By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – The Tupelo City Council suspended funding for two projects Mayor Jason Shelton wanted added to the city’s capital projects this year, a move one dissenting councilman called a “total dishonor to veterans.”
City Council members voted 5-2 to suspend tourism and economic development projects Shelton proposed as a tweak to the existing capital projects for Fiscal Year 2014.
Among the $863,500 in new funding for long-term city projects council members voted to support, the council voted to withhold a combined $250,000 until a work session is held related to alternative funding sources for a miniature Vietnam War Memorial at Veteran’s Park and a walking trail expansion at the Elvis Presley birthplace.
The council has already tentatively planned a work session next week. Shelton said city funding for both projects shows support to others asked to contribute financially to the causes.
Councilman Buddy Palmer of Ward 5, which includes Veteran’s Park and the birthplace, adamantly opposed any suspension of funding for the projects.
“I think it’s a total dishonor of veterans,” Palmer said. “I certainly wouldn’t support taking these items off the budget.”
Councilman Lynn Bryan of Ward 2, a Gulf War veteran who received the Bronze Star and other military honors, successfully led the effort to postpone funding for the projects.
Bryan said he supports both projects but wants to make sure the City Council has prioritized what it supports in the capital projects budget. Shelton decided to remove a $400,000 splash pad to replace a soon-to-be-demolished swimming pool at Rob Leake City Park, located in Bryan’s ward.
“The capital budget has turned into a slush fund for every worthwhile project that comes along,” Bryan said after the meeting. “Because we do that, parks don’t get done, streets don’t get paved, drainage doesn’t get done and quality-of-life projects don’t get done.”