City contracts for business network study

By Russell Hood The Webster Progress-Times

The city is contracting with a consultant to study the need for a local business network and provide related services.

The Eupora Board of Aldermen voted Monday night to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Dyar Communication Strategy. The agreement starts Jan. 1 and has a six-month duration.

Dianne Dyar of Madison, who previously served 15 years as executive director of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, formed the company and was present. According to the non-binding contract, she will:

• survey businesses to determine the need for a business organization. • research programs, projects and community development plans. • present findings to city officials, business leaders and stakeholders. • attend and speak to various civic groups about business involvement and organization, and educate the community on the benefits of such an organization, as determined by survey results. • address realistic wants/needs of Eupora. • establish a timeline for development of an organization and its programs. • assist community leaders to identify additional resources for Eupora. • conduct onsite visits at least two days a month for follow-up, planning and meetings. Dyar said she would interview local people to determine the potential for promoting businesses, adding, “You’ve got some opportunities here. … This would solidify it.“

The city will pay Dyar $1,000 a month from its economic development budget. When questioned by Mayor Tommy Lott, Dyar confirmed that she would amend the agreement if she doesn’t need six months to complete her work. At that point she would present a formalized recommendation.

Should the city need additional services from Dyar after June 30, a new agreement will be negotiated.

Dyar, according to the discussion, met with some Eupora businesses a few months ago and with some of the board members earlier Monday. She told the full board that some of the local business owners were interested in a formalized organization such as a chamber of commerce or Main Street association.

The city has not had the services of a local economic development organization since the Webster County Development Council was dissolved March 1. Webster and other counties have contracted with a Jackson firm to set up a regional economic development organization primarily focused on industrial recruitment.

Dan Burchfield (at large) said retail development is “one of the biggest things we can look at,” and noted that Dyar will be able to give the board a monthly report and an exact plan.

“I really don’t see that we have anyone else to do this for us,” Burchfield said before the vote, and Hank Flowers (Ward 4) also suggested the city enter into the agreement with her.

Other Business The board met in executive session Monday with Water/Wastewater Director Benny Neal at his request to discuss hourly rates for specific employees. No action was taken afterwards in open session regarding the personnel matter.

During department head reports, Police Chief Gregg Hunter said various city felony cases will be presented to the recall grand jury when it convenes Tuesday.

In other business, city aldermen: • took under advisement two bids received for 400 wireless radio-read water meters for two outside systems. Empire Pipe & Supply submitted a bid of $76,950 and Central Pipe & Supply submitted a bid of $83,760, each of which includes software, a laptop and training. • accepted a $1,000 grant from Golden LivingCenter-Eupora to the Police Department to purchase needed equipment. Hunter said the money will be used to buy two bulletproof vests. • appointed Ivrdean Hunt, Jean Atkins, Jill Gibson as city election commissioners, plus Evelyn Mann as an alternate. • voted to buy new tires for the Fire Department pumper and brush truck at the state contract price. • approved a change in the personnel policy affecting leave. A city employee is now allowed to assign to any other city employee accumulated leave time by directing the city clerk in writing to transfer the accumulated leave time to the other employee, being precise in regard to the recipient and amount transferred. Tabled Items The board tabled any action on these additional agenda items: • a rezoning request from Governor Mays, who asked the city to rezone a vacant lot at 18 E. Westwood Drive from residential to commercial. If the rezoning is approved, Mays said he and son plan to erect a barber shop/beauty salon on the property, which would also sell related supplies. The mayor and board asked Mays to obtain the signatures of area residents on a petition stating they aren’t opposed to such a zoning reclassification as the first step in the process. • conducting a Community Development Block Grant survey. The survey is needed, according to discussion with Planner George Crawford of the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, because census information disqualifies the city from future grants because of above-median income. • the possible transfer of the old fire-rescue truck to another fire department in the county. • a water runoff problem on Jimmy McCain’s property on South Dunn; Calvert-Spradling Engineers is to investigate and make a recommendation. • a TVA matching grant to replace all light fixtures in City Hall and other city buildings with energy-efficient lighting (excluding installation).