By NATHAN GREGORY
The Starkville Board of Aldermen voted to approve the list of capital improvement projects for the 2012 fiscal year, allow advertising for bids for the projects and to accept the final audit report for the 2011 fiscal year at its meeting Tuesday.
The board voted unanimously in favor of both items, with Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey absent.
In addition to its 2012 improvement budget of $449,000, the city also has an additional $350,000 realized from the audit, which will allow more projects to take place.
Infrastructure projects for the year will include improvements to a ditch on Northside Drive, board-authorized improvements to the intersection of Garrard and Reed Road, speed tables on Westside Drive and a storm drainage investigation on Highway 182. The projects also improve predetermined obligations such as sidewalk construction as well as “Priority 5” roadway overlay/patching street improvement projects.
Approximately $210,000 will be dedicated to predetermined obligations. $110,000 of the budget will go toward additional funds for improvements to Louisville Street due to higher bid prices, $80,000 will be set aside for board-authorized improvements, while $350,159 will be used for the Project 5 roadway maintenance projects.
The remaining $50,000 will be allocated to Northside Drive ditch renovations. Although the total cost of the project is $58,575, the city will complete the remainder of the clearing and grubbing portion of the project based on bid amounts.
The first two sets of prioritized improvements took place under the previous board’s tenure while the next two were completed since the current board took office.
City Engineer Edward Kemp said 65 percent of the project allocations go toward roadway maintenance, while 20 percent is devoted to drainage and the remainder is budgeted for roadway reconstruction.
“It was initially anticipated when we developed this (10-year plan) four years ago to have $700,000 this year, so with the realized audit funds, we’re actually a little bit ahead,” Kemp said. “This year is a little bit different because we have so many more predetermined projects, so we’re not exactly following this formula per se as we have in the past, however I think if you break down all those predetermined projects and obligations and you fit those into an individual category, whether it be drainage or roadway rebuild or roadways, I think we’re very close to those numbers. We’re really making some good progress on our overlay list. We just need to stay after it.”
Kemp said he feels good about where the city is in keeping up pace in its 10-year improvement plan.
“It’s really a great bonus that we were able to get the additional audited funds this year and almost double our improvement budget. We’re making good progress on our drainage and our roadways. I just want to commend the board for making that commitment to our infrastructure,” he said.
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said ability to add to the funds is because of city department heads’ efficient budget management.
“Thanks to the diligence of our department heads in managing our budgets, not only did we have a clean audit ... but our financial position has improved over the past couple of years and particularly this past year,” she said.
Randy Scrivener of Watkins, Ward and Stafford, the accounting firm which conducted the audit, said the audit found significant deficiencies but no material weaknesses in city financial controls.
Deficiencies, Scrivener said, are found when the operation of a control over compliance doesn’t allow employees to prevent or detect non-compliance on a timely basis, while material weaknesses are deficiencies such that there is reason to believe noncompliance will not be prevented or detected.
“Significant deficiencies is getting to a large enough thing that it happened enough times in our testing that we felt we had to disclose this because it could become a material weakness if left unattended.”
In other board business, a vote to revise water tap fees was approved 4-2 with Ward 6 and 7 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Henry Vaughn opposing. The item’s passage means 3/4-inch size water meter fees will increase 6.6 percent, while 1-inch meter prices will go up 9.1 percent.
The board also approved using the ending fund balance ($120,000) for the Starkville Parks Commission for the purpose of building a splash pad at J.L. King Park.