Aldermen will reconsider earlier decision that would sell potential park land for commercial development

Light, gas and water manager Bill Maddox talks about the status of several utility projects
October 9th, 2020     Featured Government & Politics

New Albany aldermen will re-consider selling potential park land

After a 40-minute executive session, the New Albany Board of Aldermen voted to re-examine an earlier decision to sell a parcel of land for commercial use. The board had voted in September to consider selling a parcel of land on the right bank of the Tallahatchie River and on the south side of Bankhead Street for commercial use.

An apparent complication was that the land had been donated to the city with the stipulation that, if it is not used as park land, ownership would revert to the donor. A question arose as to whether that stipulation was added before or after the memorandum was signed. Objections to the proposal also arose because the city had just approved a comprehensive plan that sought to protect park and green areas such as this site.

There was an additional question about whether city-owned land must be advertised for bids, rather than just selling it to someone, and whether the sale must be for at least the appraised value.

Few other details about the land deal came out in the open meeting, except Mayor Tim Kent said the board would consider the land sale again at is November meeting.

Personnel matters and another land deal also discussed in executive session

Although the board only voted to go into executive session to discuss a real estate purchase, the aldermen apparently also discussed several matters not included in the motion and vote for an executive session. Some of the discussion during the executive session reportedly became heated.

Two of those matters discussed in the secret session involved personnel matters that led to contested votes when the meeting was again open to the public. During the open meeting the aldermen voted to approve hiring Will Denton to work at New Albany Lights, Gas, and Water (NALGW), and Prentiss Brown to become the school resource police officer for New Albany High School. Ward Three Alderman Kevin Dale White dissented in both those votes.

In the earlier open part of the meeting, hires were approved for the fire department. Veteran Allen Elder will be promoted to shift supervisor, Justin Howard will be promoted to lieutenant and Lee Witt will be promoted to driver operator. Fire Chief Mark Whiteside said this brings the department back up to full strength with someone in every position.

The board did in fact deal with one land purchase issue, agreeing to buy about one acre of land behind Fire Station No. 2 on Denton Road for $5,000. The area will be used for training purposes and the department already has one fire training structure at the station.

Board approves purchase of diesel exhaust system for fire department

Fire Chief Whiteside asked the board to purchase a diesel exhaust system for the fire department. This system would vent truck exhaust outside the building, using hoses that connect to the trucks, but which disengages automatically when trucks are moved. After discussing the various bids, Whiteside recommended the one submitted by MagneGrip for $70,105 as the best bid based on what is included, although it was not the lowest bid. Because the FEMA grant for the project is $73,000, Whiteside said he will ask permission to use the remainder of the grant for equipment purchases.

Board will consider amending new food truck ordinance

In other department business, building inspector and zoning administrator Eric Thomas asked the board to make a correcting amendment to the relatively new ordinance regulating food trucks. As written, the ordinance says food truck owners may not keep their trucks in the city overnight. Thomas said the actual intent is the correction that the trucks may remain in the city, but they may not stay in the retail spot they occupy during the days. This was only offered as an amendment and will be voted on at the next meeting. It applies to existing food trucks as well as any food trucks that may operated in New Albany in the future.

Expenditures for NALGW approved

NALGW Bill Mattox discussed several matters relating to NALGW expansion and improvement projects.

Payments were approved for work on the new waste water treatment plant under construction north of the city. It was also learned that a high-pressure gas line will have to be moved from a bridge in Benton County because the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) will work on improvements on the bridge. The engineering and moving will cost about $120,000 but that cost will be reimbursed to the city by MDOT.

The board approved (A) a $601,538 contract with Looks Great Tree Services to clear electric department right-of-way, (B) purchase of about $100,000 in materials to upgrade the Butler Street electric department sub-station and (C) the $69,007 purchase of a skid steer loader on state contract. The department has an old skid steer loader, which will be given to the park and recreation department.

Debt collection list to be sent to the state

The board also approved a municipal court debt collection list to be sent to the state. Under a fairly recent law, if a person owes fines to the city, but will not pay them, and if the person has any refund coming from state income tax, the city can take that fine amount from the refund.

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