After nearly a year of planning and preparation, light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox formally received permission Tuesday for architect Ross Barkley to advertise for bids on the renovation of what will turn the former Fred’s building into a municipal complex.
Now, city officials can only wait to see whether the bids are compatible with funds available.
The former Fred’s building was purchased after the store closing to convert into space for the utility company as well as the police department. Plans have been delayed because of the increase in construction costs that has approximately doubled the estimated price tag for the project to $5 million.
The bid advertisement should come out in the next week or so with bids to be opened 45 days later. Construction could start as early as May.
In a zoning matter, aldermen approved changing 1104 Bratton Road from C-2 commercial to R-2 residential following a public hearing. No one objected to or commented on the change for the property owned by TRY Properties. The property is near a subdivision owned by TRY Properties as well.
In department business, light, gas and water manager Mattox also received permission to refinance general obligation bonds sold in 2010 to pay for an electric substation at the Toyota plant. He said the bonds were refinanced 2013 and the bond attorney has advised the city can save some money for the five years remaining. The refinancing likely will save only about $50,000 and will mostly help Toyota but Mattox felt they should save money whenever they could.
The utility manager was able to declare two trucks as surplus and they will be sold during an auction at the fairgrounds here in March. Mattox said he probably will find other equipment to sell in addition to the 2007 and 2009 F-150 pickups.
Aldermen gave approval for Mattox to pursue a gas prepay deal that could save customers money through spot market purchases. He said the deal could save 35 to 40 cents per thousand cubic feet of natural gas, and there is no risk to the city.
In purchasing, aldermen rejected two bids on a wastewater truck as being higher than expected. Mattox will rework the specifications and re-advertise. The bids, $231,422 and $236,400, were obtained through a reverse auction process. City officials said they would prefer to use a traditional bid process but the state requires the reverse auction.
The light, gas and water manager, who usually has the largest number of agenda items, also approved two wastewater pay requests, $366,101.58 to KAJACS Construction and $16,985 to Engineering Solutions.
Fire Chief Mark Whiteside received permission to apply for several grants for his department.
One, which the department applied for unsuccessfully this past year, would be for a washer and dryer at Station Two. The cost would be $29,200 but the grant would cover all but about $1,500 of that.
A second grant, also sought last year, would pay 100 percent for three years and provide one more firefighter for each shift. “That would fully staff each one,” Whiteside said. “That would cost us about $150,000 a year otherwise.”
A smaller grant, for $3,700, is being applied for from F. M. Global. Whiteside said it would be used for educational material for school children. “We saw 1,700 kids last year,” he said. Since materials have already been purchased for this year, the grant would pay for next year’s.
Whiteside also recognized firefighters who fought a fire Jan. 16 in which a man died.
“We had 10 guys up there and eight more volunteers showed up,” he said. “Our crew actually went in without equipment. These guys put their lives on the line to bring out the victim.”
He added that the training they needed would not have come without the support of city officials.
Whiteside was asked about plans to renovate Station Two, which were brought up this past year. Whiteside replied that they had put the project on hold due to the cost of materials, but they will go ahead and do some cleaning and site preparation.
Police Chief Chris Robertson received permission to purchase a new vehicle for his department. In the past he has been able to save money by buying good used vehicles but that supply has essentially dried up.
His alternative plan is to buy a new two-wheel-drive Charger for $24,721. He said he has $14,900 left in his vehicle budget so he would need permission to use $9,821 in drug task force funds for the rest. Aldermen agreed.
Robertson also received permission to promoted Justin Bridges from part-time to full-time officer. He said Bridges had been working for the department several months while another officer was out due to injuries.
In other business
In miscellaneous business, aldermen approved adding Kay Wicker to BNA accounts and removing Allie Spruill as signatures. Wicker will be working with payroll for the city.
Aldermen approved Michael Beam and Cheryl Brewer Davis to the city election commission for the upcoming election.
They also perfunctorily approved replacing the old county radio tower at the fairgrounds with a new privately-owned tower.
Before adjourning, the board went into executive session to discuss a land easement.aldermen, Fred's, New Albany, Northeast Mississippi, Union County