Starkville voters approved a 1% addition to the city’s current food, beverage and lodging tax on Thursday to support the construction of Cornerstone Park along with other related improvements to Starkville parks.
The referendum was held Thursday, and 60% of the votes were needed in favor for the measure to pass. The facility will cost between $18 million and $22 million to build, and will house several tournament quality ball fields. It will be located on the Cornerstone property on the west side of town. Changes are also planned for other Starkville parks, including removing baseball fields from McKee Park, and turning it into a more family focused park, and adding more soccer fields to the Starkville Sportsplex. In total, 74% voted in favor, with 2,284 total votes cast, not including affidavits. Approximately 17% of Starkville’s 13,338-strong electorate participated in the election. The 1% will be added to an existing 2% tax.
Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill was overjoyed at the referendum results.
“I couldn’t be happier that the voters believed in the opportunity for us to have spectacular parks facilities for them, not just for sports tournaments, but for recreation opportunities,” Spruill said. “I see all these improvements to all of our parks, and I’m really excited to get moving on that. I want us to continue to improve the ones we’ve got, and build this new one.”
Spruill said she was ready to move forward quickly on the park. She said the Starkville Board of Aldermen would vote on a resolution accepting the results of the election at its upcoming regular meeting on Tuesday. Following the vote, the board will hold work sessions discussing how best to move forward on the project.
“We’ll get our plans together and see exactly what we want to do, because obviously we’ve now got to flesh out the details of how we want to move forward,” Spruill said.
Ward 1 supported the increase, with 215 voting yes and 87 voting no. Six affidavits remain to be processed in Ward 1. Ward 2 voted in favor, with 122 in support and 76 opposed. Two affidavits remain to be counted. Ward 3 supported the increase handily, voting 533 in favor and 101 against. Four affidavits came from Ward 3. Ward 4 supported the increase, with 242 voting in favor of the referendum and 59 opposing it. Five affidavits remain to be counted in Ward 4. Ward 5 overwhelmingly supported the tax increase, with 379 voting yes, and 91 voting no, with no affidavit ballots. Ward 6 also voted in favor of the tax increase, with 119 votes in support, and 102 against. Three affidavit ballots were reported for the ward. Ward 7 was the sole ward to vote no, and reported totals of 79 votes in favor of the tax increase and 84 votes against. No affidavits were reported for Ward 7. All affidavit ballots will be processed Friday.
Vote Yes for Starkville Parks Committee Chair Bart Gregory said his group was ecstatic with the results.
“We’ve seen such diversity in support,” Gregory said. “It’s been bipartisan, and from individuals in various stages of life - young families, families with children playing sports, retirees and those seeking economic development. My wife Jenn and I have been honored to coordinate this campaign, and we can’t give enough praise to Mayor Spruill and the board of aldermen for their vision and persistence in developing a solid plan that the community was ready for.”
He said the community saw the potential of the project and its possible effect on children and the local economy.
“Today is a great day for Starkville,” Gregory said.
Starkville Parks and Recreation Department Executive Director Gerry Logan said he was excited that the referendum had passed.
“I’m just looking forward to the next steps, and moving forward with project,” Logan said.
He said for the time being, his department would continue working on the improvement projects laid out in its master plan.
“The tax will get implemented at whatever day it gets implemented, and sometime over the next several months we’ll actually start being able to potentially use the funds that come in to make improvements.”
He said many of the details would need to be worked out prior to his department knowing exactly what the next steps would look like.
“Like I said, we’ve got other projects, and we’re going to continue to work hard on those, and we just look forward to making a bunch of things happen,” Logan said.
Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’. Perkins, an opponent of the tax increase,could not be reached for comment by press time Thursday.
“I think that they’ve embraced that, and I look forward to making that a reality,” Spruill said.