Decisions on a number of major issues face the Tupelo City Council tonight, including possible lawsuits stemming from overcharges on the Ridgeway street and drainage project, halting truck traffic on residential Blair Street and taking the first step toward a referendum on extending a 10-mill tax for street improvements.

The council also is expected to decide whether to extend its contract to buy power from the Tennessee Valley Authority as part of a plan to ensure TVA's involvement in a $500 million coal mining and power plant construction project.

The council is expected to meet in closed session for a portion of tonight's meeting to discuss with its attorneys possible lawsuits against a contractor and others involved in the Ridgeway improvements project. The city claims to have been charged between $721,500 and $780,000 for work that wasn't performed and materials that were not delivered as part of the project.

The investigation resulted in the firing of the director of the city's Public Services Department.

Mayor Jack Marshall said the council asked its attorneys to review the documentation in the case and recommend the best course of action for recovering the funds. City officials have not said who might be named in a lawsuit if one is filed.

In open session tonight, representatives of both sides of the Blair Street truck traffic issue will make a last appeal to the council. The council earlier had sent the matter back to the city's Traffic Committee but at a special meeting of the committee last week, no compromise could be reached to settle the debate.

Residents want all trucks banned from the street but the nine industries in the Frisco-Reed Industrial Park insist that Blair Street is the quickest and most cost-effective route for their trucks to reach North Gloster Street.

The Traffic Committee sent the matter back to the city council after residents declined to accept a compromise offered by the businesses that would have restricted some trucks from using Blair Street and cut usage by others in half by allowing them to use Blair Street only when leaving the industrial park.

The council must now accept the original recommendation of the Traffic Committee, which was to allow truck traffic on Blair Street, or reject it and ban the trucks.

Other traffic matters


In another traffic-related matter, the council is expected to move a referendum on extending a 10-mill tax up to its policy agenda for a final vote after discussing it tonight on the study agenda.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 in assessed valuation. The 10-mill tax was due to expire this year with completion of Phase I of the city's Major Thoroughfare Program. Residents approved the original tax by a 56.5 percent margin in a referendum in 1991.

Residents will be asked to vote Aug. 6 on extending the tax for five more years to fund Phase II of the project which would four- and five-lane West Main Street from Milford Street west to Cliff Gookin Boulevard.

Finally, the council is expected tonight to approve a contract extension with TVA that would bind the city to purchasing power from the federal utility for 15 years. While technically only a letter of agreement and not a contract extension, the agreement would state that Tupelo would not issue a cancellation notice on its contract for five years.

Since the city's contract is perpetual, renewing each year for 10 years unless a cancellation notice is issued, the letter of agreement would bind Tupelo to TVA for five years after which the regular 10-year contract would take effect.

TVA has said it needs at least 27 of its 28 distributors in the state to agree to extended contracts in order to commit to buying power from a proposed power plant and coal mining operation in either Webster or Choctaw counties. Last week, TVA indicated it had support from 23 and Tupelo's approval would increase that to 24.

In other business tonight, the council is expected to:

n Hear a report on the validation of signatures on petitions calling for a referendum on construction of a new municipal complex to house all city offices. Marshall said the required 1,500 signatures have been verified but officials are checking some of the signatures against signatures on voting documents in order to further validate them.

The city is proposing to build a $9 million complex on the old fairgrounds property near downtown in order to consolidate all of its offices into one space and to provide adequate space for some departments.

n Approve the appointments of Mike Bass to the Planning Committee and Dr. Jeff Barber to the school board. Bass replaces Adolph Duncan while Barber will fill the unexpired term of Billy Crews.

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