Brookhaven Alderman calls out cash concerns

Published 2:14 pm Wednesday, July 3, 2024

A Brookhaven alderman expressed his concern this week over two areas of cash outflow — the cost of mowing abandoned lots, and Police Department overtime.

City Inspector David Fearn had just presented the board Tuesday with lists of abandoned houses that need to be torn down and removed, and overgrown lots that need to be mowed.

“There are 16 houses on the list. I don’t anticipate to be able to do all 16, but there is a map for you and the amount of money left in the budget,” Fearn said. “The second list is grass cutting. Both lists are for the August public hearing [at 6 p.m. Aug. 6].”

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Ward 4 Alderman Jeff Henning asked Fearn, “Do we feel like we’re just glorified grass keepers?”

The City’s policy to cut overgrown grass on abandoned or neglected lots allows the City to cut grass as needed for up to two years on approved properties before another public hearing takes place. Once a property has been added to the list, reasonable effort must be taken by the City to contact the owner or owners of the property, typically by certified letter, prior to the first cutting. The City charges the owner $250 each time the grass is cut.

“Should we make it $500? Or $1,000? At what point does it go from cutting their grass to cutting our grass?” Henning asked. “When does it become our grass?”

“When the State changes the law,” Fearn replied.

“I ask the question every time the list comes up, and I keep hoping that one of our three State representatives will be listening and do something about it,” said Henning.

Henning asked how often the City was reimbursed for cutting the yards. Fearn said in the past 10 years, 80 to 100 properties had been cut. A few were paid in a timely manner, and “three or four” are making efforts to pay what they owe.

Henning also expressed frustration over the amount of money spent on overtime hours in the Brookhaven Police Department.

“We had $30,000 in overtime this month,” Henning said. “It’s the exact same amount as the previous month. The hours are the same, for the same people. How long will we continue to do this? Where does it end? I would love an answer from someone over that department. I’d like to ask the Chief, but he hasn’t been present in a meeting in three months. Are we checking it? Are we signing off on it? I’d like to know.”


In other business, the Board:

  • Accepted the lower bid of $6,227 from R. Kelly Construction to install concrete flumes at the North Jackson Bridge to correct and prevent erosion. The funds will come from the total budgeted for the bridge project.
  • Heard a recommendation from WGK engineer Mike McKenzie to approve the lower of two received bids for the Brignall Road/Browns Loop Sewer Project, once the State Grant Administration has qualified it. The amount is $1,239,766 from Greenbriar Digging Services. McKenzie said the SGA should qualify the project in the next couple of weeks, then he would recommend that the board vote to accept the bid.
  • Approved pay request No. 2 from Dickerson & Bowen for the Citywide Paving Project in the amount of $299,615.64. Dungan engineer Joshua Davis said the paving project should be complete within a week, then the final streets that need striping will be striped — Natchez Avenue and Industrial Park Road.
  • Approved pay request No. 2 from G. Rayborn Contracting LLC in the amount of $343,839.84 for the closure of the Rubbish Pit. McKenzie said the Rubbish Pit work is two-to-three weeks ahead of schedule, and “going real well.”
  • Appointed Bobby Moak as City Attorney at same terms under original contract approved in August 2021.
  • Approved the addition of a Code of Conflict policy and an Internal Controls policy to the City’s books, to put in writing what the departments are already doing, Attorney Moak said.
  • Approved to advertise for maintenance of City flowerbeds. This will be a two-year contract.