Garan site plan being presented

By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times

A conceptual site plan for the former Garan property will be
presented to the Eupora Board of Aldermen this afternoon.

Jeremy Murdock will present the plan to the board at 4 p.m. today. He
is a community planning project manager with the Stennis Institute of
Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University

The city contracted with the Stennis Institute last fall to develop a
conceptual design for the 11-acre lot on Highway 9 South between
Government Avenue and Mississippi Street. The plan is to also include
future land-use recommendations, review of zoning ordinances, and
digital before-and-after renderings of the site.

April 1
Consultant Dianne Dyar of Dyar Communication Strategy presented her
monthly business development update to the Board of Aldermen on April
1. Dyar said she had been continuing surveys with residents about
opportunities and challenges for Eupora, including at the Webster
County Public Library on March 26.

In other business April 1, the board voted to:
• advertise for and set a Community Development Block Grant public
hearing for 5:45 p.m. May 6. This will follow the expected completion
of a citywide income survey to determine if the city is eligible for
a 100 percent CDBG grant.
Mayor Tommy Lott and Water/Wastewater Director Benny Neal have asked
the board to consider a wastewater grant for the stabilization of the
city lagoon as the top priority. The board voted March 4 to proceed
with the first stages of the grant application process through
Calvert-Spradling Engineers.
Planner George Crawford of the Golden Triangle Planning and
Development District was present to discuss the matter.
• approve a contract with Don and Clint Mann to work land at
Industrial Park 3 and the airport for $50 an acre for 125
cultivatable acres.
Aldermen accepted a bid from the Manns in February to work the land.
Board attorney Hugh Gibson, on March 4, discussed the contract he had
drawn up and possible changes. The board tabled the item until a
special called meeting on March 14, when Lott presented the contract.
After reviewing it, the board voted to table it until April 1, when
the contract was approved. Billy Brister (Ward 2), who is Don Mann’s
brother-in-law, abstained from voting each time.
• spread on the minutes that Natalie Medders and Jamie Hernandez are
new volunteer members of the Eupora Fire Department.
• authorize the mayor to contract for up to $300 to clean up debris
on public property on Adams Avenue.

HOME project
One agenda item on the March 14 special meeting concerned the 2012
HOME Grant awarded the city to reconstruct three dilapidated houses
in Eupora.

On March 4, the board had opened HOME project advertised proposals
for professional services and took them under advisement. An ad hoc
committee comprising the mayor and two aldermen was formed to review
the proposals and bring back recommendations before the board for
approval.

The March 14 minutes reflect that the board voted to accept these
proposals based upon the committee’s rating sheets: Metro Home
Inspections for the housing inspector, James Cook for surveyor and
Environmental Management Plus for the asbestos inspector.

Additionally, the board approved the minutes and sign-in roster of
the second HOME Grant project public hearing, which was March 5.
Aldermen also authorized the signing of city/homeowner contracts.

No proposals for legal services were received March 4 and were
readvertised. The board accepted a legal services proposal from Meek
& Meek Attorneys on April 1, which was the only one submitted.

Church basket-
ball league
Another agenda item had been tabled from March 4, when Curtis Ford
and Lamar Dumas spoke to the board about a community outreach
program. They said a church basketball league was being formed for
men ages 18 and up, and requested use of city insurance and possibly
help to pay referees. Ford also requested police officers to come
periodically. The board tabled the matter to check on insurance.

The March 14 minutes show that, according to a letter the mayor
received from the Mississippi Municipal Service Co., the city’s
liability insurance would not cover the program.

However, the board voted to take $250 out of the Park and Recreation
budget and $250 out of Economic Development for community development
to support the program, and for Ford to be the agent of the outreach
program.

Contingent upon the approval of the School Board for using the Eupora
High School gym, all disbursements from the $500 are to be reported
back to the city the first of each month. Members of the board
commented that the city must have an invoice or quote in hand before
a check can be written, according to the minutes.

Budget reports
Budget reports through Jan. 31 were presented to the board for review
on March 14. “After much discussion it was decided that Watkins, Ward
and Stafford needs to come in and review the reports and give
suggestions as to what needs to be done, especially with the new
software,” the minutes state.

Aldermen voted to invite the firm, which is the city’s auditor, to
attend the April 1 regular board meeting to negotiate a contract for
training on the city’s financial records. However, no representative
of the firm was able to attend that meeting and tentative dates for
another meeting were scheduled.

Health Insurance
The Board of Aldermen had two special called meetings last week
concerning employee health insurance. Joel Withers of Jackson, vice
president of Group Health Specialists, and Karen J. McGregor with
Affordable Employee Benefits out of Ecru, made separate presentations
to the board on April 8.

Withers is an independent agent for Blue Cross-Blue Shield, which
insures 16 city employees. According to discussions, the city faced a
substantial increase in its insurance rates if it did nothing by
April 15. Withers told the board that Blue Cross incurred a loss
ratio of 210 percent on city employee claims last year, which
included one major medical claim.

“It’s a justified renewal,” he said.

The board recessed until Friday afternoon to make a decision. After
an hourlong discussion with Withers, the board voted to change the
city’s insurance coverage with Blue Cross-Blue Shield to a $2,500
deductible, purchase the Colonial Life bridge plan as presented and
change life insurance from Blue Bonnet to Guardian or a more cost-
effective insurer as recommended by Withers.

Withers said the insurance changes, which take effect May 1, would
save the city $5,000. Dan Burchfield (at large) made the motion
“given the budget figures that we have.”