Mayor calls work session on paving, infrastructure
Mayor George Flaggs Jr. is calling a Feb. 8 work session of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to discuss a $4 million street paving program.
“I’m recommending that we spend $2 million in the North Ward and $2 million in the South Ward for repaving,” Flaggs said.
If the money is available, the project would be the fifth paving project since Flaggs took office. The board approved two paving projects between 2015 and 2017 totaling about $2 million and two more between 2017 and 2020 totaling $4 million. All four projects were paid with money from the $18 million capital improvements bond issue.
Roads, however, won’t be the only topic.
Flaggs said after the meeting he plans to show the aldermen what his proposed 1-cent sales tax would have paid for.
“What I’m going to do now is layout the needs of the city and why I wanted the 1 percent sales tax because it was a better way of funding these needs than increasing millage,” he said.
Flaggs proposed asking the Legislature to approve a local and private, or special, bill for a referendum to let voters decide whether to levy a 1-cent sales tax to fund capital improvements in the city. Projects funded by the tax would include new water and wastewater treatment plants, and a new fire station.
The plan was withdrawn because it did not have the unanimous support of the board.
“We were asking would they pay 1 cent to raise $200-something million a year to borrow $11, $12 million over a 10- to 15-year period. Money’s (interest rates) cheaper (lower) than it’s ever been,” Flaggs said.
“For some reason why, the board didn’t want to do it at this time so I want to show them what I want to do with this money in case they want to revisit it,” he said.
Neither North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield nor South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour was sure what funding source would pay for the paving.
Mayfield said several funding sources were possible but declined to comment further until he had more information.
Monsour, who opposed the 1 percent sales tax, said, “The message from Washington, D.C., at this point, is they’re going to get a big infrastructure bill and the money’s supposed to be coming.
“The message is wait and see to see what their plan is and what the money will be, but we’re getting ready for an infrastructure bill and if there is a way we can do the city streets and the sewer system then we’ll be ready,” he said.
Monsour said he was already planning a paving list “from the most critical on down, in the streets so if we do get the money and we move forward then it will be there and ready to go. We won’t start from scratch and try to figure it out. We’re going to have a plan of action ready.”
Flaggs, however, said the infrastructure bill will be for “shovel-ready” projects that are ready to start.
“I believe I’ll find a spot where I can put the (proposed) port and some roads in it,” he said. “It has nothing to do with capital improvements (in the city).”
Flaggs said the city’s infrastructure projects cannot be done “without revenue enhancements and I’m not voting for a millage increase. I’ve never voted to raise taxes. I have voted to let the people put a tax on themselves like they did for the sports complex.”