Funding priorities and who pays for what drew the most discussion at the June meeting of the New Albany Board of Aldermen.

As president of the civic center board, UCDA Executive Director Phil Nanney presented a request for approval to spend $31,825 on new curtains for the Cine’ Theatre at the civic center. He said the present curtains are 20 years old, worn out, and have suffered from moisture problems causing them to shrink and stretch, being from four to eight inches above the floor.

Nanney said the board had been frugal and managed to save about $73,000 that could be served for the purpose.

Ward Four Alderman Will Tucker raised the issue about the sprinkler system in the theatre that has been leaking. With a repair cost of $47,000 he wondered how the civic center board could pay for that and still have money left for the curtains.

“The sprinkler system should be first,” he said.

Nanney said the curtains are needed for the upcoming theatre season plus 20-year anniversary celebration and will take two and one-half months to be made and shipped. He expressed surprise that the sprinkler repair cost should come from civic center funds since the city had paid for other repairs such as new roofs for city-owned buildings separately.

Ward One Alderwoman Amy Livingston moved that the board go ahead and order the curtains but not install them until the sprinkler was repaired but her motion died for lack of a second.

The civic center board has been discussing the curtain need for about six months and aldermen have been discussing the sprinkler problem since last fall. An early estimate to completely replace the sprinkler system was $300,000 although Fire Chief Steve Coker said he thought it could be done for less. A large part of the estimated cost is due to the theatre’s having a sloping floor that limits the type of equipment that can be used there. Coker added that the nature of the job was making getting bids more difficult as well.

Coker said there also is a need to add sprinklers to the spaces in the front of the building in addition to the theatre space itself.

Ultimately, no compromise was proposed, no action was taken concerning the curtains and the question of where the sprinkler repair funds would come from was left moot. Nanney left, visibly upset.

Earlier, Nanney reported on various activities including ribbon-cutting ceremonies, involvement with the CREATE Foundation and work toward funding an overpass for Munsford Driver over the BNSF Railroad.

In public hearings, aldermen approved two rezoning requests with no one appearing to oppose them.

The first was to change 103 S. Central from R-2 residential to C-3 commercial. The house, which served as a law office many years ago, will be home to Kathy Little’s Travel4Less travel business.

The second was to change 603 S. Central from I-1 industrial to R-2 residential for construction of residences by Sam Creekmore.

A third hearing had been set for condemnation of four mobile homes at 1146, 1148 and 1150 Martintown Road but building inspector Eric Thomas recommended continuing the hearing until the August board meeting because the owner has said he will remove the structures. That was approved.

The fourth public hearing was simply to approve updating the city building code to 2018 standards. The only change in the approved update was omitting some requirements concerning sprinkler in residential settings.

In personal appearances, Judd Grace and Hal Lott spoke on behalf of Greenscape Lighting in Jackson. They proposed converting lighting in city buildings from conventional sources to LEDs. They said this could save the city 40 to 60 percent on its lighting electrical costs with a payback time of about two years. They added that loan programs are available for such conversions.

Mayor Tim Kent said city officials have talked about changing to LED lighting and referred the two to light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox to get more information.

In department business, aldermen approved several payments concerning gas and water systems.

A $105,655 payment was made to Eubanks Construction on the gas expansion project in Marshall County, along with an $8,000 administration fee to Three Rivers Planning and Development District. A request was made for funds for $40,753 in the project.

The city utility agreed to a memorandum of understanding with Union County to provide water and gas service to the Martintown North Industrial Park and Cook-Coggin Engineers is receving $89,335 for their fee.

Also, a bid of about $2.2 million by Enfield Construction was accepted to build a 24-inch pressure line from the present wastewater treatment plant to the new site north of New Albany, west of what used to be North Street across the Tallahatchie River.

The current plant is behind Reed’s Supermarket and once the new facility is constructed, most of the old plant will be removed, although a pumping station and one emergency pool will still be needed there.

Police Chief Chris Robertson talk aldermen about an agreement between his department and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics that will allow some of his officers to assist the MBN in Union County when they are short-staffed. This will speed up some investigations and the police department will be able to share in some of the seized assets.

Building inspector and zoning administrator Eric Thomas reported that the city planning and zoning board had approved a request by Sam Creekmore for a setback variance at 603 S. Central, and a request by Jean Ashcraft to rezone the structure at 215 Faulkner Way (formerly Highland Street) from R-2 residential to R-3 residential for an extended stay facility such as an inn. The latter requires a public hearing that was set for the July 2 meeting.

The planning and zoning board also approved a plan for phase 2 of the Huntington Pointe subdivision on Starlynn Avenue. Thomas said the plan had been approved in 2014 and this really amounted to more of a re-certification.

Aldermen approved the minutes and claims docket, although Ward Two Alderman Johnny Anderson voted nay on the claims docket. Mayor Kent said he said the objection was to paying for more trees among other bills.

Ward Four Alderman Witt Tucker moved that the city advertise for bids to maintain the city cemetery and that was approved. He said the last formal contract had expired in 2006 and wanted to open the job up for bids.

Aldermen approved transactions concerning the new city-county airport terminal building under construction. That included a cash request from the Appalachian Regional Commission for $27,825.33, paying Steel-Con $58,439.16 and paying Garver Engineering $2,113.56.

The board also approved requests for ad valorem tax exemption from several local companies, all of which have been approved by the state according to attorney Regan Russell.

They include Albany Industry, Cooper Electrical, Metal Impact, TLC Worldwide Logistics (in the former Producers’ Compress building), JJRP, LLC (a travel service), Premier Foam and VIP Cinema. Ward Two Alderman Johnny Anderson recused himself from voting on VIP since he works for that company.

Before adjourning, the board went into executive session to discuss lease of a parking lot for city use but took no action.

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