ABERDEEN – Work is underway for improvements to streets and sidewalks throughout town thanks to two separate funding sources, and the completion should be later this summer.
Last October, the board of aldermen approved a $995,000 improvement bond, which will address mainly street and sidewalk issues. Additionally, the city was awarded Mississippi Department of Transportation funding for sidewalk improvements near Belle-Shivers Middle School’s gymnasium and alongside Franklin Street.
“This bond is utilizing every aspect to save the citizens’ tax money. They’re pinching every penny and stretching every dollar for the citizens to get the most bang for their buck,” said city clerk Jackie Benson.
The payout for the bond will be rolled into property taxes through 2028 for the needed improvements.
According to Dabbs Corporation Engineer Dustin Dabbs, every street in the city was inspected through a ranking system to determine the core group of streets addressed through the bond.
Some of the planned streets include sections of Meridian, Canal, Cole, Marshall, Franklin, Long and Railroad streets and Vinewood Lane. There will be street improvements in all five wards.
“You try to do a mix of traffic flow, safety and traffic volume. Also you don’t want to do all bad streets because all of your money is absorbed in just two or three streets as opposed to mixing in some mid-range projects where the money goes further because you don’t have to do as many repairs,” Dabbs said. “We ranked every street but didn’t say we’re doing the 10 worst because that would’ve taken all of our money. By doing some of the streets with deficiencies at a critical stage before they really go off into the lost category, we can go ahead and mill and overlay now and not suffer any loss in quality of the pavement structure.”
According to the report, the majority of Aberdeen’s streets are in the top three categories – moderate, which has 26 streets; good, which has 57 streets; and excellent, which has 68 streets. Of the 18 substandard streets, 11 are paved, and 19 streets are listed in poor condition.
Ward 2 Alderman Doug Stone said the board of aldermen has discussed developing a plan to designate a certain amount of money each year for road preservation.
“Collectively, the city is not in a dire situation. If we start implementing some of the things Doug is talking about, we can make sure we’ve got good roads for a long time,” Dabbs said. “There are not a lot of cities that have such a comprehensive review of their streets. Each year after we get done with our paving, we’ll update this list, and a lot of these streets will fall back into the good category, then next year we can pick one or two of these and do a microseal or a preservation and pick the ones we want to start working on for next year.”
He said a pavement preservation program will add years to streets’ lives.
Last week, Dabbs said milling work could begin as early as this week, and paving is expected to be complete in July.
Benson said the last time the city paved a street was in April 2011.
As far as sidewalk improvements, the bond has already provided for improvements in front of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, First Christian Church, First Presbyterian Church and next to the Monroe County Chancery Building. Benson said there will be more sidewalk improvements near the chancery building and the Post Office.
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ABERDEEN – Last week’s annual Mississippi Main Street Association Awards in Jackson yielded honors for several Main Street associations statewide, including Aberdeen.
Longtime Aberdeen Main Street member Sara Gardner was presented a Main Street Hero award for her dedication to the organization.
“I never felt like a hero to anything. It felt like a flush of pride that I was called a hero of our town,” she said of winning the award. “Being involved in activities here, it’s my town and I feel it’s important that we all do that. Don’t just leave it for someone else to do.”
Aberdeen Main Street Director Ann Tackett nominated Gardner because of her dedication to the organization and to the town.
“She’s a supporter, a business owner, a former board member, and she served as board president for six years,” Tackett said. “She has always been a team player.”
Gardner owns the Cottage Tea Room.
“We opened the Tea Room in 1998 and have had people from all over North Mississippi, South Mississippi and out of state who come. We joined Main Street before we opened the door. I think it’s important to join, whether you’re a business or an individual; support the projects; and support the leadership,” she said.
According to Tackett, Gardner has been supportive of such Main Street events as the farmers market and dinner fundraisers in recent years.
“She’s always been a sharing, caring kind of person. Anything we’ve asked her to do, she has stepped up to the plate,” Tackett said.
Gardner reflected on how teamwork between Main Street and other entities helped make a fundraiser featuring chef Robert St. John and artist Wyatt Waters a huge success.
“There were several of us involved, and it took all of us to do it. Kathy [Lusby] was at the chamber, and she secured the place. It was called Georgia Gulf at the time, and they supplied funds, and the hospital helped with the cooking. When it came to serving, my children and grandchildren from Maryland came to help, and we had a lot of people who had worked in the restaurant area who helped,” she said.
Additionally, Gardner has helped in supplying items for Main Street’s ongoing depot renovation. Years before opening the Cottage Tea Room, she served as director of nuring at Aberdeen-Monroe County Hospital and played a role in the formation of the hospital’s ladies auxiliary group, which assists patients.
“Mrs. [Hershey] Turnage and Marie Sparks were interested in forming a ladies auxiliary. They met with me and the administrator to see how we could do it. There were times when the hospital needed office help at a clinic or a nurses’ desk answering the phone. They delivered juice and mail. It was an asset to see these ladies come to talk to patients and do errands for them,” Gardner said.
In recent years, Aberdeen Main Street has been represented in the statewide awards ceremony through Sam Jaynes, R.G. Buxton and the late Lawson Grimes’ contributions to the town and organization.
AMORY – Outgoing Amory High School Assistant Principal Nick Hathcock was approved June 10 by the Amory School Board to be East Amory Elementary School’s new principal for the 2019-2020 school year.
After serving two years in the AHS assistant principal role, he will replace Kristy Keeton, who will be the new principal at Hatley Attendance Center.
In other business, district superintendent Ken Byars announced admission prices for varsity football games will be $7, and admission to junior varsity football games is $6. Student football tickets will be $3, while general admission to all other athletic events will be $6. Season football tickets will be $65. Season passes to all sports will be $100 for adults and $50 for students.
In a related matter, various fees at the district’s schools for the upcoming school year including course, lab and activities fees were presented.
The school board granted a request from the City of Amory to use the football stadium for the upcoming June 29 fireworks show to accommodate seating.
District financial officer Leslie Maranto gave a good slate of balances for the end of the 2018-2019 school year, including an increase in ad valorem tax collections.
“We’re over what we asked for. There will be no shortfall this year,” she said.
Byars followed up with his approval.
“We’re at our goal of a 15 percent margin,” he said. “We will announce plans for more capital improvements at the next meeting.”
The school board also approved an agreement between the district and the city to continue the services of school resource officers for the next school year. Byars said he had been in conversation with Amory Police Chief Ronnie Bowen about possible enhancements in the partnership.
“We’re working toward having a visual presence of a police cruiser at each school,” he said.
In a related matter, Byars announced discipline referrals for the 2018-2019 school year were the lowest on record across the district.
According to district assistant superintendent Michelle Simpson, the school board approved Sam Griffie to remain as the district’s school board attorney and also approved the contract for Byars to continue as the district’s superintendent.