By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Renovation of Baker Street Park is finally set to begin Oct. 25 after approval by city aldermen at the regular “first Monday” meeting Oct. 7.
Board members voted unanimously to accept a revised cost estimate that includes $4,000 in administrative fees. The project is being funded by a $97,779 Community Development Block Grant through the Mississippi Development Authority.
Those funds are being matched locally by $48,241 in “cost savings” which can include volunteer labor and donations. The volunteer work is part of a self-help program that encourages citizen participation and is a requirement of the MDA grant process.
Aldermen also voted to close the park during construction beginning on Saturday, Oct. 25. On that day volunteers who signed up to help with the project and others who are interested are expected to be at the park for a preliminary workday.
The park renovation project began almost two years ago as a weekend clean-up project by Levert Hawkins, a self-employed businessman and concerned citizen. Hawkins said that he wanted to fix up the park for the community’s young people. “If it is for the kids, I am all for it.”
Hawkins was able to interest city officials including Mayor Bill Norris who helped get the ball rolling on the grant application. The park is located in the eastern part of the city and is bordered by Baker, Lee and Mills Streets.
The MDA allows from two to three years for the project to be completed. However, Rio Winters of the North Central Planning and Development District told the board that many similar projects have been finished in as little as six months.
In other actions during the regular session:
• The board voted to pay attorney Burn’s invoice of $2,742.52 for the month of September.
• Alderman paid a $5,337.00 invoice from Willis Engineering for work under the airport grant.
• Board members approved Saturday, Dec. 6, as the date for the Christmas parade. They also voted to allow the use of the area around the Railroad Park pavilion for announcing and concessions as in past years. If rained out, the date would be the following Saturday, Dec. 13.
• Joe Newman, manager of the Electric Department, appeared before the board to help clarify the recent TVA rate hike.
“It’s a total of about 20 percent on the wholesale side,” Newman told the aldermen. “The actual rate hike is 3 percent. The 17 percent is fuel cost adjustment.”
Newman explained that the fuel cost adjustment is the cost of fuel used by TVA to generate power. “Coal, natural gas, nuclear power, that sort of thing,” he said. “Their coal cost for the month of July increased 128 percent.”
He emphasized that Water Valley makes no additional revenue off the rate hike. “It is a straight pass through. It’s just something we have to endure.”
The rate hike went into effect on Oct. 1. “They are looking for another bump about Jan 1 and maybe a little decrease by April. That’s the forecast right now,” he said.
• Aldermen approved using the courthouse as the voting place for Ward 2 pending approval of the Board of Supervisors. In the past Ward 2 voters have used the buildings that were torn down on the west side of the courthouse.
• Aldermen approved placing a notation in the minutes that Vivian Snider, city clerk, attended a municipal court clerk seminar held in September.
• The board approved revisions to the garbage rates to correct a miscalculation. The rate is $9 per yard for dumpsters and the ordinance showed $68 for an eight-yard dumpster instead of the correct $72.
• Alderman agreed to pay Greg Fender of Local Government Services $225 for aiding the city in getting delinquent franchise payments from Metrocast. Fender’s company has been working with the city since the purchase of the local cable system by Metrocast.
• The board approved entering into a program with the Mississippi Rural Water Association that reports people who owe water bills to any member of the association. The program encourages payment of overdue bills by giving member systems the ability to refuse service until overdue bills are paid.
Aldermen Tommy Swearengen and Charlie Harris voted for the motion and Alderman Fred White voted against it.
• Although the board had completed all the items on the agenda, Alderman White brought up a problem in the western part of the city. Sewage had backed up into a home on Suggs Street causing damage to the property.
White said that the resident had spent over $2000 replacing floors and had an estimate of $4600 for carpet. He added that Mayor Norris had contacted the city’s insurance company and they had denied the claim.
“The insurance company denied it and I think it is only fair that we replace that lady’s carpet,” said White. “It wasn’t her sewage that went into her living room and her bedroom, it was the city’s sewage. Right now they just want their house put back to original.”
Alderman Swearengen asked Morris Surrette, manager of the Water Department if he had been consulted about the incident.
“It’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Surrette said. “I think it would be physically impossible for city sewage to back up into that house.”
Aldermen agreed to let Surrette look into the claim to see if the city is actually liable.
• After 38 minutes in open session, the board went through the procedure to enter executive session. After only 11 minutes in closed session, the board returned to regular session and voted to accept the resignation of Pam McCuan as 911 dispatcher.
They also voted to post the opening for a 911 dispatcher and then voted to adjourn. The entire meeting took just over 50 minutes.