City board designates street for repaving

By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times

City leaders have selected a street for partial repaving in keeping with the last tax increase within Eupora.

The city charges 24 mills of assessed property tax, and each mill beings in approximately $12,500. One mill is levied each year solely for street paving, but that amount will only buy enough asphalt to pave about three-tenths of a mile.

All members agreed during the April 7 meeting of the Eupora Board of Aldermen that the city has a large number of streets that need repair. During the discussion, Hugh Gibson (Ward 3) made a motion to use the money to repave part of Waterworks Road and said he would add $500 to the budgeted amount in the Street Department. The city applied for a street improvement grant last summer that designated Waterworks as the street to be repaired, but the grant was not awarded.

After a long period without a second, which included reference to Waterworks being the designated street in the grant application, Gibson’s motion was finally seconded by Robert Gibbs (Ward 2) and approved 4-0. Alderman Jerry Gary did not vote because he was presiding as vice mayor in the absence of Mayor Dan Burchfield.

The county is to provide the labor and equipment, while the city will provide the material.

Public Defender

Additionally, the board voted to authorize the municipal judge to hire a public defender at his discretion according to state statute at $65 an hour and no more than $200 for each case until July 1.

Aldermen had voted March 3 to retain Starkville attorney Jay Hurdle’s services as public defender until June 30 at $200 a case so that the board could have more time to consider its options concerning the public defender position. Hurdle previously informed the city that he felt it was not economically feasible for him to continue at the hourly rate of $65 an hour, which he was being paid.

Burchfield vetoed the board order March 10, stating that the city would be in violation of the Mississippi Code section dealing with appointment of a public defender and the Labor Department’s definition of “salary.”

Board attorney Jacqueline Meek told aldermen last week that the judge may appoint a public defender within the Webster County Bar, while the board can appoint a licensed attorney from anywhere on a salary if they are available.

Neighborhood Blight

The board also discussed neighborhood blight. Burchfield had reminded aldermen March 3 they needed to get the names of property owners in their ward who need letters sent to them because of violation of the city blight ordinance. No action was taken then.

“We’ve probably got 25 unoccupied houses that to be on the blight list,” Gary said last week.

The matter was tabled but available board members planned to go to Adams Avenue on April 12 and look at houses there that may be in violation.

City resident Dana Myers addressed aldermen on related matters. She encouraged the board to start paying attention to mobile homes, and recommended recruiting volunteers to clean up around town on Saturdays.

Street Department

The board spent 40 minutes in executive session with Street Superintendent Will Gary to discuss a Street Department hire and designation of personnel. Two related motions were approved afterwards in open session based upon his recommendations and information presented.

One was to employ Dale Pepper for the standard probationary period of three months after considering applications for the position. He replaces Joel Johnson, who retired April 7. The other motion was to increase Street Department employee Joseph Mann’s pay 75 cents an hour effective May 1.

Fire Hydrants

The board followed up on action taken at a special-called meeting on March 28, when it voted to have Greg Roberts fix an inoperative fire hydrant at Eupora High School as soon as possible with funds to come from water reserves.

Aldermen also authorized Water Superintendent Benny Neal to have Greg Roberts Fire Hydrant Repair and Supply check the city’s inoperative fire hydrants, give the city an estimate for repair and develop a plan to repair the remaining inoperative fire hydrants.

On April 7, the board approved an amended motion for Water Department employee Kenny Cooper to conduct a precheck on all inoperative hydrants before Roberts comes, and for Neal to report back to the board at the next meeting.

Dumas’ Request

Although he was not on the agenda, city resident Lamar Dumas was allowed to address the board briefly. He said young people had approached him about jobs, and he offered his services on a voluntary basis to contact business prospects.

Dumas said he had many resources and knew individuals who would help him, and that he would make personal visits. He asked that the board give him authorization to “stand for the city” by permitting him to contact corporations interested in vacant buildings during the months of May, June and July.

Dumas said he would be in contact with the mayor, but added, “We do not want to be micromanaged.” No action was taken but Vice Mayor Gary told Dumas the board would try to address his request at the next meeting.

Other Business

In other business April 7, aldermen:

  • approved a water bill statement revision to change the mailing date for water bills from the 15th of each month to the 26th.
  • accepted a lone bid of $1,575 from Kendrick and Shunta Morris to tear down a vacant house on Adams Avenue within six months; they also had to submit residential plans to build.
  • adopted a proclamation declaring April as Safe Digging Month.
  • adopted a revised personal leave/sick leave policy retroactive to Jan. 1 for all full-time city employees as presented and requested by Police Chief Gregg Hunter.
  • voted to declare used water meters surplus and advertise for bids.
  • tabled a recommendation from the mayor to suspend the Water Department trainee program.
  • voted to accept a $1,197 donation from the Woodmen of the World to the Police Department. The donation will be combined with a police calendar donation from DBR Publishing of $871.25 and a yearly donation from Fred’s of $493.34 to go toward the purchase of a digital repeater and one portable radio. The board had originally voted last month to place the latter two donations in the vehicle maintenance fund.
  • approved mid-fiscal year budget adjustments presented by City Clerk Gail Newton.
  • were informed by Meek about her plans to start a Mayor’s Youth Council for grades 9-12 starting next school year.