By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
CORINTH – Corinth’s leadership team – mayor and aldermen – established an ambitious agenda when they took office more than a year ago, and on Monday the mayor gave a progress report on some of those projects.
“We want to fix stuff,” Mayor Tommy Irwin said. “We’re getting it started, but some of the major work will be 20 or 30-year projects. If we don’t start improving the community, our young people won’t return after they go off to school.”
The mayor gave particular attention to infrastructure, economic development and what he termed “Future Fare.”
The devastating floods of May 2010 happened just six months before the mayor and four of the six aldermen were elected to their first term. Finding ways to address drainage issues that have plagued Corinth residents and businesses for decades became a priority.
Bridge, Phillips and Elam Creeks, manmade canals that were created early in the 20th century to handle Corinth’s floodwaters, have been an important target of the city’s efforts. Drainage districts associated with those creeks were revived in 2010, with a goal of working with the city of Corinth and Alcorn County to get those drainage canals cleared out.
Since then several miles of banks on both sides of Elam and Bridge Creeks have been cleared with the city bringing in outside contractors as well as employees in the street and sewer departments. The Tombigbee River Water Management District also has completed some of the work and has other projects scheduled.
“Our goal is to clear out all the creeks by the end of this year; then we’ll have only maintenance,” Irwin said.
One aspect of addressing the underground drainage problems is replacing much of the city’s 60-year-old sewer system, and also constructing a new treatment plant.
An assessment of the entire system is estimated to cost $457,000, and the city has $264,000 of that on hand, the mayor said. He met recently with officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission and Northeast Mississippi Planning and Development District to discuss sources for another $197,000.
“This is a project that can’t wait,” Irwin said.
While the Mississippi Department of Transportation restored funds to the city to go ahead with two downtown milling and paving projects – on Proper Street and Fillmore Street – officials last year learned of two new unfunded mandates that are an additional financial burden.
First, new street paving projects not only must include the driving surface but also making any sidewalks accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act. And second, cities have a six-year period to replace hundreds of road signs to meet reflectivity standards that make them easier to read at night. The federal government extended the deadline, but a plan for how the city would meet the requirement had to be submitted by December 2011.
“We had to put an additional $40,000 a year into the budget over the next several years,” Irwin said.
In addressing some of the budget challenges the city has with its limited revenue sources, Irwin presented the idea of “Future Fare” that he hopes Corinth voters will support.
Patterned after Tupelo’s Major Thoroughfare Program, it would generate money to pay for city street paving, bridge replacements, beautification and similar projects by taxpayers themselves voting to levy an additional 10-mill tax specifically designated for these purposes.
“As the CEO of this city I have to tell people what I see. The taxpayer, the citizen, has to have a say. Looking at the times we’re in, asking for more is hard, but the gain will be so much greater than the tax pain.”