By NATHAN GREGORY
The Starkville Board of Aldermen voted to select Golden Triangle Planning and Development District to assist in the city redistricting process Tuesday. The vote passed 4-3 with Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey and Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas opposing the ordinance.
The board also approved the ordinance amending the city’s chart of permitted uses as well as the implementation of form-based codes as an amendment to the city’s zoning map. Both motions passed by a 5-2 vote with Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn opposing.
Additionally, a motion to add the Northside Drive ditch to the drainage improvements for capital improvement projects for 2012 failed, while the board voted to create a selection committee to evaluate request for proposals for public-private partnership for municipal city projects. The capital improvement ordinance failed 3-4 with Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker, Sistrunk and Dumas being opposed.
Carver initially moved to have GTPDD selected to assist the city in redistricting in an amount not to exceed $10,000. A motion by Sistrunk to amend Carver’s proposal to have GTPDD provide three maps from which the board would select one failed.
Despite the measure’s passing, Dumas said he initially moved to table discussion on the requests for qualifications submissions because he felt the need to further discuss legalities.
“I still think there’s some question as to what legal service we need as far as getting this thing through to the Department of Justice. On top of that, how does that integrate with the demography as far as projects we’ve gotten proposals for?” Dumas said. “There are two moving parts. There is the map-producing side and there is the legal side of actually getting this thing approved. I think we’re somewhat ill-prepared by some of the proposals of handling the legal side. I saw no legal expertise on the proposal … I’m more concerned not with producing the maps but making sure we hit all the legal requirements in this process as we go forward with the Department of Justice.”
Perkins said he opposed Sistrunk’s proposed amendment because it would tell GTPDD how to conduct the redistricting process.
“I think it’s very intrusive for us to tell an expert how many maps they need to give us. Once we select a firm we can get it here and decide what we want to do. It is presumptuous at this time for us to tell them what to do and not to do,” Perkins said. “If the board passes this motion, let that group decide how many maps they want to bring in. GTPDD does not need to be told how many maps they need to draw. We are not the experts; they are.”
Corey said he voted for Sistrunk’s proposed amendment because it kept the board’s options open.
“One of the ideas behind (Sistrunk’s amendment) was to avoid the potential for political bias that could have an effect on this process,” he said. “I do think GTPDD does good work, but if we were going to go with a local group to do the work, we could just save the money and do it ourselves.”
The board also heard from three men from the Northside Drive area who expressed concerns about drainage issues which have been causing erosion, flooding and a high presence of animals such as snakes and insects. Later in the meeting, Vaughn said action needed to be taken and fixing the drainage issues needed to be a high priority on the list of capital improvement projects this year.
“This has been going on for 28 years, and five mayors (have seen the project make no progress). This situation causes a lot of problems: it’s unhealthy, unsafe, (and there is) more erosion happening. Somewhere down the road we need to take a look and fix some of these ditches. We all saw this situation (in a previous tour of the area) but you’re not there in the summertime when the smells come out and snakes come out,” Vaughn said. “Our mission is to make sure we provide quality of life for the citizens of Starkville, and this is not quality of life for them.”
Before the vote failed, Wiseman mentioned the storm sewer fee he proposed in the Dec. 20 meeting, stating if a measure to enact such a fee passed, issues such as the Northside Drive ditch and other more expensive projects could be addressed more efficiently.
“The fee would bring in $450,000 a year. You could have approximately $200,000 you could use for service debt over 10 years for bigger projects; after that is exhausted, the rest could be used for smaller projects. You could fund approximately four projects (of smaller size) each year; you would be on track to complete every project plus three big projects, then you could either sunset your fee at end the end of the 10-year period or you could recognize that this is list that is constantly evolving,” Wiseman said. “Projects are added every single year. The biggest problem you’ve got is (if a fee is not in place) you’re never going to have the revenue to fund the three larger projects. Either you would have to take two or three years and spend all the money, or take a larger amount of money out of the street program which may cause it to suffer, or you can acknowledge that you don’t have the funds for the project.”
Parker moved that a selection committee for RFQs consist of Sistrunk, Corey and Dumas. Sistrunk said the committee would be necessary to restart in the process of planning for new municipal housing.
“This is a committee to evaluate proposals. At this point it is just gathering and preparing to go down that path toward exploring options for municipal facilities,” she said.