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Aldermen should have input on development

By MARLAN JONES,
The Mendenhall Mayor and Board of Aldermen held their regularly scheduled meeting on October 3. 
Chief Candy McCullum was approved to hire two new part-time dispatchers and was also approved to attend the MS Association of Chiefs 2017 Winter Educational Conference. 
A design for city shirts was tabled for another month. 
Mayor Todd Booth has made it known that the city has debt that it needs to clear. He presented a plan to the Board of Aldermen that would knock a year off of payments on a $72,048.92 loan on a backhoe. The plan is for the city to refinance loan, and he discussed options with local banks Peoples and PriorityOne. Booth said, “We need to get aggressive on clearing some of this debt.” There was no action taken following the discussion. 
Building permits were also discussed. Booth suggested that the Board of Aldermen should have the final say on what is being built in the city. He said that permits are being issued, but the board doesn’t know what’s being built. He voiced concern about property values being diminished. 
Booth said he believes that neighboring properties should be built alike. For example, brick homes should all be in one area and vinyl siding homes should be in another. 
If a resident moves into town and plans to build a home, they should build it like the surrounding structures. “You all need to make that decision because we have worked hard to clean up properties around the city and we need to be careful about what we let back on them,” said Booth. 
Zoning administrator David Miller spoke of making some changes to the application process. The conversation of building permits led to a number of concerns from the Board of Aldermen. 
Alderman Tim Gray suggested that the problem lay in the building codes. He said, “If the board tells one person they can (build) and one person they can’t when they both satisfy the code, then that’s discrimination.” 
Alderman Robert Mangum said, “You can’t tell someone what kind of house to build” and stated that vinyl siding is just as good as brick. Mangum said, “If you are not in a subdivision with covenants then you can’t stipulate what people build.” Alderwoman Janna Miller said that too many restrictions on what kind of homes can be built would detract from new residents settling in town. 
Alderman Donnie Thomas seemed to agree with the mayor and saw the suggestion as a good way to keep rental properties out of certain parts of town. He revealed that he lives in a $300,000 home and that there are plans to establish single family dwellings in the lot across from his. Thomas doesn’t believe this practice is fair to property owners and could lessen the value of their property in the future. Miller was firm on her stance of not hindering new residents from coming to town. The Board unanimously voted to table the item until next month. 
A mutual aid agreement and agreement for emergency water supply for Bedford Care Center was denied by the board. 
Joe McGuffee appeared before the board to discuss the parking lot. He gave a brief history of the parking lot and how he came to own it. He said that the parking lot has always been treated as public, and he has always handled it that way. McGuffee also explained that his lot gets the dirt and rain water from the lot above. He praised Red for doing a good job of keeping it clean when he was allowed to do so. He explained that cleaning the parking lot was imperative to safety. He stressed the importance of being able to see the lines and the role it plays in keeping pedestrians safe. 
McGuffee said, “I’m here tonight to tell you all that I don’t want anybody to be denied the right to use that parking lot, but I don’t want it to be abused. I’m willing tonight to settle all issues.”
He said, “I did not ask for one penny for the city to use that parking lot but that’s what people see when they look at the paper.” 
There is truth to McGuffee’s statement and we reported that the previous agreement did not call for any monthly payment for the use of the parking lot. It only required the city to maintain and clean the lot and possible make any necessary repairs. The dollar amount was set because the City could not legally maintain a privately owned parking lot. 
During the September meeting it was revealed that the amendments to the agreement limits the city on the amount of time the lot can be used and also adds maintenance cost
Alderman Tim Gray inquired about the maintenance cost that falls back onto the city. McGuffee said, “If you ever send 90 day notice that you want to end the agreement then all I ask is that the city restore it to its proper use.” 
After more discussion the board approved the parking lot agreement pending an amendment that allows the town to use the parking lot whenever it’s needed. 
Bennie Palmer also spoke to the board and reviewed their insurance policy. Shortly after, the meeting was adjourned until the next regularly scheduled meeting in November.