-road diesel bid at $304.90.

• Approval for Kathy Allen to attend Mississippi Municipal Court Clerks statewide seminar in Jackson.

• Approval for Chris Davis and Garrett Case to attend the driver operator class at the State Fire Academy. Registration costs $655 each.

• Approval to issue a check to pay Lincoln County an additional $5,417.30 for repairs on Industrial Park Road.

• Approval of salary increase for Jimmy Fields.

• Approval for Shawn Fairman to attend Water Supply and Pollution Control Short Course with an additional $150 non-member fee.

• Approval of a change in city policy to allow city employees to receive an anniversary raise after one year of service from $9.18 to $9.49 an hour.