The City Council split 4-2 Tuesday as it voted to grant $50,000 in state funds to the Seventh Avenue Revitalization Program.
Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem requested the city”s budget be amended to direct Mississippi Department of Transportation money soon to be awarded to the city for the removal of two abandoned railroad crossings to fund new sidewalks and lighting along a four-block stretch of Seventh Avenue North.
Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box opposed the proposal during discussion, insisting the MDOT money should go to the city”s general fund to relieve a $191,000 budget deficit.
The MDOT money will go to the general fund, but the Seventh Avenue project will be added to the budget. The city already decided dip into $3.2 million in available cash to make up the deficit.
Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin also opposed funding the Seventh Avenue project on the grounds that assigning Public Works to the project would drive up the cost and add delays to pending projects in other wards.
Discussion on the matter continued after the board voted to grant Karriem”s request. Box alleged Karriem was wrong to ask engineer Kevin Stafford, who is a consultant and not a city employee, to do some preliminary work on the project before the council had approved it.
Stafford responded that all the councilmen have brought him projects prior to their approval by the council in the past.
The discussion careened into road and drainage projects before Gavin asked whether Karriem would return to the council in the future to ask for funding to complete the later stages of the revitalization project.
The $50,000 may be just enough to cover sidewalks and lighting, but won”t begin to fund the project”s additional goals of running utility wires underground and widening the road.
“I can”t answer that. I don”t know where the money will come from,” Karriem responded. “All I”m asking for is some sidewalks and some streetlights.”
In other business the council:
n Approved Municipal Court Administrator Lou Dudley”s request to terminate the city”s agreement with Franklin Collection Services pending a 30 day notice.
Franklin Collection was contracted to collect delinquent court fines. However, Dudley reported the service had collected less than $1,000 for the city over the past three years.
Franklin Collection does not directly charge the city for its services, but keeps 25 percent of collected fines.
n Approved installation of a four-way stop at the intersection of Eighth Street North and Eighth Avenue North.
n Approved and ratified an agreement with Moody”s Investor Services, including paying Moody”s out of Columbus” $8.9 million bond issue.
The bonds went on sale Tuesday morning and all were sold in less than two hours.
Chief Financial Officer Mike Bernsen reported the city received a fixed interest rate of 3.95 percent on the bonds. With interest rates going up around the country, Bernsen said he was “ecstatic in keeping under four (percent).”
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.