Aldermen appoint attorney Regan Russell municipal judge

Bailey representative Meg Crockett explains the reason for requesting a zoning change on property at Moss Hill Drive and Sam T. Barkley Drive.

New Albany aldermen voted to make Regan Russell Municipal Court Judge at their August meeting Tuesday. Russell has been serving on an interim basis during the illness of Steve Livingston, who died earlier this year.

There was a question as to whether Russell could serve as judge and city board attorney at the same time but he said he checked and there is no conflict.

He did add, however, that he would only be comfortable serving on a limited time basis and that the issue should be revisited no later than at the end of the current term of office.

Aldermen chose attorney Matt Harris as Municipal Judge Pro Tem, which will help reduce the number of calls a judge receives after hours and on weekends.

LED streetlights

In another matter that had been in need of finalizing, the last resolution was passed to allow the plan to replace all city street lights to move forward. There had been some concern on the part of the funding agent about the wording of the agreement and attorney Russell said that was resolved by making one small change.

It is hoped that the new equipment can be received in a month or so and installation will take only several weeks.

Vice-Mayor Will Tucker presents certificate of appreciation to Miss New Albany Hospitality

Miss New Albany Hospitality

Ward Four Alderman and Vice-Mayor Will Tucker, acting in the absence of Mayor Tim Kent, presented a certificate of appreciation to Becca Childers, Miss New Albany Hospitality. Childers recently represented the city in the state pageant at Hattiesburg and was chosen as first alternate to the winner.

Tucker said “We are really grateful at how well she represented New Albany and we’re blessed to have her in the City of New Albany.”

“I thank you for all this,” she said. “I had no idea what this pageant was. It was a great scholarship opportunity not only for myself but for all the girls…A lot of the judges spoke very highly of us (in New Albany).”

The meeting began with a public hearing on a zoning matter.

Public hearing

Businessman Mike Bailey was requesting that property at the corner of Moss Hill Drive and Sam T. Barkley Drive be changed form R-2 residential to C-2 commercial zoning.

Bailey’s manager, Meg Crockett, told aldermen that part of the property was already C-2 and they simply wanted to have all of it commercial, in line with the industrial bypass road.

There was no objection so the change was passed. Officials said a storage facility would be constructed there.

Departmental business

In department business, light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox told aldermen that converting to the new wastewater treatment plant is a process that has really started already and will continue through September.

He received approval to pay the construction company for the project $126,865.13.

In other pay requests, the utility will pay Looks Great Services $91,875 and $130,744 for right-of-way clearing. Mattox got approval to add other circuits for clearing, but will look into the feasibility of purchasing needed equipment so the city can do the clearing itself.

Aldermen approved the low bid of $99,434 each for 15Kv vacuum circuit breakers to go at Blue Springs and New Haven substations but rejected bids to move a gas line for a bridge replacement on Hwy. 178 West. Mattox explained that there was an error in the original bid and the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which is paying for all expenses, wanted to rebid, which will happen.

Finally, aldermen awarded a $634,000 contract to KAJACS Construction to improve the Carter Avenue sewage lift station. This is the same company building the new wastewater plant. The Carter Avenue station is one of the oldest and Mattox said it handles the largest capacity, pumping across the Tallahatchie River to the present plant. Even though the new plant is north of the city, the Carter Avenue plant will continue in use, connecting to the new pumping station that will move sewage to the new plant.

Community development

New Albany Community Development Director Billye Jean Stroud challenged aldermen to take positive action toward implementing the city’s new comprehensive plan Tuesday by creating a position specifically for the purpose.

More about that appeared in an earlier story Thursday but Stroud also addressed another issue.

“I would like to point out that I am losing a much-valued staff person. I have handed the resignation of Emily Draffen and her job description to Frankie,” she said.

Draffen has served as civic center manager and helped bring many improvements and new programs to the facility and community despite the pandemic.

“Her last day will be the end of August and she has been spectacular,” Stroud said. “It will be a hard person to replace.”

Mayor Tim Kent is advertising the vacancy and Stroud said they would be making recommendations to the board.

Union County Heritage Museum

Union County Heritage Museum Director Jill Smith gave an update on activities including seeking a Mississippi Development Authority grant and expanding the museum’s Pioneer Days program.

The museum is continuing its efforts to collect the oral history of B. F. Ford School and the success of the Museum Kids program. One upcoming event will be by the New Albany Garden Club and continuing programs include the Lifelong Learning classes for adults and the Beyond the Tracks music series.

She added that entries have come in for the William Faulkner writing competition from at least 10 countries and 25 United States. Awards will be announced and presented at the luncheon at the end of September.

Other departments

Chase Jeter presented a list of past and future activities at BNA Bank Park, saying things are looking good. Specifically mentioned were the soccer program and Cotton Leagues for both college and high school ages.

Building Inspector and Zoning Administrator Eric Thomas reported on action taken by the planning and zoning board.

Approved were a setback variance at 204 Apple Street, rezoning 103 South Central from C-2 commercial to R-2 residential (the house once served as a law office) and a siding and parking lot variance for 921 Sam T. Barkley Drive at Camp Creek Native Plants.

A public hearing was set for the next board meeting concerning the rezoning of 103 South Central.

Also, the board granted emergency relief to the resident at 400 Pineridge Drive. Thomas explained the residence had sustained fire damage on June 22. The resident is asking to have a recreational vehicle placed there by the insurance company while the home is repaired. Thomas said the closest place for the resident to stay otherwise would be at least 40 miles away and Covid concerns were cited as well.

Repairs are expected to take four to six months but the most nearly relevant city ordinance limits having an RV in such circumstances to 15 days.

Because there is nothing in city ordinances to allow this aldermen eventually voted to allow it but revisit the situation at the November board meeting. Because the insurance company is paying for all this, they likely will expedite the process, Thomas said.

General business

In general business, Ward Three Alderman Kevin Dale White brought up the issue of public shelters, which has been discussed some at previous meetings. “I know we really need to look into this,” he said. He said he has talked with building inspector Thomas and they tentatively discussed having at least one shelter, capable of holding 150 persons, in each of the four wards.

Businessman and developer Terry Young commented that he would donate land for one, possibly on the north side.

The problem concerning public shelters has been and remains funding. Officials will look harder for grants or other possible funding but most federal money has only come to a community after it had sufferented extensive storm damage.

The board approved the public notice that the public hearing on the 2021-2022 city budget will be Sept. 7, at the monthly board meeting.

Ward One Alderman Parks Smith got permission to have a stop sign placed on South Central Avenue at the Apple Street intersection. He said the request had come from area residents and was partly for traffic control as well as safety for pedestrians and children walking to or from school particularly.

Stop signs are already on South Central at the intersections north and south of Apple. A problem is that parents waiting to pick up children after school simply stop in the street on Apple and the line usually backs up on Central causing motorists to take chances driving around them.

Aldermen approved raising the limit on the city’s BNA Bank credit card beyond the present $5,000 total.

Municipal Clerk Frankie Roberts said this was because when all city officials were trying to check in for the Mississippi Municipal League convention the total topped the limit forcing some to have to pay themselves and be reimbursed later. She said this is likely the only situation that presents such a problem and when purchases get high enough bidding procedures have to be followed anyway.

Finally, aldermen approved paying Hills Construction $101,349, paying Elliott and Britt Engineering $66,003 and paying an additional $167,352 for work being done on the Fusion Furniture plant. This is actually a county project and the city is administering it due to a technicality. No city money is involved in the project.

The next scheduled meeting of the board of aldermen will be Tuesday, Sept. 7, at 5:30 p.m.

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