Council hears about budget, city woes

Published 1:22 pm Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Picayune’s budget reportedly has improved, the Peach Street Mobile home park might see renovation and one council member is trying to get some residents to pull up their shorts.

City Clerk Priscilla Daniel presented the current budget numbers to the council, with mostly positive reports. She said currently the city’s revenue is at 71.2 percent for the year, which is eight months in. Most departments are reporting they are operating at or just below their budgets, but a few are over on some items. She said those departments’ budgets will be amended to compensate for the extra expense. Some of those over expenditures are due to expenses that were made ahead of time so Daniel expects those to equal out over time.

While most departments are in good shape with payroll, there have been a few that went over budget with overtime. Daniel said there also will be an adjustment to balance those issues.

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So far the utility budget and economic development look good, Daniel said. She said for the time being the airport is self sustaining and she is proud of that.

Daniel also reported that building permits are over projection and the city’s efforts to collect on unpaid court fines is at 78 percent.

Developer Mark Gibson was granted conditional use by the council to take over operations of the mobile home park on Peach Street. During the discussion, council member Anna Turnage had a few questions for Gibson about his plans for taking over the park.

Gibson said he plans to add a privacy fence and remove about 90 percent of the existing mobile homes and replace them with newer mobile homes and Katrina Cottages. He also plans to put water meters on each lot so the residents will pay their own utility bills, which will address the problems of unpaid utility bills that lead to water service being disconnected and the lack of regular garbage pickup. Lack of utilities and regular garbage pickup were two of the many concerns Turnage had. Gibson said he will be like the new sheriff in town.

“No pun intended but it’s going to be a whole different ball game,” Gibson said.

A resident asked about the possibility of putting in houses instead of more mobile homes. Gibson said the cost ratio of putting in houses is not suitable for the price of the property. He did say he would work with the police department to ensure that he would “not let a bunch of drug heads move in and tear it up.”

During a separate topic Building Inspector Alvin Carter was asked how many properties in the city had been cleaned up since Hurricane Katrina. Carter told the council that about 275 properties had been cleaned up by either the city or the land owner. That topic dealt with a number of properties that were addressed during a public hearing held that night. After the council had discussion on the matter they decided to declare the properties not represented by their owner that night a public nuisance. Property owners who showed to the meeting Tuesday and requested an extension so they could clean up the problematic properties were granted their extension.

Council member Leavern Guy again brought up his concern about people who wear their pants below their waists, showing their underwear. At the previous meeting he asked Nathan Farmer to do some research and bring that material to him for review. Guy said at Tuesday’s meeting that while he did get the information he requested from Farmer, he had not read it.

Turnage argued that while she understood what Guy was saying, she said that what is offensive to some people may not be offensive to others. Guy said he would still like to address the problem and then made a motion to amend the ordinance. Mayor Greg Mitchell refused to accept the motion on the grounds that the matter was not on the agenda and said the matter should be studied by the incoming administration. Guy continued to attempt to make the motion, but Mitchell told him if he still wanted to address the matter ,it would have to be added to the council’s recessed meeting. Turnage later asked if there would be a recessed meeting and was told there would be one.

During the citizens concerns, Noel Mansfield asked how in the world Guy’s topic concerning displayed underwear come before the council.

“Come on guys, you got more important things to do,” Mansfield said.

Guy started to ask what Mansfield felt was more important, but Mitchell cut him short. Mansfield heard Guy’s comment and told him that he did not want him to answer that question but still addressed a couple grievances. Mansfield said for one thing, the sidewalk on Curran Avenue needs fixing, which he said is more important than exposed underwear.

Guy told Mansfield that he needed to learn how to “walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. We’re capable of chewing bubble gum and walking…”

Mansfield then told the council that they ought to designate Curran Avenue as an official pothole because a number of cars are losing parts in that area. Mitchell told Daniel to take down Mansfield’s comments and have someone address his concerns.

The council went into executive session to discuss possible sale of land and pending litigation. Decisions on those matters were not available at press time Tuesday night.

In other business the council;

— Accepted official recapitulations of the June 2, election and the Republican Primary. All council members approved the motion except Guy, who opposed.

— Amended the holiday schedule to observe July 4, on July 6. City offices will be closed on July 6.

— Approved the only bid for city wide street improvement, submitted by Huey Stockstill. Two streets included on that list are Bird Nest Cove and Eagle Court.

— Authorized the Picayune Police Department to maintain the Picayune Police Memorial/Pay it Forward fund indefinitely at no cost to the city to maintain the department’s memorial and shrines.