The MLK gym project is finally going out to bid after two years of planning, revisions and budget difficulties.

The board voted 4-2 to approve the design, authorize M3A Architecture to seek bids and pay the final $19,040 installment to the company for the design. Selectmen Ronnie Brock, Donovan Hill, Devante Johnson and Shawn Williams voted for all of these measures and selectmen Michael Cameron and Ted Tullos voted against.

Cameron reiterated from the last mention of the MLK gym that this would be the second time it went out to bid but the first time with board permission. Mayor Quordiniah  Lockley said M3A was to blame for the misstep and took full responsibility.

“First time was done by them, and they admitted they went out without authorization, and they knew better,” Lockley said.

Cameron also said he believed the project was 33% over its design budget, but Lockley noted the copy of the invoice that Cameron had was out-of-date and contained a clerical error. Lockley excused himself after a unanimous vote to go into recess and came back about 10 minutes later with the correct invoice. He said the project is right on target, with about $38,000 going to design.

City receives Corps funding for sewer work

The board also accepted the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers sewer project grant that will cover 75% of a up to $1 million project. Public Works Director Alice Barnes said the city would have to match the grant 25% and that it would come out of the utility fund rather than general fund.

“When I did my homework, I found documentation that the city had been trying to secure some of this funding since 2009,” Barnes said. “I am before the board tonight that you commit to 25% of a  $1 million project, and the city can move forward.

“If we don’t take this opportunity now, I don’t know if the Corps will contact us again.”

When asked what project she had in mind, Barnes said there were many, without mentioning a specific one.

“Don’t we have plenty of sewer projects at up to $1 million?” Cameron asked Barnes, and she said yes. “I would be glad to pay 25% of a project.”

The board voted unanimously to commit to the grant and authorized Neel-Schaffer Engineering to handle all of the associated paperwork.

The board also paid the $1.5 million it reborrowed from the capital improvement fund to make payments on the April 23 storm debris disposal and monitoring.

Lockley said this payment leaves the general fund balance at about $1.5 million. The city had until the end of the fiscal year to pay off the loan, so Tuesday night’s meeting was the board’s last chance.

This move came after the city borrowed $1.5 million from its capital fund earlier this year to pay its employees. The city paid that back in April, but the board voted to reborrow it as cleanup costs from an April tornado skyrocketed and federal and state reimbursement won’t be in soon.

In other news, the board:

• Recognized Capt. Preston Wells for his 30 years of service in the fire department.

• Declared Nov. 3 a holiday for city employees in a 5-1 vote, with Brock, Hill, Johnson, Tullos and Williams for it, and Cameron against.

• Received Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center’s 2020-21 budget.

• Waived a $250 fee for the Save our Children rally using the downtown depot area.

• Ratified Lockley and Barnes’ signatures on a permit for Sparklight to provide services to Huey Magoo’s.

• Approved a task order from Neel-Schaffer to provide engineering services for the restoration and painting of the Empson Street water tower.

• Accepted an anonymous $156 donation to the animal shelter.

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