By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
The current mayors of New Albany, Oxford and Pontotoc have all announced their bids for re-election.
New Albany Mayor Tim Kent says one development eclipses all others during his first two terms.
“Definitely Toyota,” he said. “I got in on the negotiations when I first got elected in 2005.” Kent said the city’s providing Toyota with electric service was a challenge, as were the initial negotiations that landed the auto manufacturer in Blue Springs.
Other highlights were recruiting Toyota supplier Vuteq to New Albany, landing Lowe’s and Tractor Supply Co. stores and the designation of U.S. Highway 78 as future I-22, he said.
Also high on Kent’s list of city advances is the expansion of the BNA Sportsplex with new tennis and soccer fields along with a lake, fountain and pavilion.
“I think our tennis and soccer complex added to our quality of life and our identity as a community,” he said. “It also added to our tourism tax.” Kent noted that further tourism is expected to develop with the expected opening of the Tanglefoot Trail recreation corridor later this year.
In Pontotoc, Mayor Jeff Stafford points to recovery in the city’s furniture industry and infrastructure upgrades that could attract Toyota suppliers as two reasons he’s running for a second term.
“It’s the lifeblood of the community when we’ve got the plants filled,” he said. “We’ve had over a million square feet of furniture – factory and warehouse – occupied since I’ve been in office.”
The former alderman-at-large can’t comment on any specifics regarding possible Toyota suppliers’ inquiries about Pontotoc, but he noted the recruitment has led to a citywide beautification effort that has upgraded landscaping, especially around the Square, and will bring a splash pad (mini-waterpark) downtown this year. Utility upgrades will replace older sewer lines and eventually convert to electronic metering that will cost less to monitor and give quicker indication of leaks.
In terms of Toyota-related industry, Stafford said, “We do have a site that we can present, shovel-ready with water, sewer and gas availability. We’re in the game now.”
Oxford Mayor George “Pat” Patterson also will run for a second term, noting that the city came through “some of the toughest economic times in nearly 100 years” without layoffs or tax increases.
The purchase of Bell Utilities, which transferred several hundred customers to the city and began the upgrade of their water and sewer systems, “helped so many people,” Patterson said.
During the current term, Oxford’s debt has been restructured, saving hundreds of thousands in interest.
Facing downtown parking shortages, the city implemented a parking management program and will add 100 spaces this spring. That relief adds to that provided by the transit service begun under former Mayor Richard Howorth, whose use “has grown exponentially,” Patterson said.
Perhaps the longest-reaching recent development was the sale of the hospital.
“It took a year and a half of negotiation, but it delivered a cash check for $65 million to the city and county,” he said. “In the process we secured a new $300 million hospital that will serve the community for generations.”