City reviews various projects
The Holly Springs mayor and board of aldermen held an extra meeting in January to go over projects on the drawing board the city wants to act on this year while the sun is shining.
Next year municipalities hold elections, and Mayor Kelvin Buck said their hands will be tied on certain expenditures until the election is over.
“This is an opportunity to update where we are on key revenues and expenses and where we are on key issues,” he said.
Most of the topics are familiar to the board of aldermen since they have been brought up many times over in planning to improve the downtown areas and capital projects – green space; restoration of the Old Water and Light Building; Sims School improvements and uses; Blues Alley upgrades; the historic Hill Crest Cemetery projects; Safe Routes to School project; and the Hugh Craft renovation. Some of these projects have been worked on piecemeal as funds become available through grants.
“As a board, this is the last year to move these things forward, what’s before us and what money we have to do it,” Buck said. “I’d like to see us get these as close as possible (to be completed). We’ve done all this without raising anybody’s taxes and within our means. And we have maintained a reserve in the process.”
“We didn’t maintain a reserve, we created a reserve,” said Mark Miller, Ward 4 alderman.
“As we close in toward the end of the term, we have only a certain amount of time; that’s a fact,” Buck said. “We can do everything we can to leave this city in a better place than where we found it. We have one more budget (this year’s).”
He asked board attorney Shirley Byers to go over the steps required to bring the annexation plan to a close.
Byers said on November 5 the board authorized Slaughter and Associates to continue moving forward on the annexation plan. That included drawing up the legal descriptions of the boundaries and an ordinance to get moving on annexation.
Then the board has 30 days to file a petition with the chancery court asking the judge to approve the annexation plan.
There are 12 factors that must be addressed but the main standard is reasonableness, Byers said.
“Anyone who wants to object can appear at court as will be listed in a publication. The judge makes the ruling and makes a finding on record,” Byers said.
If the judge approves the annexation plan, anyone who wants to appeal the ruling has 10 days to appeal the ruling to the state supreme court, she said.
The basic appeal has to show to the court how someone will be harmed by the annexation.
“The court looks at whether it is reasonable,” Byers restated.
If the board approves going forward after the legal boundary lines have been described, then Byers will write the ordinance, then file a petition with chancery court.
“It becomes official after 10 days after the judge’s final decree,” Byers said.
Buck urged Byers to get the ordinance drafted as soon as the next meeting. The ordinance lists the existing boundaries and the new boundaries using legal descriptions before the plan is taken to court.
A brief summary of the financials for the first quarter of the fiscal year was presented by city clerk Belinda Sims Hollowell.
New tax revenue will be coming in in February as property taxes were due Feb. 1.
Certificates of deposit and HSUD’s equivalency payments are not included in this report.
The city has paid liability insurance and two payments on Workers Compensation Insurance. The health insurance has been renewed. A payment on a fire truck has been made. A 10- year Cap Loan is to be closed out after five more payments.
Money from the state’s Infra structure Modernization Act (revenue from lottery and internet sales taxes) has arrived to the tune of $32,612. The projected revenue the first year is $100,000. That money will be rolled back into roads and street improvements.
Safe Routes To School project is near close-out. The decorative lighting along the walks is being installed.
A historic preservation grant of $151,086 is in hand to restore the old Water and Light Building. The city match is $88,733. Click-it or Ticket is providing some money to supplement the payroll for the Police Department.
An Appalachian Regional Commission grant for $1 million to provide access to Springs Industrial Park is in hand. The city and county will split the cost of the matching funds - $42,857.
Sims School is being readied and put to use. The city spent $189,789 of a $200,398 insurance check, bringing the total spent on the Sims School campus to about $300,000. About $145,452 has been spent on the gym, bringing the total spent on Sims School to about $300,000.
Cash carried over after closeout of the 2019 fiscal year came to $266,192.
Alderman Tim Liddy commented on the progress made over the last two terms.
“It’s remarkable,” he said. “Good economy and good projects and economic growth.”
Buck said population had been trending downward but now is bouncing back with about 200 added to a stable population “going in the right direction.”
The first historic stabilization grant for the Old Water and Light Building is to make the building habitable. The city will ask for more money to finish out the project.
The board of aldermen are looking at putting a small interpretive blues museum in the building when it is ready for occupancy and focus on those blues artists connected with current and historical Hill Country Blues artists’ contributions.
“We will need more of our own contributions on this project, unless we get bond money from the Mississippi Legislature,” Buck said.
Alderman Christy Owens noted that the Water and Light Building may not be ready for occupancy by the Tourism and Recreation Bureau. Tourism has been renting space for years, she said.
“Even if it sold, Tourism may be able to stay and rent,” said Liddy. “I would hope the Chamber could go in there, too, depending on how much room there is.”
Public works director Will Denton estimated the cost to make the Water and Light Building habitable will run about $230,000.
The exterior will be redone, new floors and bathrooms will go in and a roof will be put over the old fire station.
Buck said the city may have to dip into its own pocket for $100,000 to finish the project or get it from the Legislature.
Blues Alley upgrade
The goal is to put a small amphitheater down in the North Center Street area that has been cleared on the top of the hill across from the water tower. A mural was suggested to be put on the wall, dedicated to blues legends and to pave N. Center Street down to Park Avenue. A pedestrian fairway should make the area prime for either walking or sitting on benches in a courtyard.
Liddy suggested concrete checkers tables and putting musical notes on the sidewalks.
Owens suggested changing North Center Street to Blues Alley.
Liddy suggested a hall of fame on the sidewalk and honor another person to the hall of fame yearly.
Underground electricity was suggested in downtown. The biggest eyesore in the downtown area is the AT&T telephone cables, the board said.
Locating electric service underground could be paid for with tourism dollars.
With about $200,000 left in the Hill Crest Cemetery grant, the board suggested repairing the fencing around some family plots And a large quantity of monument cleaner could be purchased and used by volunteers for cleaning stones.
The press monument which is still down needs to be put back up.
The cemetery fund may be used to put that monument back up, to widen roads, and perhaps build another entrance at Maury.