By NATHAN GREGORY email@example.com 
The city of Starkville is currently in the process of pursing a waiver for penalties assessed by the Internal Revenue Service after a deputy clerk neglected to make a payroll tax payment. The status of the process — as well as postponing the selection of a firm to assist with redistricting — was among several matters discussed at the Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday.
The board also voted 5-2 in favor of making improvements to Greta Lane, Sudduth Road and Collier Road and voted 4-3 to approve funding for the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District minibus program.
A report to address possible options for addressing the IRS fine was removed from the agenda as the meeting began. Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said the city is appealing the interest accrued on the neglected payment. The penalty was said at the Dec. 20 meeting to be approximately $18,000.
“There are two components to the amount we discussed at the last meeting. There are penalties, which is the punitive portion the IRS levies, and there is interest on what they consider to be a loan since we didn’t make our deposit timely,” Sistrunk said. “The IRS will frequently waive penalties if your account is in good standing with them and if you follow the appropriate appeals process. If those penalties are waived, the interest that will be due is under $650.
“The key for us is to eliminate the punitive portion of that amount,” Sistrunk added, “and we’re hopeful that will happen.”
The board held a discussion regarding requests for qualification submissions for helping the city in its redistricting process. Ultimately it was decided it would be prudent to re-evaluate the matter at a later meeting, given the timeline is not ultimately pressing.
Sistrunk said the price range of interested firms is wide but money did not need to be the most important factor in selecting the most suitable group.
“It is important to us as a city ... We want to protect the rights of people recognized as being protected groups. We have two majority/minority wards that will be critical as we go through redistricting, and we are aware of that,” she said. “We’re hopeful that we can have some guidance as we proceed with this from groups which have that interest.”
Mayor Parker Wiseman said there are local as well as out-of-town submissions and there would be pros and cons to any firm the board selects.
“Local groups would certainly know more about the area, while outside groups would provide outside perspective that might provide less bias,” Wiseman said.
Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins said the matter is a concern of the board and not city employees.
“I’m not in favor of having city staff involved in this,” he said. “This is a board matter, and they do not need to get their hands involved in this political process.”
With Wards 1 and 3 Aldermen Ben Carver and Eric Parker opposing, the board voted to complete paving of Greta Lane using Community Development Block Grant funding to make improvements to Greta Lane, Sudduth Road and Collier Road. It was determined portions of Greta Lane that are currently gravel will be chip sealed.
Carver said he opposed paving Greta Lane but was not opposed to making improvements to Collier or Sudduth Roads because the Federal Aviation Administration was strongly against it due to its proximity to the airport, while Parker said there was not enough available information to make a proper vote.
“This falls within a runway protection zone, and as a liaison of the airport board, I have to vote against this,” Carver said.
“My concern isn’t against paving, but we don’t have enough information,” Parker said. “(There have been) vague comments from the airport board. I could support it if I had enough information.”
The board also decided — with Sistrunk, Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey and Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas opposing — to grant funding to the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District’s minibus program. Parker said resuming the use of city money to fund the program was an issue that needed to be visited.
“It gives rides in (American Disabilities Act)-accessible vans to people who need rides. It’s something we’ve funded in the past and did not fund this past year,” he said. “I would encourage the board to reconsider funding for this fiscal year.”
Dumas said while funding for this program is important, there isn’t enough contribution from other areas.
“It should be noted on this program with their expense-versus-revenue sheet provided, not one dollar came from Oktibbeha County,” Dumas said. “We need to be aware that the planning and development district does not provide any funding for this. They have capital assets that are equal to if not greater than the city budget.”