CATEGORY: Tupelo Stories



By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

A decision could be made Monday on whether to proceed with traffic improvement projects under Phase I of Tupelo’s Major Thoroughfare Program or roll those projects and the remaining funds over to what officials hope will be Phase II.

The Oversight Committee, a group of citizens appointed to keep tabs on the five-year program and make recommendations for which projects get done, decided Monday to await updated traffic counts and cost estimates on the remaining projects before making a decision. Those figures are expected this week and the committee has called a special meeting next Monday to discuss what action to take.

Projects remaining on the original list for Phase I include extending Industrial Road to Jackson Street, extending Bryan Drive to Lawndale Drive or widening Main Street from Milford Street to Lawndale. Widening elsewhere on Main Street or on the Appalachian Road (Eason/Cliff Gookin/Coley) also has been discussed under Phase I.

The city has about $1.6 million left over from the more than $16 million thoroughfare program which has made many traffic improvements throughout the city after voters approved a 10-mill tax hike in a 1991 referendum.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 in assessed valuation. The tax has brought in about $2 million a year but is set to be repealed this year. Voters will return to the polls Aug. 7 to decide if the tax should be kept and a second phase of the program begun.

Joe Benefield, Tupelo’s chief operations officer, said the Oversight Committee has the option of completing some of the projects on the original list or using the $1.6 million left over to “kick-start” Phase II of the program if it is approved.

One committee member, Jim High, questioned whether the committee really had an option saying his interpretation of the ordinance creating the committee required it to continue with the Phase I projects as long as money was available.

But Benefield said, if the remaining Phase I projects were included in Phase II, the committee would still be fulfilling its duties.

“There won’t be a separate bank account for Phase I and Phase II,” he said.

The committee also briefly discussed using the remaining money to begin engineering work on some of the remaining Phase I projects with an eye toward completing those projects in Phase II.

But some questioned whether the committee should count on Phase II being approved.

“I wouldn’t want to approve the engineering work on a project that’s not going to get done,” said committee member Greg Pirkle.

The committee will meet again Monday with the updated estimates and traffic counts to make a decision prior to a meeting later that day of the PRIDE committee. The PRIDE committee, which originally conceived the thoroughfare program and came up with the original list of projects, is now charged with recommending what projects should be included in Phase II.

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