Council to act on new street improvement committee

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

Mayor Jack Marshall is scheduled to appoint up to 20 new members today to a committee that will select new street projects for Phase Two of Tupelo’s award-winning Major Thoroughfare Program.

Today’s appointees are to include two people recommended by each of the nine City Council members plus two selections by the mayor. The appointments will then require council confirmation.

The council is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. in its chambers at the City Hall Annex on Court Street.

Council members are also expected to act on the reappointment of Tupelo School Board President Polly Bailey to a second five-year term on the board. The appointment was made by the mayor but must be confirmed by a majority of council.

The new thoroughfare program members, to make up the PRIDE II Committee, will join members from the original PRIDE Committee and the Major Thoroughfare Oversight Committee to draw priorities for Phase Two work.

The project’s first phase, begun in 1991, is scheduled to be completed this year. The program earned the city an “Innovations in Mississippi Government” award from the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University earlier this year.

City officials are looking toward a June referendum to gain voter approval for continuing the 10-mill tax levy to fund the new work.

“This is an attempt to assembly a large cross section of citizens to help determine the priorities for the next Major Thoroughfare Program,” Marshall said.

“We’re probably looking in the neighborhood of 50 people to serve on the next committee … that would give us wide input from the community.”

The committee is scheduled to meet with engineers next week to go over proposals for Phase Two projects and estimated costs. Engineers have been updating a 1989 city traffic study to determine street improvement needs.

“By late March or early April we hope they agree what projects need to be done,” city Chief Operations Officer Joe Benefield said.

If the tax rate is extended, it could raise $12 million to $14 million over the five-year term of the second phase.

Officials also hope to gain some grant monies from outside sources as they did during Phase One, when about $2 million was obtained from agencies including the Department of Transportation, the governor’s office, and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Grants and taxes raised about $14.7 million for Phase One projects.

In other action, the council is scheduled to consider a proposal to hire Nelson Thornton Consultants Inc. of Jackson as a consultant for preparation of the Tupelo Comprehensive Housing Strategy.

The council has budgeted $10,000 for the work, which would be matched by $10,000 from the CREATE Foundation.

The housing strategy program is designed to find and promote ideas for providing affordable housing throughout the city while also upgrading dilapidated neighborhoods.

“It will have a significant impact on the future of Tupelo,” Marshall said of the project. “It (the study) will determine where we want to go, where we want to be in our housing strategy.”

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