Hazlehurst plans small annexation for economic development

The Hazlehurst Board of Aldermen voted to take steps to annex about seven acres at the request of a property developer.

David Huntington explained the need for more commercial property in Hazlehurst for small businesses who can’t afford highway frontage. He proposes development of property about 200 feet off the right of way of Highway 28 that is owned by his family.

“Even in this economic downturn we’ve had some interest from folks who want to locate their businesses in Hazlehurst,” Huntington told the board.

The property is currently just outside the city limits. If it were annexed by the city, it would be more marketable, Huntington explained, as well as increasing the city’s tax base.

For example, a restaurant prospect can not get a beer permit outside the city limits.

Looking down the road, Huntington told the board he believes there will be tremendous demand for lower priced sites for commercial development.

The property in question is about seven acres from Vincent Street west to behind the car wash and Lil Engun.

The board attorney explained that an annexation involves a Chancery Court proceeding. The board authorized him to start proceedings to annex the Huntington property for economic development.

MAYOR VETOES PAY CUT FOR ALDERMEN

After discussing personnel and potential litigation in executive session for over an hour, the board returned to open session to announce that the board had voted 3-2 to suspend half of the salaries of the board of aldermen until January in an effort to help the city budget. Aldermen Jones and Sandifer voted against.

Mayor Henry Banks vetoed the pay cut and the board did not override the veto.

Alderman Sandifer explained that she did not agree to take a pay cut because when she first joined the board, she asked the city to provide $4000 to fund the youth sports league, which the city board denied. She and Alderman Jones have been funding the league out of their own pockets, she explained, using their salaries from the city.

Alderman Jones said, “Seventy-five percent of the people who live here don’t even shop here.” He said he spends his salary in Ward 1, so cutting his pay would mean cutting money spent in Ward 1. He said he would not vote to cut his pay until they voted to give everyone in the city a pay cut.

Alderman McMillian, who supported the motion, said, “It starts with us first. We’re in a financial bind. Versus laying off somebody, it [the cuts] should start with the board of alderman.”

OTHER BUSINESS

November was declared National Hospice Month in Hazlehurst at the request of Jeremy Hill of Gilbert’s Hospice.

A citizen advised the board that demolition work done on a lot adjacent to his property crossed the property line and left damage on his property. No action was taken on the matter.

The board voted 2-3 against reimbursing travel for Alderman Sandifer to go to Jackson to seek grant possibilities.  Aldermen McMillian, Akin, and Sims voted against the reimbursement.

Percy Calhoun was hired as uncertified police officer.

The purchase of three patrol cars from the Department of Public Safety for $7825 was approved on a 4-1 vote with Sandifer voting nay.

The vote was split 3-2 on restoring $5000 annual funding to the Copiah County Economic Development District. Aldermen Sandifer and Jones objected to the funding due to the tight budget.

Repairs were authorized on Well No. 6 at Shady Grove from the lowest quote. The matter has been filed with insurance, explained water superintendent Lloyd Hilliard.

A change order was approved on the Massengill sewer project, saving the city $13,000.

The board authorized a credit card in the city’s name at the request of the water department.

A pay rise was approved for Dwight Brown.

Garrett Case was moved from part time to full time in the fire department.

Transfer of $200,000 from the reserve to the general fund was authorized. The mayor pointed out that although the reserve funds are getting very low, Hazlehurst is better off than most cities and has not yet had to lay off any employees.

Personnel and possible litigation were discussed in executive session for over an hour. Upon returning to open session it was announced that Catherine Mazie was hired part time in the communications department. A police officer was terminated on a 3-2 vote with Jones and Sandifer voting nay. Another recommended termination followed the same vote pattern, but the officer agreed to work the shift requested so was not terminated.

Next regular meeting: December 1, at 6 p.m.

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