Hed: Council delays vote on Blair Street trucks
By Philip Moulden
Tupelo’s City Council Tuesday tabled action on residents’ pleas to halt heavy truck traffic on Blair Street after Ward 4 Councilman Steve Mayhorn called for a special meeting to seek a compromise.
Blair Street resident contend the more than 100 heavy trucks, including tractor-trailer rigs and concrete haulers, that travel the street each work day disrupt their “quality of life” and pose extreme hazards for their children.
Representatives of the nine businesses in the Frisco-Reed Industrial Park that use the street said the throughway is “absolutely essential” to their operations.
Mayhorn called for a special May 17 meeting of the city’s Traffic Committee to review its April action rejecting the residents’ call to recommend a ban on the truck traffic. The special session is also to include Mayhorn, at-large council members Carolyn Mauldin and Paul Eason, two representatives of the industrial park, two Blair Street residents, and Mayor Jack Marshall.
Mayhorn said the issue is dividing a community noted for working out differences.
“There has to be a way to compromise,” he said. “I’m just hopeful we can devise (something) that both sides can agree on.”
But Marshall argued against returning the question to the Traffic Committee – “It’s a policy decision (for council),” he said – and Ward 3 Councilman Smith Heavner contended no compromise is possible.
Trucks will either be allowed on Blair Street or they won’t, Heavner said. Either way, one side loses.
“Banning truck traffic … will have a significant negative impact on all businesses in that area,” Doug Allan, Leggett and Platt Inc. manager, told the council. “The very nature of most of our businesses is time critical … time is money.”
Allan and David Brevard, president of B&B Concrete, said they wanted to be good neighbors, but the Blair Street throughway from Industrial Road to North Gloster Street was critical to business.
“We get absolutely no satisfaction from standing here (tonight),” Brevard said.
However, he contended that changing to a suggested alternative route would add an average 15 to 20 minutes to travel time and noted “(fresh) concrete is an extremely perishable item.”
Brevard also argued that the nature of Blair Street and of the industrial park have not changed since the same City Council upheld the truck traffic in 1994.
Blair Street residents countered that rerouting the trucks to Main Street added less than half a mile and less than a minute to travel time.
“It’s not going to break anybody if we do that,” said Terry Holcomb. “Is it going to take a tragedy for the council to recognize this problem and this hazard?”
Blair Street spokesman Spence Kellum said residents don’t want to fight with the businessmen, whom he called pillars of the community. But he said they must help keep neighborhoods “healthy.”
“If we allow apathy to set in, Blair Street becomes a throw-away neighborhood,” he said.
In other action, the council approved payment of $104,000 for a 20-year lease of Tupelo Airport Authority property adjacent to Ballard Park. The land is being used as a parking lot, primarily serving the soccer fields at the park.
The $5,200 annual rent was paid up front to offset part of a $150,000 supplemental appropriation granted to the airport earlier this year to fund a major marketing program. The city had to get return value for the appropriation, Marshall noted
The council also voted its intent to issue up to $325,000 in bonds to pay part of a $700,000 special assessment project to improve drainage and streets at Old Town Estates.