Monday, October 8, 2012

Senior Adult Center is at the heart of a Southaven Board of Aldermen and Mayor dispute

Senior Adult Center is at the heart of a Southaven Board of Aldermen and Mayor dispute
By:  Michael Lander

The Southaven Board of Aldermen  had 19 items on their agenda for their board meeting on Tuesday, September 18, but  Mayor Greg Davis said, "the most important item was not on the agenda."  It was, Davis said, "the motion to approve a contract for our senior adult building."

The senior adult building is currently at the center of a political tug-of-war between Davis and several Southaven Aldermen.

Alderman Randy Huling opened the discussion about a new senior adult building when the board came to old business at the Tuesday meeting.  Huling proposed a motion to allow the mayor to go into a contract on the facility, but when Davis called for a vote on it, Alderman Ronnie Hale made a motion to table any further discussion on the topic.  Aldermen Greg Guy, Lorine Cady, Ricky Jobes, and William Brooks, voted along with Hale to table this.

In reacting to the action of the aldermen, after the meeting, Davis said that "some of the members are merely playing politics."

For Hale, the action to table further discussions was made because, he said, "we have some disagreements on the issue as a board and felt the project is being pushed too fast."

According to Davis, the discussion for the senior adult building initially began at a board meeting on August 3, 2010.  That is when Alderman Guy reported that there would be a referendum on a one percent tourism tax at the next board meeting on August 17, 2010. 

For Davis, it was clearly pointed out that the money from this was for the parks and the senior adult program.  Following that, Davis outlined a chronology of events that included the Southaven Board of Aldermen approving a contact to purchase land for the senior adult building on December 6, 2011, and the board approving a budget revision for the one percent tax to fund it on May 15, 2012.

Hale indicated that he has had questions about the project numbers, which he said, "have changed and no one really has an answer as to why."  Hale is also concerned about funding.  He said that "the basic fact is that we do not have means to pay for such a large project."

In addressing these types of concerns, Davis said that "over the past 15 years, I cannot recall a time where any major construction projects began without the board being informed on how it was to be paid for." 

He also said that the "fact of what the total would be for the set of plans has been on documentation that the board has approved on June 5, August 7, and also on September 4, 2012."

On September 4th the Board of Aldermen approved a motion, Hale said, that "no expenditure can be spent without being approved by the Board of Aldermen" on the senior adult building.

In a memo to the Board of Aldermen, dated September 24, 2012, Davis vetoed the Board of Aldermen's order that any future expenditures, improvements, plans, design work, fees or expenses involving the senior service building must now be presented to and approved by the board of aldermen.

This veto, according to Davis, was based on the vague definition of current & future projects and that the motion, in essence, "killed any movement on the senior adult building."

"If the board's intent is to stop the project," Davis said, they should be "up front & make the necessary motion to do so without hiding behind parliamentary procedures."

After it was determined that a cousin of Davis owned the land that the senior citizen center was to built on, the mayor denied that there was any conflict of interest for him in this matter.

In other business that was discussed, Davis said that the city currently has $7.26 million in surplus funds.  This is from fiscal year 2011 and this does not include any money collected in fiscal year 2012, which closed at the end of September.  Following the board meeting, Davis said that these funds, from both fiscal years, are not included in next year's budget and will be a true reserve fund for the city.

The board of aldermen also received a legal update from the city attorney concerning the redistricting and reapportioning of the ward lines in Southaven.  After the meeting, Hale said that "the redistricting of the ward lines will affect a lot of people and also change the voting location for some."  This could be, he said, "the biggest hurdle we have to cross when it becomes closer to election time."

John Tucker, a Southaven resident, also spoke before the Board of Aldermen about concerns regarding speeding in Central Park.  He requested, for the safety of walkers, runners & cyclists, that the City of Southaven create two foot lanes within the city parks.  The Southaven Director of Planning and Development, Whitney Choat-Cook, said that Southaven would be connecting Central Park to Snowden, but did not indicate whether or not the city would be creating any bike or pedestrian lanes on the road surfaces within the park itself.


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