Thursday, February 12, 2009
City talks bypass, Chalmers, more
By BARRY BURLESON
The Holly Springs Board of Aldermen is supporting Mayor Andre’ DeBerry’s push to get $2,500,000 for completion of the north Holly Springs bypass road.
DeBerry reported to the board that he had been to Jackson to meet with legislative leaders about the important need for the funding.
“The investment in the future development and prosperity of the region is contingent upon successful completion of this project,” stated a resolution drafted by DeBerry in hopes of the board’s endorsement.
It includes 2.5 miles of paving (from Highway 78 to Highway 311), plus access to 350 acres of developable industrial and commercial land.
DeBerry said he has hopes of the city developing a north Holly Springs industrial park – working with the Marshall County Industrial Development Authority,
“I would like for the board to adopt the resolution, so we can make it a part of our packet submission (to the Legislature),” he said.
The vote was unanimous.
DeBerry also said since his trip to Jackson he had been informed that the Marshall County Board of Supervisors had voted to request funds be reverted back to the bypass project. In the supervisors’ meeting February 2, they voted 4-1 to ask the Legislature to redirect $2.1 million in bond money for a alcohol and drug treatment facility, which could be several years down the road in becoming a reality, to complete the overlay of the bypass road.
Alderman Tim Liddy asked if the city and county are on the same page – or if the city is going through one avenue and the county another.
DeBerry said they are on the same page, and, “This just reinforces our request. Hopefully, with us and the county involved, it will be more powerful.”
In other business, the board of aldermen voted to transfer the balance of the Main Street funds into a separate Main Street account since the organization is now up and running. Oversight of Main Street will be by a board of directors – not the city.
“This is so they can access their own money,” DeBerry said.
The city originally committed $16,000 in what DeBerry called “start-up money” to help get Main Street rolling.
“We helped develop a mechanism so it can eventually fund itself,” he said. “It’s almost like a grant – not intended to be a yearly contribution on the part of the city. We have no (financial) obligation in the future – but we can help.”
Tim Liddy, alderman at-large, said it is a joint city/private partnership and down the road Main Street might need the support.
“True,” DeBerry said, “and I’m not saying we won’t help. But the city cannot sustain every entity out there. That organization has to create its own funds. We helped get them up and running.”
Also on Tuesday of last week, DeBerry urged the board to OK the payoff of $98,600 to purchase the Chalmers Institute property, which has already been deeded to the city by a local historic preservation group.
He said the preservation group’s good intentions of raising funds did not pan out, and whatever the cause, the city is confronted with either paying the debt or having the property foreclosed.
“We do have the transfer of ownership, and the city needs the clear title,” DeBerry said.
Located on West Boundary Street between West Chulahoma Avenue and West College Avenue, it is the oldest university building in the state. It was built in 1837.
DeBerry wants the city to restore the two-story building and use it as an educational trades and crafts school for instruction in historic preservation and restoration technology.
State funding of approximately $90,000 was approved two years ago, but DeBerry said it must be used for stabilization of the structure and such like. He said it cannot be used for acquisition of the building.
Alderman Russell Johnson said he was uncomfortable making a decision so quickly about the purchase of the property. He said he has concerns about whether that usage of the building will work out, and if not, “What next?” he asked.
“I need more information,” Johnson said. “Talk is one thing, but I’m realistic, too. We need to have a way out if ‘Plan A’ doesn’t work.”
DeBerry said, “If you have a concern about the usage, that’s fine.”
But he said how to operate it is not the issue.
He said it’s a building the city technically owns, and it’s a historical piece that we need to maintain.
“Talking about economic development, you have a masterpiece in your hand,” DeBerry said. “This was the first chartered university in the state. Nobody can claim that but Holly Springs, and that, in itself, is powerful.”
He said the state is already committed to the project - plus the city hopes to involve the University of Mississippi and Northwest Community College, seeking assistance in staffing and money.
Johnson said the issue is not going away in 14 days, and he urged it be brought back up at the board’s next meeting, tentatively set for Tuesday, Feb. 17, but it might be moved to another night that week.
IMS Engineers has already submitted two possible floor plans for renovation of the Chalmers Institute to the Department of Archives and History for review. Final approval will rest in the hands of the board of aldermen.
In other business, the board:
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