Tupelo pulls offer to fund Gloster work

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The city has rescinded its tentative offer to fund the South Gloster Street widening project, leaving the much-anticipated work in the lurch.
“I can’t support this,” Ward 5 City Councilman Jonny Davis said during a council work session Tuesday at City Hall, where the offer was withdrawn.
Already delayed by more than a year, the $2 million initiative can’t start until it has a funding source. Its current source, the Major Thoroughfare Program, recently dried up because of cost overruns.
The MTP oversees a host of road-improvement projects, including the South Gloster widening, with money generated through a 10-mill property tax. The tax expires at the end of this year unless residents vote to extend it. A vote is scheduled for May.
If the vote passes, the program will continue another five years and South Gloster will get funded. Work possibly could begin by fall even though money won’t start accumulating until 2012, said City Clerk Kim Hanna.
“We have no objection to them rescinding,” said MTP Chairman Greg Pirkle. “It is only going to be necessary to us if Phase 5 is not passed.”
If it doesn’t pass, it’s unclear what will happen to the project.
That’s why Ward 7 City Councilman Willie Jennings had proposed during a work session last month that the city back the South Gloster job.
But Pirkle had said after that earlier meeting he distrusted the council’s motives, in part because some leaders want MTP funding cut in the next phase.
The funding cut would offset the cost of newly proposed neighborhood revitalization called the All America City Plan.
Distrust and confusion also surfaced this week as the council debated whether to formalize the offer or let it die.
“I want South Gloster to get done as soon as possible, but I don’t want to jeopardize the Major Thoroughfare Program because of it,” said Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell. “I don’t want South Gloster to be used as a political football.”
After the discussion, council President Fred Pitts said he would withdraw the offer.
Rudy Dossett Jr., a South Gloster Street businessman and an outspoken proponent of the widening, said he was puzzled by the move.
“It’s amazing the offers, the counter-offers, the B.S. that comes out of our City Council meetings,” he said. “If I’m puzzled, can you imagine what the public is?”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.