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City Council: Zoning, lighting, & taxes owed by Shale Support Services highlight meeting

Public Works Director Eric Morris discusses the new agreement with MS Power.

After not being able to meet on Tuesday due to a lack of a quorum, the Picayune City called a special meeting roughly 24 hours later and was able to proceed with business despite the continued absence of council members Lynn Bogan Bumpers and Larry Breland.

Ted Barze, representing Planning and Zoning, presented requests to allow Conditional Use on two properties allowing both business and residential occupancy to occur in the same building. The locations, both zoned C-3 Highway Commercial, are at 2110 East Canal Street and 413 Carroll St. Councilman Wayne Gouguet commented about the progress he has observed in these type scenarios.

“You know, we’ve been looking at this for months, and Tom (Milar) may have been working this. Basically, we’re looking at trying to make it a little bit easier for people to use residential and commercial zoned areas. Some of these commercial zones, like these, extend way off the main commercial line, and this is in line with the direction I think we all think we need to be going.” The council unanimously approved the request.

Public Works Director Eric Morris submitted a request to the council to approve a new rate structure with Mississippi Power Company for street lighting on Memorial Blvd., Hwy 11, Martin Luther King Blvd., and Goodyear Blvd. Morris explained the background on the request.

“Basically, Mississippi Power had to restructure their rates on these street lights to more appropriately capture their maintenance investment for these lights that’s been kind of catching up with them for several years. Consequently, what the city gets out of this is that 229 of the street lights will be changed out to new 166 watt LED fixtures.”

Byron Hill, the local area manager for Mississippi Power, told the council that the old lights were 250 watt high pressure sodium lights. Morris added that these lights are antiquated and high maintenance.

“This is a win for the city because we are getting higher quality lighting that won’t be going out as often, so consequently, we will have less dark spots on the streets in these areas, ” said Morris. “It’s also a win for Mississippi Power because it’s less maintenance.”

Hill added, “What we’ve got up there now (sodium based lighting) just basically puts out light and it’s not 'delivered' lumens. With the new LED lights, we are able to focus the light on the street where we want it. It’s directed to where we need it instead of being all over.”

Councilman Gouguet asked about the timeline to replace the lights and Hill responded “we should be able to finish the work by December 1st.”

In the comments part of the meeting, Councilman Gouguet had questions about tax money owed to the city and the school system by Shale Support Services sand plant.

Gouguet said that Shale Support Services owes the city $160,000.00 and $266,000.00 is owed to the school system in personal property taxes. Gouguet asked City Clerk Amber Hinton if the city was obligated to collect the money for the schools since the city is the taxing authority?

Hinton explained, “We set the tax levy, but the county is responsible for collecting the taxes and they send their taxes to us and we then forward them to the school district.”

City Attorney Nathan Farmer noted “We have an inter-local agreement with the county for the collection of our taxes that’s been in place since around 2009 or 2010.”

Gouguet then asked for clarification on his understanding that if the city counted this money in the budget and did not receive it, then it creates a deficit? Hinton replied, “Yes, it is a shortfall in our revenue.”

Gouguet asked City Manager Jim Luke on what options the city has in this issue?

Luke answered Gouguet stating "I spoke with Amber prior to the meeting and they would be speaking with legal counsel in the next couple of days in order to prepare a recommendation for the council at the next meeting on how we will proceed.

Gouguet closed out the discussion stating “It’s an issue we need to address. $160,000.00 is a lot of money.”


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