By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Engineering Solutions Inc. will handle the next phase of the Major Thoroughfare Program after a unanimous vote Tuesday by the City Council.
Its decision affirmed the recommendation of the MTP Committee, which had picked ESI from a field of four firms during a lengthy selection process that ended earlier this month.
“I thought that it would pass,” said MTP Committee Chairman Greg Pirkle. “Of course, you’re never quite certain how it will go until the council has voted.”
With their vote, the council skirted the weeks-long debacle that had plagued the same decision five years ago when the previous council had rejected the engineering recommendation of the MTP Committee.
The committee had picked ESI that time, too, but most council members wanted Cook Coggin Engineers instead. After much debate and gridlock, the council eventually split the phase between the two firms.
“I think this council has made some very good and solid decisions, and I saw no reason why they wouldn’t approve it,” said MTP member Betty Wood, who also served on the engineer selection subcommittee. “I’m very proud.”
With an engineer in place, preliminary work can begin immediately on projects in Phase 5.
It includes $22.4 million of improvements including the widening of East Main and South Gloster streets and the addition of right-hand turn lanes along North Gloster Street.
“We’ll probably start on the East Main Street project pretty quick,” said John White of ESI.
Some work already has begun: Cook Coggin was allowed to keep its Phase 4 contract to engineer the widening of South Gloster Street. Lack of funds pushed that project into Phase 5, and it has since gotten under way.
Cook Coggin also is awarded a portion of the the East Main Street expansion – from Veterans Boulevard to Willow Road. ESI will design the remainder of that project.
The Major Thoroughfare Program is a taxpayer-funded initiative that improves the city’s transportation infrastructure.
Voters decide every five years whether to renew the program, which operates on a 10-mill annual property tax.
It was first passed in 1991. The most recent election was this May.