ABERDEEN – Local churches throughout the city hosted Mayor Charles Scott and fellow city officials last week for his quarterly town hall meetings, where he addressed topics such as asset mapping, port improvements, sidewalk repairs and the future location of the water and electric department.
During Ward 3’s meeting Sept. 15 at Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church, Aberdeen Electric Department General Manager LaMarcus Thompson said there are plans to rebrand the two utility departments as Aberdeen Light and Water and relocate to the same location on the site pad at Stinson Industrial Park.
“Most everyone else has a state of the art, up-to-date facility. The City of Aberdeen, we’ve got the equipment, but our facilities date back to 1931, 1928. When it rains, it rains in our bucket trucks. Our guys have to empty the buckets before they go out to get the power back on,” he said.
Thompson and Scott are both hopeful the new building will help attract new businesses to Stinson.
“Hopefully once we do all this, it’s going to ignite. I’ve had a gas station and another business come to my office already. They want to know what size power I’m going to run out there. They’re waiting on somebody to put that power out there, and it’ll open that whole strip up,” Thompson said. “Us putting that power out there is going to grow Aberdeen. It’s our property. We own it so why not utilize it and open that door for more people?”
Scott said future plans for the current electric department building include demolishing it to open up space in front of the M&O Depot.
“Our goal is to build a new fire department that will also host the police department,” he said, adding part of the police department building is experience leaking issues, just like the current electric department building is.
He added the fire department is experiencing building issues too.
“It would cost almost $100,000 to fix the current roof on the electric department building. We have some major money we’ll have to pay to repair something just to repair it later,” Scott said.
Further economic development
Scott said while the new electric and water department building will help bring activity to the north side of town, upcoming port improvements will add activity to the south end of Aberdeen.
The city was recently awarded an approximate $450,430 Mississippi Department of Transportation grant for port improvements, and Scott particularly centered discussion on the dock.
“Why do we go after the dock? That dock is low hanging fruit. It’s a gold mine sitting there waiting for us to use it,” he said. “In the next few weeks, I have some meetings set up with industries that are going to come in and help us run the dock. You may say, ‘Why don’t you run your own dock?’ We don’t have $2 or $3 million laying around that it would take to build the infrastructure to actually run it. There are companies out there, and that’s what they do. They come in and for every tonnage, we get so much money out of it, but we don’t have to spend $3 or $4 million to do that.”
Scott added during the past few weeks he has received support letters from representatives of local economic development agencies, congressional leadership and Gov. Tate Reeves as part of efforts to pursue a larger grant for port improvements.
Scott was asked about the future of the former Holley Performance building.
“Right now, that building is in purgatory because we have made decisions that the building is not completely under our control. We’re actually in the process of putting that building under our control,” he said.
He said the cost of roof repairs for the building is $1 to $2 million.
“Sitting out there as it is, we’re going to have to decide if we’re going to spend money or figure out some way to tear it down. Well, that’s going to cost over $1 million, so we’re in a funny place with that building, but we plan to do something with it,” Scott said.
As with the port project, city officials have coordinated with the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce regarding the Holley building.
Looking further ahead
Aberdeen Main Street was awarded a USDA grant last year providing for planning and design firm Orion Planning + Design to identify projects to attract potential investors and make improvements to Aberdeen. Orion will present its final findings at a later date.
“We’re going to leave there with three or four things we can actually do, and most of the things can already be in action,” Scott said.
He also noted the potentials of developing the Parkway Hotel, which could further enhance downtown.
While sidewalk improvements are in effect throughout parts of town, Scott asked for the public’s help in keeping the city clean to provide for better first impressions for visitors.
“We don’t have a factory and we probably won’t in the next year, but one of your top factories right now is we’re certified as a senior community,” he said. “When people move in here, most of them are actually buying homes. Most of them have done their initial shopping around in the first few years of coming to your community.”
Aberdeen Police Chief Quinell Shumpert, who also appeared with Scott, said one of his goals is to rebuild the public’s trust of the department. He challenged members of the community to hold each other accountable and to motivate the youth.
“We have a beautiful town here so let’s not let it go to waste. It’s our responsibility to motivate our kids,” he said. “It used to be the whole community raised a child.”
Shumpert added Aberdeen will participate in the Special Olympics Torch Run Oct. 19.