Mayor exercises veto on industrial park project

The City of Hazlehurst had a chance to get $500,000 in grant funds to improve the access road at the city industrial park, but Mayor Henry Banks chose to veto the board’s 3-2 vote during Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting.

The board had previously approved the grant application, contingent on providing the ten percent match in-kind along with other stipulations, but Mayor Banks would not sign the grant agreement because he did not want to commit the city to providing ten percent of the funding.

The city’s portion of the match would have been $30,000. The Copiah County Board of Supervisors had agreed to provide $20,000 of the $50,000 match in in-kind work on the project.

The industrial park’s only occupant is CCI, a construction firm which provides maintenance on natural gas pipelines. In order to qualify for the grant, CCI has to commit to providing 25 new full time jobs within three years as well as $300,000 investment in construction and related equipment.

The project would pave the industrial park access road, which is necessary for CCI’s planned expansion. The access road is gravel, and the company can not move the equipment for its expansion unless the road is paved. CCI also has a facility in Houma, La.

Alderman Richard Akin made the motion to take $30,000 out of the city’s reserve funds to provide the necessary match. The board approved the action on a 3-2 vote, with aldermen Shirley Sandifer and Frank Jones voting no.

The mayor vetoed the action, saying that the city does not have the money and he does not know anyone from Hazlehurst who works at the industry, adding that there is no direct money coming to Hazlehurst from the project. Although the industrial park is owned by the city, it is located outside the city limits.

After the mayor’s veto, a frustrated Alderman Akin asked, “Why have an industrial park at all? Why not turn it over to the county?”

At Friday’s meeting of the county supervisors, they voted to proceed with the grant application. The industrial park access road is technically a county road as it was constructed by the county in the first place.

ACTION PROPERTIES

In other economic development matters, the city board authorized Action Properties to put a driveway between two buildings in their redevelopment of the old Wal-mart building. Action Properties is currently in negotiations with another large company that may locate in Hazlehurst, but they need the driveway between the buildings for forklift travel.

Kenneth Helton of Action also asked the board to extend their tax deferment from three years to seven years. Mayor Banks objected that this item was not on Helton’s request to be placed on the agenda.

The board approved the tax deferment extension on a 4-1 vote with Shirley Sandifer voting no. The mayor vetoed the action, but the board had the four votes necessary to override the mayor’s veto.

CITY WORK ON PRIVATE PROPERTY

The city received a response to their request for an Attorney General’s opinion on improvements to private property. The city has no legal authority to do work on private property.

But, the AG’s office told the board, the city may do work on private property to prevent flooding on city streets. When an emergency has been declared, the city can do work on private property to remove debris that presents a health hazard.

What constitutes a hazard to city streets will be a subjective decision that must be considered on a case by case basis, the board attorney pointed out.

An engineer’s advice may be needed in such a decision.

OTHER CITY BUSINESS

The Chamber of Commerce will hold the annual Christmas Parade on December 7 at 6 p.m. following the traditional route.

Randall Day, Chamber executive director, updated the board on the drainage problems in the street near the Depot. The drains in the street are not taking all of the water off during a downpour, Day pointed out, and water is coming out of the storm drains. In a severe downpour, water comes into the Depot, damaging the floor. “It only happens when we have a real cloudburst,” said Day. The mayor told the water department head to look at the situation with the engineers.

The board approved the Municipal Compliance Questionnaire.

Two old trucks and a tiller were declared surplus in the water and street departments.

The City Hall roof has multiple leaks. The board authorized repairs at an estimated cost of $400. It would cost about $60,000 to $70,000 for a new roof, which the city can not afford right now, the mayor said. Alderman Akin voted no on the repair authorization.

The resignation of a part time fire fighter was accepted.

Fire Chief Gabe Harvey told the board about narrow lanes in the city where tree limbs are scratching up the fire truck when they respond to calls. The mayor told the chief to assess the streets throughout the city and identify the problem areas.

The Friends of Children were authorized to hold a parade on October 7, pending the police chief’s approval of the route.

Issac Hilliard and James Curtis were hired to fill vacancies in the street department. A grant for training from WIN will pay half of their salaries for six months, street department head Buster Pickering told the board.

The Red Flag program, an identity theft prevention program, will be initiated in the water department.

Advertisement for bids to rehabilitate the John Street water tank was authorized. Aldermen asked that they be sure Hazlehurst is spelled correctly on the tank when it is repainted.

Three employees were transferred between the water and sewer departments.

Greenbriar was given the notice to proceed with the sewer project.

The test well on Whitworth Street is up to 300 gallons per minute, Lloyd Hilliard, water department head, told the board. They are trying to get 500 gallons per minute.

The board hired Herman Young as a consultant to plot the city cemetery on computer and to stake off plots for new burials to prevent problems with plots not lining up the way they should.

Waffle House’s building permit has been extended for six months.

The Whistle Stop Cafe received a beer permit, contingent on paperwork with the state and police chief.

The Hazlehurst aldermen regularly meet on the first Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m.

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