The Winona Board of Aldermen further discussed a proposed $1.2 million general obligation bond to fund the installation of artificial turf at the city’s recreational park and the purchase street paving equipment.
In Tuesday’s meeting, some aldermen expressed their apprehension about committing to the $1.2 million loan. A public hearing was also held in regards to the bond measure, but no one was present at the meeting in opposition or in favor.
Aldermen David Ware and Mickey Austin were hesitant to move forward, wanting to know how the city would be able to afford to pay the annual note. The annual note will be an estimated $125,000, according to Winona City Clerk June Williams.
The city freed up $30,000 annually after paying off the lease purchase of the lights at the recreational park, and an additional $40,000 will come from the two percent tourism tax revenue. The rest will be made up from expected sales tax revenue increases.
Mayor Jerry Flowers reassured the board that the city’s ability to pay the note should not be a problem with new commercial development currently under construction. In addition, Flowers said without the threat of tournament rainouts, the Winona Recreational Park would increase tournaments from four or five each year to 10 or 12, which will benefit local owners and increase sales tax, but it also increase revenue collected through the city’s two percent tourism tax.
“I think this is a great thing for the city,” Flowers said, of the park improvements.
In fiscal year 2019, the Winona Recreational Park brought in an approximate $117,000 in tournament fees, admissions, and parking. However, the 2019 season was particularly rainy, with several tournaments being rained out. On average, park revenue is approximately $170,000 annually, not including the increase in sales tax the tournaments bring local businesses, hotels, and restaurants.
After further discussion, the board voted 4-0 to move forward with the bond. Alderman Kelvin Winbush was not present at the meeting.
In other business, the board discussed opposition expressed by several residents in Winona have expressed on social media for the Clock Tower project. Some citizens said they did not see the reason for the project and suggesting other ways to use the money.
However, the Winona Board of Aldermen wants the public to know that the money the city received from the State of Mississippi, a $250,000 state appropriation, and a $150,000 grant award from the Mississippi Development Authority can only be used for the clock tower construction. If the city chooses not to construct the tower, the money will have to be returned to the funding source.
“We need to be sure that people get it,” Ware said, adding that people use Facebook to suggest other ways to use the money, but that money is specifically earmarked to go toward the clock tower construction.
“The money is earmarked for the Clock Tower project. and if it’s used for anything else, it’s illegal,” City Clerk June Williams said.
“And people need to know that,” Ware said.
Also, the board:
•Approved a resolution with MIC, a branch of the Mississippi Municipal League, entering into debt set off – the ability to garnish state tax refunds for debts owed to the city -- and make June Williams the local debt collector.
Williams told the board members that House Bill 991 allowed for municipalities to collect on water, garbage and old fines. She said it doesn’t do property taxes because taxes can be sold.
•Accepted a check for $150,000 for the clock tower project from the Small Municipalities Grant. •Approved travel for June Williams to attend a conference in Ridgeland, Chief Tommy Bibbs to attend the Mississippi Police Chief Winter Conference in Oxford, and Wayne Beavers and Frank Faulkner to attend training in Biloxi.
•Awarded Engineering Service of Richland as the engineering firm for the Stribling Development’s access road project.
• Chris Pope also updated the board on a few other projects in the city. He said he saw that paving had begun to take place on the recreational trail. Steet Superintendent Tony Palmertree said it still needed some “dressing up,” but they were making progress.
• Pope also said the houses for the HOME project had all been cleared but one. He said the deed to the home was paid off, but there was an oversight on the company’s part and it looks as if the owner didn’t pay it off.
Pope said they’re ready to move forward with the asbestos and lead testing but needed to clear it up with the one outstanding homeowner.
“Can they just come and do the other houses?” Ware asked. Pope said yes but the company (he said the Martins) wanted to come on one day so they wouldn’t be back and forth.
Williams said if the homeowner can’t clear it up, the homeowner may have to be struck off the list and go to the next homeowner on the list.
•Approved Sports Management as the contractor for the installation of artificial turf at the Winona Recreational Park.
•Rescinded their Oct. 1 motion to award Huffman Construction the tennis court project because of a conflict of interest with the city. One of the owners listed on the company is also a city fireman, therefore, he cannot be awarded the contract.
Flowers then recommended Scott Mecham of Meacham Construction to do the work, the board approved.
•Set a condemnation hearing for Dec. 3 for properties located at 401 Montgomery Street and 604 Devine Street.