Schools re-routing traffic during school hours

By PAT BROWN,

If you are planning on traveling up First Street North East you will need to find an alternate route at least during school hours.

A request from Magee High School was approved by the city board to close the street during school hours to through traffic.  This should not come as much of a surprise because according to the board that is the way it has been on and off over the years. 

This provides more safety to the children at the Middle School as well as the High School.  This part of the campus has been open in recent years and it has allowed for contact with students and concern has been expressed by members of the administration about security of the campus. 

This will allow for one way traffic on Second and Third Avenues North East.  The road will be barricaded at First Ave. North East and Choctaw will remain open.  The schools will be responsible for putting the barricade up and taking barricades down on a daily basis according to Dr. Miriam Lacy, assistant principal at the high school. 

The board heard from Skip Russell, local business owner and entrepreneur.  Russell approached the board with the idea that if people and businesses are willing to renovate and rejuvenate downtown buildings and businesses they would be allowed an abatement of taxes. 

What Russell presented to the board was a request that if someone is willing to locate downtown that if the project exceeds $200,000 in scope of costs that the business would be allowed an abatement on those taxes for at least seven years. 

Russell told the board that he owned property up town and plans to locate his corporate offices downtown as well apartments in the upstairs.  He said he has other property that he is going to offer a coffee shop and is currently in negotiations with other interested parties about locating retail business downtown. 

Russell requested that the board should make a decision that would be retro-active to allow other development to take advantage of the request he has taken before the board.  Alderman Patrick Brown stated he thought it was a good idea and would like to see the opportunity considered in other places than just downtown.  Russell shared a rendering of the renovation he plans for the vacant lot he recently purchased. 

The city heard from Chris May about drug problems in the Eastside Subdivision.  He reported he had called the police about a suspicious individual in his neighborhood at night.  He said the police came but the suspect discarded what May described a paraphrenia and said the police did not have enought evidence to make an arrest.  He said he was then faced with having to deal with the individual himself.  He was requesting more police presence in the neighbor as well as other neighborhoods to prevent problems becoming worse.    

Mayor Berry reported that vehicles being parked at the Magee Shopping Center (home to the former Jitney) were creating issues for the owners of the property and noticed the public that 18-wheelers as well as cars being parked on the lot for sale would be towed at the owner’s expense.  He said part of the reason there is a problem is because the property is being marketed for sale or lease and it is creating concerns with potential renters.  He said the property is privately owned and the ownership has issued a request to have the vehicles removed. 

The board discussed the upcoming golf cart ordinance.  The attorney told the board it has nothing to do with using side by side on local streets.  He said if they are street legal they are street legal but must be tagged to comply. 

There was discussion about the purchase of the park property the city has been maintaining near the old elementary facility.  Berry told the board they would have to purchase it if they were interested into the city owning it.  There was discussion about reducing the school obligation of supporting the high school athletics.  Berry told the board agreements could not run longer than the current administration’s term of office.   

The board is considering starting a community center for senior adults at the former YMCA facility in Eastside subdivision. 

Mayor Berry reported there is an additional medical business coming to Highway 49 in addition to the Urgent Care.  He also said that a wedding venue had been built by Alderman Patrick Brown’s son, Blueberry Wedding Barn located on 5th Avenue. 

Berry is continuing to promote signatures on the alcohol petition stating that several chain businesses have made inquiry and when they find out liquor is not legal they opt out of discussion. 

The board agreed to hire Terrance Funchess and Desmond Sims as part time help in public works.

A reception for Five County Child Development Association will be held at the community center on Friday August 10, 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.  The public is invited to attend the event.   

The board scheduled a workshop for budget planning to be held at 6 p.m. on Monday August 13.