Council moves on three month old matter, reports balanced budget

Published 1:04 pm Wednesday, April 8, 2009

At Tuesday’s Picayune city council meeting the council moved on a topic that has been tabled for three months.

The council also received their audit for the fiscal year of 2006-2007, and Wib Wright of Wright CPA Group out of Hattiesburg said the for that year the utility fund provided funds, instead of the city having to put funds into it as in the previous fiscal year.

About three months worth of meetings had a request to subdivide two properties into one by Michelle Durr tabled, for one reason or another. Tuesday, after much debate, the council took action on that matter with a divided vote.

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Durr’s request involves joining her two adjacent C-2 properties into one. Durr is reported to have a salon business on the first property and is attempting to have a multipurpose hall and sandwich shop on the second. Grant Administrator Barbara McGrew said in a previous meeting that Durr’s request to join the two properties would remedy an setback problem associated with the second property.

At each previous meeting numerous residents of the surrounding area voiced their opposition to Durr’s intentions, saying that they expect to deal with flooding and traffic problems associated with the businesses.

Neighbor Henry Porter said at Tuesday’s meeting that since Durr had dirt and other work conducted on her property his home has been adversely affected by flooding. Adam Hall said he has lived in his home about a block away for two years, and has not had problems with flooding until Durr began her work on the site. Monroe Branch, which drains that area of the city, did not drain like it should during the last heavy rain. Hall said he almost had water in his kitchen and he associates that problem with the work done on Durr’s property. Porter said he did experience some flooding due to the work done on Durr’s property.

“Am I going to have to have to sandbag my kitchen just to eat dinner?” Hall asked the council.

Before discussion about the matter took place council member Jerry Bound made a motion to deny Durr’s request, which council member Anna Turnage seconded. Council member Leavern Guy then immediately asked for discussion on the matter. Again, as with the previous meetings on the matter, he asked for consistency in the council’s actions. He said the matter before the council was not about what Durr planned to do with the property, but whether she should be allowed to combine the two properties.

Turnage said her problem lies with the fact that once the subdivision is approved Durr will essentially be allowed to do as she wishes with the property. In past meetings it was said that un-permitted work was being conducted on Durr’s property, so a cease and desist order was issued, prompting her most recent request. Turnage said Durr wants to combine the properties so the setbacks on Durr’s property will be legal for her proposed use. And so far that use has caused some people’s homes to flood.

“It’s not about Michelle Durr, It’s about what is right for that area,” Turnage said. “I’m speaking on behalf of citizens in my area, that is what I’m here to do.”

Guy argued that ordinances are set by the city to protect the residents, but Turnage countered that those same ordinance have not kept people from doing what they were not supposed to do in the past. Further discussion had Guy suggesting the council follow the proper procedures and rules associated with subdivision of lots.

“We tried the right process the first time, I’m not backing down,” Turnage said.

City resident Lydia Schultz stood up and also had a comment about the rules and procedures. She said when she remodeled her home she had to acquire the proper permits, however Schultz did not see the proper permits displayed at Durr’s property while work was ongoing.

“The laws haven’t been followed here, why do we think they will be followed in the future,” Schultz said.

A vote was taken on the matter where Turnage, Bounds, Mayor Greg Mitchell and council member Larry Watkins all voted to deny Durr’s request, council members Parker and Guy voted against the motion to deny the request.

The audit for the fiscal year 2006-2007 was submitted to the council at Tuesday’s meeting. Wright gave a brief presentation about the findings and said that now that city employees are stabilized and county tax records are consolidated audits should begin to come more smoothly.

In the last reported audit, fiscal year 2005-2006, the city reported a loss of about $1 million from the Utility Fund. This audit, Wright said, showed that the Utility Fund was turning a profit and did not require other city funds to sustain it as in the previous fiscal year.

Mitchell and Guy both gave commendations to the city for turning the tide and balancing the budget. Mitchell said that balance was done with out a tax increase and Guy said the proactive approach of the city to fix the budget should be acknowledged.

The smoking ordinance was asked about by the Picayune Item. City Manager Harvey Miller said a new version of the ordinance has been presented to the council for their review and he expects the council to be able to take action on it by the next meeting, set for 6 p.m. April 21. City Attorney Nathan Farmer said he has taken the previous ordinance adopted by the council and addressed their concerns and questions, presenting them with a shortened and modified version. Mitchell asked the council to be ready to take action on the ordinance at the next meeting, so they can get it done before this term is over.

More matters discussed at Tuesday’s meeting will be covered in a follow up story for Thursday’s edition.