Tupelo budget amendments inject funds into multiple projects | Local News | djournal.com

2022-06-15 14:23:49 By : Ms. Emma Lee

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TUPELO • Tupelo City Council approved a significant budget amendment Tuesday, injecting cash into a slew of projects, including upgrades to the BancorpSouth Arena, the Ballard Park skate park and a private bathroom for the mayor.

The council voted 6-0 to amend the city’s budget. Ward 6 Councilwoman Janet Gaston recused herself because the amendment included fees associated with BancorpSouth, to which she has ties through previous employment as well as her husband’s current employment.

The most significant change with this amendment is a $2.7 million increase to the BancorpSouth Arena’s operating fund, a large portion of which came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Shuddered Venues Operating grant. Chief Financial Officer Kim Hanna said the grant money needed to be used primarily for maintenance, but a portion could go to capital improvement.

The city landed on replacing to the arena’s chiller units — large heat, ventilation and air conditioning units that regulate the temperature of the building. BancorpSouth Arena Director Kevan Kirkpatrick said the project, which came in with a budget of about $3 million, was necessary because the city has not replaced or significantly repaired the chillers in almost three decades. He also noted the city meant for the chillers to alternate the workload, but one of the units has been out of service for more than 10 years.

“It got to a crucial point. We’ve done a lots of Band-Aid fixes, but it got to the point we had to do something,” he said. “Every year, when we crank it up, there are massive expenditures. This is not something that is sexy, but it is vitally important to the comfort of visitors and our staff.”

Along with the upgrades to the chillers, the arena will also get a new backup generator and an ice plant, which is a piece of equipment used to ice over the arena floor to create an ice rink.

The city expects upgrades for the ice plant to be complete in early October, and Kirkpatrick said he hopes the chillers will be finished by the end of that month as well.

After multiple failed attempts to secure a bid for the Ballard Park Skate Park renovation project within its original $300,000 budget, the city plans to double its budget using $150,000 funds from excess revenue and another $150,000 from Conventions & Visitors Bureau funds.

Parks and Recreations Director Alex Farned said he was pleased to see continued support for the project from the administration, noting it was in the rebidding process for the third time.

“We are very thankful to the administration for adding money to this well-deserving project,” he said. “We are looking forward to starting the bidding process over again.”

The last time the project was sent out for quotes, the lowest bid came in about $75,000 over the project’s original budget. Upgrades include replacing metal ramps with concrete fixtures and constructing an Olympic regulation skating bowl.

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Hanna said the city will spend $50,000 on the construction of a private bathroom for the mayor's use. The money comes from excess funds, which Hanna noted the city uses for capital improvement.

Mayor Todd Jordan said the city had no timeline to build the bathroom, adding it would be located between the mayor’s and the chief operations officer’s offices. He noted the bathroom would be adjacent to city hall’s public restrooms, so minimal plumbing additions would be needed. He also said he believed the work would not exceed $50,000.

“The other bathrooms are next door, so it is going to be easy to tie-in,” he said.

Jordan said the project came about because he spends much of his day outside and going to different engagements.

“I like to get out, get a little dirty and sweaty, and don’t have time to go home and freshen up,” he said. (The bathroom) will keep me from having to go home and waste time and gas.”

Other projects include moving $100,000 within the police department’s budget to account for increased gas prices. Hanna said no money was added or subtracted from the department’s budget funds.

“Police is so significant that we needed to do this now,” she said, noting most other departments were able to cut back on supply spending to accommodate gas hikes without an amendment.

The department also saw a $90,000 injection for police vehicles purchased during the last fiscal year. Hanna said the money came from a grant procured by the Tupelo Public School District last year for School Resource Officers and would reimburse the police department for the purchase.

The amendment also added another $150,000 for infrastructure, specifically to pay for the matching portion of two Federal Transportation Alternatives Program through the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration grants. The city plans to build sidewalks on North Gloster and a section of Barnes Crossing in Ward 4. The second grant would go to the construction of sidewalks along South Green and Mitchell streets in Ward 7.

Hanna said the reason for the addition, which comes from rollover funds in the last fiscal year, was because Jordan did not want to deplete the city’s regular sidewalk maintenance funding to fulfill the city’s match.

Caleb covers politics and government for the Daily Journal.

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