NA aldermen hire Pontotoc attorney for asphalt case

The city of New Albany will have new legal representation in litigation regarding the zoning of 1305 Munsford Drive when the matter goes before the Union County Circuit Court Monday.

The New Albany board of aldermen voted to employ the counsel of Pontotoc attorney Phil Tutor during its monthly meeting Tuesday evening. City attorney Bobby Carter stepped down from involvement in the matter after receiving a Mississippi Ethics Commission opinion encouraging his recusal due to former ownership of the property in question, as well as current co-ownership of land adjacent to 1305 Munsford Dr.

“As you know, I have recused myself from further involvement in the asphalt matter and I discussed this with the mayor,” Carter told the board. “I recommended Mr. Tutor because of his many, many, many years of handling governmental affairs, both for the Pontotoc County Board of Supervisors and for the Town of Ecru. He’s been the attorney for both of those bodies for a number of years and has handled matters like this before.”

According to the Ethics Commission opinion, Carter was advised to have no involvement in discussion of the issue at hand, in public or in private. Any such discussion could be considered a violation of state ethics laws, the opinion stated. Ward Two Alderman Larry Sanford was also advised to recuse himself from involvement by the commission, due to the fact that his wife is employed by local law firm Rutledge, Davis and Harris – the firm representing the plaintiffs in the case.

Sanford put forward the motion to hire Tutor and Alderman-At-Large Dan Skinner seconded the motion. The board approved the hire.

The plaintiffs in the case are seeking an appeal of a recent board of aldermen vote to leave the property’s zoning status as industrial. The plaintiffs had previously argued that the property should be zoned agricultural, stating that there is no legal evidence that the property’s zoning status was ever changed by previous boards.

Lehman-Roberts Asphalt Company is currently constructing an asphalt plant at the site.

The board also approved a bid of $1,132,569.97 from Paul Smithey Construction of Belden to begin an extension of Munsford Drive onto the Martintown Industrial Site.

According to Carter, the board received eight bids on the project, the lowest coming from Paul Smithey.

A representative of Jackson-based engineering firm Mendrop-Wages – the firm that is overseeing construction related to the Martintown Industrial site – stated that the project is expected to start within a week to two weeks and will be a 90-day project.

Union County Development Association Executive Director Stephen Surles said the project will be a duplicate of the current Munsford Drive intersection on the north side of HWY 30.

“It will be a major intersection,” Surles said. “The idea is so that traffic flow from Vuteq and the Distribution Center will not be greatly affected.”

The Mendrop-Wages representative said that the firm is negotiating a traffic signal warrant with the Mississippi Department of Transportation to be installed at the intersection.

Funds for the construction of the extension will fall under the Community Development Block Grant given to help with construction of Vuteq, the Toyota Supplier currently under construction at the site.

During the meeting, the board also upheld a zoning committee decision to approve a request from Bud McNeal and EJ Stevens to receive a 50-foot easement to build a street on the north side of Wendy’s from Coulter Drive onto McNeal’s property.

“Mr. McNeal’s attorney had some concerns to make sure that we would accept it because it is a rather large investment and would be very good for the town,” Carter said. “With your permission, I am going to issue a letter tomorrow stating that if the road is built to city specifications, and [City Building Inspector Mike Armstrong] will oversee that, then we will accept the same for permanent maintenance like we always do.”

The zoning committee also approved a request from Cristy Hines to put coffee shop up above ASI’s offices. According to Armstrong, the committee did require that Hines put in steps and a balcony for both aesthetic reasons, as well as to meet city fire codes.

New Albany Light, Gas and Water Manager Harold Smith came before the board to ask for a final acceptance of the Wellspring substation.

As ya’ll are aware, we are through with the Wellspring substation,” Smith said. “I’ve got papers here that we need to sign; it is a certificate of final acceptance. It acknowledges that the project is complete and we have paid the final payment.”

The board voted to approve the request.

Smith also asked the board to adopt an identity policy, recently mandated by the Federal Trade Commission.

“What it deals with is the information we have on our customers and to make sure that we don’t make that available to other people,” Smith said. “If we find anybody that is trying to steal information, we have to turn it in.”