By NATHAN GREGORY
Starkville aldermen authorized the city engineer to pursue Federal Emergency Management Agency approval for a Carver Drive channel restoration project in their meeting Tuesday.
Mayor Parker Wiseman cast the tie-breaking vote in a 3-3 decision. Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas, who made the motion at the table, Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey and Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk voted in favor, while Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn voting against. Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker was absent from the vote.
Funding will be only be authorized if FEMA approval is given.
In City Engineer Edward Kemp’s October 2011 cost summary for Carver Drive drainage improvement options, channel restoration is Option 5a, which has a price tag of $175,000 — the least expensive option of 10. If FEMA approves, the storm water channel restoration would extend 500 feet from the intersection of Carver and Hiwassee Drive.
Wiseman said he exhausted his options on meeting the requests of Perkins and Vaughn that the ditch be piped and covered — an option that would have been more expensive.
“I have spent as much time over the last six months and probably for the better part of three years trying to find a way to address this issue. It has been my wholehearted desire to find a way to pipe and cover this ditch because Alderman Perkins and Alderman Vaughn have been adamantly of the opinion that is the best way to do the project,” Wiseman said. “As a mayor, when I have an alderman that has a project that is significant to their constituents ask to help facilitate the project, as long as it’s something I wholeheartedly disagree with, I usually try my best to facilitate it. In this case, I have worked tirelessly to try to facilitate the project.
“I was hopeful that the grant application would pass. I was disappointed when it didn’t. I was hopeful that we would be able to use an innovative financing source such as a storm sewer fee to finance major drainage projects, and I was disappointed when we were unable to do that,” he added. “I wanted to see this project done in the manner that (Perkins and Vaughn) wanted to see it done. Now, it has become abundantly clear that the only way we’re going to be able to get a project built that provides relief as quickly as possible on Carver Drive is to do an open-channel project.”
Sistrunk said storm channel restoration was the best option because it is cost effective and consistent with similar projects the board has voted on previously.
“This particular board has chosen open channels, erosion control and stabilization as the method we were going to handle other ditches in the community, Sistrunk said. “I am absolutely supportive of finding a solution to the problem of the ditch at Carver Drive, but I would like it to be a cost-effective solution. Channel restoration is that, and I would like to be consistent with what this particular board has done.”
Vaughn said he was saddened by the idea of considering an option that would not require piping and covering.
“Is it right just to throw this at them? ‘This is all you get. This is all this neighborhood is worth’ — that’s what you’re saying. ‘You take this or nothing’ — that’s what you’re telling him,” Vaughn said. “That’s not right. Do the right thing. Do what we said we were going to do. Pipe and close the ditch.”
“What we’re proposing for the Carver Drive ditch is essentially the same treatment we provided at Northside Drive, which is in your ward,” Sistrunk rebutted. “I don’t understand the difference here. I struggle … with why we would treat Northside Drive one way and Carver Drive another.”
Dumas said the option remove the pipe that has been placed and redo the channel is better than continuing to pipe and cover the ditch.
“It takes the pipe out, slopes the sides, completes the project and makes it drain well. (It) makes it flow well (and) reseeds it so it’s more natural,” Dumas said. “It’s easier to maintain — It’s easier to do everything with — and it’s astronomically less expensive.”
In other business, the board:
u Accepted interim city clerk Emma Gandy’s decision to yield her duties and voted 3-0-1 to assign those duties to Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill until the position is filled permanently. Sistrunk, Carver and Dumas voted in favor, with Perkins abstaining. Parker, Corey and Vaughn were not present for the vote;
u Held a second public hearing on amending the city’s safety helmet ordinance to change the current law from requiring all cyclists to wear helmets to allowing cyclists who are at least 16 years old to ride without a helmet;
u Held a first public hearing on amending the city’s current zoning ordinance to allow exemptions for non-conforming residential units in cases of buildings being damaged or destroyed by fires or weather-related events.
More information on the meeting will be included in Thursday’s edition of Starkville Daily News.