CATEGORY: Tupelo Stories

AUTHOR: MOULDE

HED:Fairgrounds area owner asks for more

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

A fairgrounds area landowner pleaded with the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency Thursday to boost the price being offered for his business.

Roger Hussey, owner of Muffler Master Inc. at East Main and Elizabeth Streets, said the agency's appraisal on the business is too low to pay for relocation and would put him out of business.

The price offered, or that requested by Hussey, was not disclosed.

The city council sold almost $23 million in bonds to pay for improvements on the old fairgrounds urban renewal site, including $4.5 million for land acquisition. Officials expect the project to lure at least $44 million in private investment.

In the planning zone

Hussey's business is within the area proposed for redevelopment. The city already owns about 26 acres of the total 50-acre site and is seeking to buy several more acres to fit into the development plan.

"I'll be put out of business," said Hussey, who said he has been at the site for 19 years. "I need replacement costs. Who knows what it will be worth in 10 years? Who knows what it's worth today? It's what I will take and what somebody is willing to give."

A helicopter pilot for the Mississippi National Guard, Hussey also said he will be called to active duty in about two months and won't be back until the following spring.

"I'd like to get this settled before I go. I don't need this on my mind," he said. "I can't find another location as good as my location, and I don't think y'all can find one, either."

Agency board chairman Chris Rogers asked Hussey to provide estimates of replacement costs.

"We're not here to put anybody out of business, but we've got (a duty). We'll do the best we can," Rogers said.

Other action

In other action, board members asked city engineer Steve Farmer to talk to representatives of the Henry Turley Co., the development coordinator, to determine specifics for environmental and wetlands mitigation studies on the fairgrounds property.

Farmer also said he would attempt to meet with the state's chief engineer for the Kansas City Southern Railroad to determine whether an extension of Troy Street can be run into the fairgrounds area.

The agency board is set to meet May 6 with members of the Tupelo Coliseum Commission and architects on proposals to turn the old J.C. Penney building into a convention/civic center.

TRA board secretary Reed Hillen said architects will present cost options for alternatives on the proposed center. Officials plan to develop a modern meeting facility that could accommodate up to 2,000 people.

Meanwhile, board member Jim Collins said he will meet with former members of the old City Hall Task Force to upgrade plans for a new City Hall on the fairgrounds. Collins was a member of the task force that recommended a $9 million project, including land costs, in 1997 after about two years of study.

The budget for the new facility is $4.5 million, but land costs are included in another agency budget.

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