OUR OPINION: Council set to give city renewal a boost

By NEMS Daily Journal

The current Tupelo City Council will hold its last regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night, and it won’t be a perfunctory gathering.
Among the major items on the council’s action agenda are the West Jackson Street neighborhood redevelopment project, the city development code and a new waste collection contract for the city.
On the latter, the council appears ready to resign Waste Management, its longtime service provider, based on conversations among three council members at a work session last week. This contract, which amounts to about $10 million annually, is a major decision, one that affects every Tupelo resident and business immediately and in a very tangible way.
Longer-term, though, there may be no more important decision this council will have made during the past four years than its vote on a compromise proposal regarding the West Jackson project. It could set the stage for success in a pilot project that would be the model for reducing blighted properties and stabilizing declining neighborhoods across the city.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and a council majority were at loggerheads over how to proceed with the project, which had been authorized by the council earlier. The mayor wanted to turn over authority to buy and resell property in the area targeted for redevelopment to the nonprofit Neighborhood Development Corp., using the $1.4 million approved for it. Four council members balked at that proposal, wanting more oversight.
Last week, the mayor and council discussed in favorable terms a compromise that would be solidified with a positive vote Tuesday night. It would allocate $500,000 for the project through the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, with the NDC authorized to spend up to $250,000 without council approval. The council would then get a report before authorizing the remaining $250,000.
This was a reasonable compromise that will keep the momentum going in a project designed to reclaim the neighborhood for affordable middle-class housing to attract and retain the young families Tupelo needs. We hope no obstacles arise to prevent its approval.
The council has approached the whole neighborhood development process cautiously, but it is time to move ahead. As Reed said, seeing the need, approving the funds and giving the green light could well be the enduring legacy of this council – something looked back upon years from now as the start of Tupelo’s citywide neighborhood renewal.