Tupelo might pay for South Gloster work

By Emily LeCoz / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The South Gloster Street widening project could break ground by summer if city leaders agree to finance it with municipal bonds or rainy day funds.
Without city money, the project likely will be delayed until next year due to an anticipated budget shortfall in the Major Thoroughfare Program.
The MTP oversees a host of road-improvement projects, including the South Gloster widening, with money generated through a 10-mill property tax levy. The tax expires at the end of this year unless residents vote to extend it. A vote is tentatively scheduled for May.
But another project in the current five-year phase will cost an estimated $2 million more than originally projected. And MTP members said they’ll postpone South Gloster until the next phase if they can’t reduce costs.
On Monday, however, Ward 7 City Councilman Willie Jennings proposed the city pay for South Gloster with its own funds. He made the suggestion during a council work session at City Hall.
He said even if residents vote against extending the MTP tax, the city can’t ignore South Gloster. Either way, he said, the road needs widening – and the sooner, the better.
Tupelo Chief Financial Officer Lynn Norris said he supports the plan, saying the city risks losing $2.1 million in state aid for the project if it doesn’t break ground by the end of the year.
While council President Fred Pitts and Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington enthusiastically backed the plan, Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan did not. Bryan said any attempt to tamper with the MTP – including funding one of its projects – could damage its chances for another five-year phase.
Undecided was Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell, the council’s biggest proponent of the South Gloster project. He said he’s open to all ideas, but didn’t immediately endorse this plan.
The MTP oversight committee wasn’t at the meeting, and its chairman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.