$11.5 million contract OK’d for project

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town_tupelo_greenBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – The City Council approved an $11.5 million contract for a long-planned project to transform aesthetics and infrastructure from downtown to Elvis Presley’s birthplace in east Tupelo, at a price tag more than 20 percent higher than expected.

Officials anticipate the unanimously approved project will enhance tourism, encourage economic development and generally improve aesthetics from downtown to the state’s top tourist attraction.

The city’s share of the project is expected to be $575,000, with other funding provided from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Major Thoroughfare Program, which will cover the $2.5 million difference between the project estimate and actual contract.

The project will make Main Street’s temporary two-lane configuration permanent. Its change from the previous four lanes was met with high expectations from city leaders.

Madison-based Key LLC construction company will complete work on the project, which has been in the works more than five years. The idea stemmed from a site visit to Greenville, S.C., during former Mayor Ed Neelly’s administration and was approved during Mayor Jack Reed Jr.’s term.

“It’s the opportunity for us to try something new and better for what we think will be a great economic development tool,” said Debbie Brangenberg, director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association.

With an estimated construction time of 15 to 18 months, the project should end by summer 2015. John White, an engineer with Engineering Solutions Inc., the firm leading the project, said the Mississippi Department of Transportation would likely approve the project within a month.

The project also will add bike paths and sidewalks from downtown to the birthplace, increasing safety for non-motorists traveling between the areas. It also will include improved landscaping.

Mayor Jason Shelton said he’s heard various opinions from residents, ranging from worries of traffic congestion to excitement for potential quality-of-life improvements.

“At the end of the day I think it’s going to be good for the city,” he said.

Council members hadn’t originally planned to approve the contract this week but proceeded after having a work session Monday on the project with the members of the Major Thoroughfare Committee.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com

  • Guillermo F. Perez-Argüello

    The Elvis Festival in Tupelo is one of the reasons tourism has been on the rise since its inception,in 1998, when the good Mayor took suggestions from Elvis loving fans like the Colgans, Maurice and his wife Maureen, in Ireland. Way to go for the CIty Council!!!!!

  • harryblah

    so the mayor and the cronies are going to tear up main street again for 18 months after having work done on it that backed up and hindered drivers for months? all for a dead hillbilly’s house. I’d like to know how many people that stay at the Hilton will be walking over a mile on any sidewalk to a house that’s renovated with taxpayer money every other year. to say that people will want to walk to downtown tupelo like elvis did is utter stupid. downtown tupelo doesn’t exist anymore after all the demolition and building of city taxpayer funded eyesores like city hall and soon to be 20 million dollar police station. nobody cares about elvis anymore and when the older generation dies off, it’ll be elvis who? that money would be better spent on something that would benefit the poor of the city not pad the mayor’s ego and get that sorry ambulance chasing weasel reelected. shame on those braindead monkey yesmen of the city council. I wonder when they all made their deals with the devil to get where they are today, sure as heck wasn’t with their brains.

    • Guillermo F. Perez-Argüello

      Contemplate, if you must, what your assumption that Elvis is to be forgotten when the current older generation, as you put it, dies off. LOL. Try erasing, obliterating the existance the 1,234 biographies of him, in print, or the 10,000,000 references of him found in books and online articles, or maybe putting aside the 47,000,000 Wikipedia hits to its biogrpahy which has been translated into 121 different anguages or just dismissing the effect the 19 million visitors to his home have had not just for those who paid, coming from all over the world, to see it, and their families, kids, grandkids, etc, but on the economy of Memphis. Try to erase the 167 markers which exist of him, throughout the world, or the personal exhibits of him in at leas t 5 Presidential Libraries, let alone the millions upon millions of internet hits one get after a simple touch of a search engine, be it google, whatever. Just type Elvis. Your ideas for the better use of the money are OK, but somehow run counter to supply and demand. But what bothers me is your not understanding that investing in Elvis would have a huge marginal value to the city of Tupelo, and its surroundings and all of it because you are surrounded by people who think just like you so. Those who will come to Tupelo, will always think of it as the birthplace of the most celebrated American of the seconf half of an entire century, in his case, the XXth.

      • harryblah

        tupelo isn’t graceland. his house, don’t you mean the building that is renovated every year so now it doesn’t look like the shed he was born in. it’ll be a 2 story in a year or so. I worked in hospitality and many that asked about what to do, I would tell them of the dead junkie’s birthplace and they didn’t give to squirts about it. all that you spoke of, that’s all over the world, not in tupelo. so if it’s not congregated in one place people don’t care. as for Wikipedia, you know it’s hugely inaccurate. if the mayor and the city crony yes men aren’t willing to walk the mile on a overpriced newly built sidewalk then what makes them think that foreign tourists will to a downtown that doesn’t exist anymore. now shove that up your steampipe.

        • Guillermo F. Perez-Argüello

          You´re obviously not capable of debating me on this issue, or on any issue…

    • Mark

      You sound jealous of the man. Nobody cares about Elvis anymore? Tell that to the millions who visit his home Graceland in Memphis every year and put tourism dollars there and in Tupelo. If it weren’t for that “dead hillbilly” that you disrespectfully call him then there would be absolutely no tourism there in Tupelo meaning no tourist dollars or revenue stream which keeps your town relevant. And FYI, Elvis’ older fans aren’t the ones keeping him alive these days. It’s the new generation to the next generation that are buying his music, downloading his songs and paying to see his story, dumbass. Go stick to Garth Brooks. A real hillbilly.

      • harryblah

        millions don’t visit graceland. and those millions don’t visit here. why do you think that tupelo has to pimp a dead man and build stupid tourist traps to keep people here. news flash, there are more industry here that reps must visit than the fans of a dead junkie. besides offer alcohol and people will flock to a bug zapper. tupelo begs for money to build it’s tourist traps that no one cares about. it’s the 2 dozen festivals every weekend that can’t even bring decent traffic to downtown tupelo and that is the city idiots fault.

  • 1941641

    …”dead hillbilly’s house”…

    There was only ONE Elvis, Tupelo’s Elvis. He was famous the world over and still is. Try a little respect for him Mr. Blah, Blah! He would have respected you and forgiven you too!

    • harryblah

      oh yea? when? when he was high as a kite carrying a loaded weapon into the white house or stoned laying in a pool of vomit in the floor 200 pounds overweight.