New Albany aldermen mark autism month and honor Boys and Girls Club winner

Mayor Tim Kent reads Autism Month proclamation as Bailey King and Bart Barta, right, listen.

New Albany aldermen honored two local citizens and got updates on a wealth of infrastructure projects at their April board meeting Tuesday.

In public appearances, the board first honored Bailey King along with proclaiming April Autism Awareness Month.

King, owner of King Therapies-Behavior Solutions, was accompanied by Bart Barta, who was in New Albany to teach a free course on Autism and the Law Enforcement Response. Barta is the father of an autistic child and is  retired law enforcement officer who presents classes throughout the country. The course sponsored by King drew nearly 100 law enforcement, fire, medical and educational personnel from as far away as the Gulf Coast and outside Mississippi.

DsKota Lesure talks about her experiences as Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year.

Also honored was DaKota Lesure, who was chosen North Mississippi Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year. She has served at Torch Club and Keystone President and has participated in leadership programs such as Teen Leadership Retreat, McLean Entrepreneurial Leadership and Union County Leadership.

Light, Gas and Water

In departmental business, light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox got pay requests approved for the contractor and engineer for the new wastewater treatment plant.

Mattox said the plant is proceeding and should be operational in August or September.

Mattox also got approval to advertise for voltage regulators for the Butler Street substation. He said that the station is being reconfigured to provide more reliable electric power to the downtown area in particular.

He told the board that two old trucks and a partial brush cutter sold at a recent auction brought in $3,627.25, saying that, considering the condition of the items, he was pleased.

Mattox said he needs to purchase three half-ton and one one-ton pickups, preferably at state contract price. However, he said that because of potential delays he may need to get quotes instead.

He told the aldermen that bids for renovation of the former Fred’s building have been out about two weeks and are to be opened May 4. “It will take at least two weeks to go through them,” he said. “We may need a special meeting in mid-May so we can develop a plan.”

The initial bid is to renovate the front of the building and move the light, gas and water department there. The second priority is to move the police department to the back half of the building. Further alternates relate to other overall work and renovating the former WIC office on Carter Avenue for use as a municipal court room and board room.

Asked about progress with water problems, Mattox said that they are changing some operational procedures with chlorine and the phosphates to help sequester the mineral content. The department is continuing with its flushing program and Mattox said they plan to get rid of some of the really old water pipes in the city. Some of the pipe, especially on the North Side, is 100 years old.

He is applying for a $600,000 block grant and perhaps a loan to help pay for the proposed $2.5 million project. Because many of the old lines are beneath streets, replacing lines will mean resurfacing streets as well.

He added that the new main electric power substation to be constructed on Hwy. 348 is still in the design stage and they are working with TVA on that. Much of the present equipment is old and obsolete so the new substation should provide much more reliable service. Also, when an outage occurs they will be able to isolate and locate it rather than having to ride the lines manually until they find it.

The new substation should be operational in late 2022 or early 2023.

Community Development

Community Development Director Billye Jean Stroud talked briefly about street signs at the behest of Ward One Alderwoman Amy Livingston.

“They need some work but there’s not a real good system going right now,” she said.

She said she is working with the Orion Group concerning way finding signs but a bigger problem is signs being stolen by people. The signs, costing several hundred dollars each, were only hung by S-hooks and the replacements need a more secure method.

Fire Department

Fire Chief Mark Whiteside said people should be aware that water lines will be flushed this month, although it is the water department that will do it as part of their regular program. He said his department will be painting some of the hydrants later.

Whiteside gave an update on plans to expand Station 2 on the west side of town, which has been under discussion for about a year.

“We feel like we can act as our own contractor,” he said, but still would sub-contract some of the work to save money. He told board members that the steel needed for the work had gone up in cost $2,000 this week alone and delays will mean more increases.

Some of the money the city will receive in COVID stimulus funds may be used for the project but regulations for its use have not been determined by the Treasury Department.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $180,199 but Whiteside had broken it up into phases that allowed them to get the quotes they have rather than having to go through a bidding process and delay.

Station 2 is 24 years old and firefighters now have to sleep about two and one-half feet apart. Whiteside said the expansion does not include extra bells and whistles but they wanted to think ahead with the design.

Fire funds can be used for the work and city officials said there was a sufficient amount in that category.

Zoning

Building Inspector and Zoning Administrator Eric Thomas said the planning and zoning board had met and approved three requests.

One was a siding variance for the New Albany Fire Department. Another was for a conditional variance for a parking area at Regal Truck Stop.

Third, Mary Harrison had asked that the house at 315 East Bankhead be rezoned from R-2 residential to C-2 commercial so it can be renovated as a retail business.

A public hearing will be held at the next board meeting May 4 on the rezoning.

Streetlight replacement

Rudy Watkins from PATH Lighting gave an update on plans to replace all city streetlights with more efficient and less costly LEDs.

He said BNA Bank had submitted the best rate for the funding at 2.3 percent.

The project is expected to pay for itself and the changeover should be done this summer.

He said they will set up some mock-up lights for the board to look at before final work commences.

Spray Park

Thomas reported on the status of the spray park at the sportsplex. Extensive repair and reworking is needed before the park can safely be put into use.

He said Steel-Con quoted a $35,000 cost to repair the water slide while Resurfacing Pontotoc quoted $28,000. That cost is in addition to the approximately $40,000 that will be needed to move the pumps above ground so they are properly protected and cooled.

There was no formal action but Thomas said he would look in a wider area for information from qualified companies concerning repairs.

Aldermen appear to be committed to repair or replace the spray park but are concerned about the cost. The park is usually open during the Memorial Day weekend but that likely will not be the case this year.

Streets

Mayor Tim Kent reported that he had a core sample taken from Carter Avenue, which needs repair, and found that it now has five inches of concrete under six inches of asphalt. He said the contractor he talked with said the cost would be $800,000 to make the street “mostly right” and as much as $1.6 million for “really right.”

Builder Terry Young said, in response to a question from Ward Two Alderman Johnny Anderson, that he could provide names of contractors who might be available to do work for the city and at lower costs than quoted earlier.

Miscellaneous

Two items were on the agenda as reminders rather than for action. One was the need for community shelters and the other was changes in animal control regulations. Alderwoman Livingston said she is working on the animal control ordinance and hopes to present that at a later meeting.

The railroad overpass on Snyder Street and possibly erecting a traffic light at the intersection of Hwy. 30 West and Starlyn Drive are also on the agenda each month but Mayor Kent said there is nothing new to report on either.

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