By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The City Council tonight approved the full recommendation for the Major Thoroughfare Program’s next phase, but it still must set the election date.
“We’re very pleased with the decision of the council,” said MTP Committee Chairman Greg Pirkle.
The recommendation passed by a 5-2 vote, with council President Fred Pitts and Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings opposing.
“I cannot in all good conscience sit here tonight as an elected representative of the city of Tupelo and representing Ward 2,” Pitts said, “and turn my back on the needs in our neighborhoods and our community just for the sake of more five-lane roads.”
The program’s next phase includes plans for several major road-improvement projects, including the widening of East Main and South Gloster Streets.
Together, the projects will cost more than $20 million. They’ll be funded through a 10-mill property tax levy. It’s the same tax rate currently funding the program, now in its fourth phase.
The council will vote on setting the special election date at its April 5 meeting. It’s tentatively been set for May 3.
Today’s vote was the council’s last chance to make changes to the plan – or to postpone or reject it altogether. Any of those scenarios seemed a strong possibility because of the debate and confusion surrounding the upcoming phase.
Earlier this year, Mayor Jack Reed Jr. had recommended diverting some of the program’s funding to support a neighborhood-revitalization plan. A college-tuition guarantee program also was proposed; it too funded with MTP funds.
The proposals received strong support from several residents, many of whom spoke at a public hearing earlier this month. But other residents didn’t want MTP funds diverted for the plans.
Ultimately, the MTP oversight committee decided not to willingly designate any of its funding to those initiatives. And with its vote tonight, the council seemingly followed suit.
“One of the reasons Tupelo has been No. 1 is because of programs like this,” said Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington. “I fully support the Major Thoroughfare Program and urge my colleagues to approve it.”
Read the full story in Wednesday’s Daily Journal.