By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – The city of Tupelo reminds one newly annexed group of residents each time they drive home that their tax dollars won’t pay for repairs and maintenance of their streets.
Near the entrance to the Summit, a high-end gated community just off U.S. Highway 45 in southeast Tupelo, a sign reads “End of City Maintenance.”
Unless something changes, the city of Tupelo will not repair any of the five streets in one of the most expensive subdivisions annexed and in the city overall.
The main culprit is the streets’ private designation, meaning they physically exist in the city limits but will not receive services from Tupelo Public Works.
The Summit’s streets were never turned over to Lee County for upkeep before the subdivision came into Tupelo, and they remained private when the property entered the city’s newly extended limits.
Also at issue are city requirements that prohibit public streets from having gates or other materials blocking entry.
Morgan Whitfield, who developed the subdivision with Tommy Morgan, said if necessary the gate will be disassembled and remain at the entrance for aesthetics.
Ward 3 councilman Jim Newell represents the area and thinks the city should welcome the streets since the development has been annexed.
“When I met with the homeowners there, their concern was if the city doesn’t take these streets, then what are they getting for their tax dollars,” Newell said.
Other council members have voiced agreement with Newell, but the city’s standard procedure to accept private streets complicates the process. For new developments in the city with streets developers will want the city to accept for maintenance, staff with the Development Services Department review the plans before authorizing construction to begin.
“Then, our engineer and inspectors are present during the construction of the street to see for ourselves that the necessary depth of compacted soil, stone, and asphalt are placed and to test each layer before the next one is put down,” said Pat Falkner, Tupelo city planner. “We learned through experience with the 1989 annexation that streets we did not see built tended to have structural problems such as subsidence and potholes.”
Engineer David Moore, who supervised and tested the Summit’s streets when built more than a dozen years ago, appeared at a City Council work session last week with assurances that the streets met city standards when built.
“There might be a spot or two that needs to be repaired,” he said. “By and large, they’re in good shape.”
Falkner wants to test the streets by taking a few small samples and analyze the materials. Moore prefers the city not evaluate the street this way, since it could create spots to repair.
Whitfield first requested the city accept the Summit’s streets more than five months ago, but no action is likely this month. It remains on the City Council’s study agenda, meaning they won’t vote on the matter at Tuesday’s meeting unless council members agree to suspend their rules.
Rita Cliff, a resident of the gated community, walks about six miles in the area each week and knows the streets will need repairs at some point in the future. Since she pays taxes to the city, she believes Tupelo should follow through with services she expects.
“If you’re not going to give me that part of city services, then reduce my taxes,” she said Friday, just before beginning a walk.