Major Thoroughfare File

In this file photo from January 2021, Gregory Construction employee Jessie Doss of Brooksville directs traffic through the West Jackson Street work.

TUPELO • Members of Tupelo’s unique road-building program have begun the process of hiring an engineer for its next five-year phase.

A subcommittee of Tupelo's Major Thoroughfare Program on Monday unanimously agreed to request engineering firms indicate interest in the work by submitting their qualifications.

The rough timeline for the process has the committee that oversees the Thoroughfare program advertising for submissions around May 20, then the engineer subcommittee will review and rate the submissions at its June meeting.

Afterward, the committee will make a recommendation to the city council about which engineering firm should work for the program for the next five years.

“We know our group of firms that will be interested in this,” Dennis Bonds, the city engineer, said at the meeting. “If the drafts (of the request for proposals) are agreeable to the committee, we can get the ball rolling.”

The engineer for the program serves a vital role by working with contractors and construction companies, aiding the committee members and the city engineer in giving general advice and helping with the bidding process.

By the subcommittee’s current timeline, its recommendation of which firm should be hired will occur around the same time a new city council and a new mayor will take office, on July 1.

In Tupelo’s form of government, the City Council controls the finances. This means councilmembers will have to formally vote to approve or reject whatever recommendation the Thoroughfare committee brings.

Although hiring a firm has been a smooth process for the past two Thoroughfare phases, it hasn’t always been that way.

In 2006, the Tupelo City Council overruled the Thoroughfare committee's recommendation to hire Engineering Solutions Inc. Instead, the council voted to award the contract to Cook Coggins Engineers.

Then-Mayor Ed Neelly vetoed the council’s decision. As a compromise, the council and mayor agreed that two engineering forms would work for the Thoroughfare committee.

Jon Milstead, a member of the Thoroughfare committee, asked at Monday's meeting if the election of a new mayor and at least three new council members would change the process for hiring an engineering firm for the next phase and if there was any need for the committee members to try and avoid any of the controversial actions of 2006.

“We’re independent of the council, so typically we just keep trucking along,” Ernie Joyner, a member of the Thoroughfare committee said. Joyner added that the 2006 controversy was an anomaly and didn’t believe such contention would arise this time.

Engineering Solutions Inc. is currently working for the committee’s current phase and also consulted for the committee during the last phase.

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