The Okolona Board of Mayor and Aldermen were approached by Forrest Collums and Tony DeVargas seeking a permit from the city to open businesses at 423 East Monroe Street. Devargas wants to open a consignment shop in the front of the building and Collums want so open a restaurant.
The location gained notoriety earlier this year when Rodney Shumpert, a Nettleton businessman, said he planned to open a topless club in the metal building. That effort fizzled after the city enacted tough new ordinances for bars and clubs.
Okolona Mayor Louise Floyd Cole was out of town on business and not at Monday's board meeting, which was chaired by vice-mayor and Ward 3 Alderman Eldridge Lowe.
DeVargas said he approached the city more than a month ago seeking permits to open Denver's Closet amp& Consignment Shoppe.
"My business is in the front of the building and will be a retail business," DeVargas said. "I have gotten all department heads to sign off on this except the mayor."
DeVargas said he is now behind schedule and paying rent on a building.
Collums was a little more pointed.
"I've owned that property for eight years and we never had problems there," said Collums. "I think the mayor is determined not to let us open. I think she has a vendetta against us and I think some of it is racially motivated."
Collums said he, too, has invested a significant amount of money in the property and wants to do business in Okolona.
The board voted to allow DeVargas to open his business, pending a signature by the Mayor. The board took no action on Collums' permit.
In other business:
* The board approved a ten-year ad valorem tax exemption for United Furniture to cover the purchase of new construction and machinery installed as part of an expansion at the city's largest employer.
"Business is good, employment is up and payroll is up," said attorney John Creekmore, who presented United's application to the city. "We ask the city to help us and grant this application and exemption."
Upon questioning by the board it was pointed out this will not exempt United from school taxes and the buildings and equipment would be taxed at their full value at the end of ten years.
On a motion by Ward 2 Alderman Bennett Moore and a second by Ward 4 Alderman Imogene Armstrong the exemption unanimously passed.
* Police Chief Tommy Ivy said the department is purchasing sound meters that will be used to determine the volume of music coming from cars on Okolona streets. Ivy said tickets will be written for any vehicle violating the city's noise ordinance.
"We've been writing tickets, but the judges are not enforcing them in court," said Ivy. "We were told this will be the proof they need to enforce it."
* The city approved the sale of a surplus bucket truck and the lease of a tractor for the Water Department.
* The board also voted for a .65-cent across-the-board pay increase for all fulltime, hourly electric department employees.