Category Archives: Government-related

City Considering New Ways to Brighten Our Nights and Days


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COLUMBUS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

City councilmen are currently asking for proposals that would replace the city’s more than 4,300 traffic lights with LED bulbs, which shine brighter, and use much less energy, than traditional bulbs; 371 have already been replaced via smaller projects. They anticipate saving as much as $400 thousand per year by fulfilling such a project.

Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones, of Ward 5, was a dissenting vote, saying that “I wanted more time to look over it and research this company,” Jones told The Dispatch. “I’m open-minded to supporting the project, especially if it saves us money.” 

“Over the last few years, by us adding fixtures, adding lights at the request of the mayor and the council, that pot of money has gone up, so they’re continuing to pay more each year,” Columbus Light & Water Director Gale said. “I don’t see how their bill would ever go down unless they start taking lights out, and you know that’s not going to happen. 

“For someone trying to sell power, it’s not a good thing,” he added, referring to CLW’s potential lost revenue long-term. “(But) to be honest … if all the numbers work out, it’s kind of a no-brainer (for the city).” 

“The net savings would be more significant over time,” Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box said. “… I was totally against this at first, but when I found out how this would be structured, it became obvious to me it was a win-win.” 

It is believed that a secondary effect from the brighter lights would be a reduction in crime, due to increased visibility.

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Revived 2-percent Food and Drink Tax Intended to Promote Tourism, Development, and More

COLUMBUS/LOWNDES – Courtesy of The Dispatch

As Lowndes County’s somewhat controversial 30-year-old restaurant sales tax expired back in June, a replacement tax has been proposed which seems to have near-universal support in the Legislature. Should it be approved, this previously-expired tax will bring back the 2% restaurant tax for the area. Note that this would only affect Columbus eateries whose total food & beverage sales exceed $100 thousand per year.

$400K of the expected revenue has been earmarked for the City, another $300K has been reserved for the County for use in “tourism, special events, recreation and entertainment,” and a further $250K for the GTR LINK’s economic development services. The remainder will go to the CVB.

Gary Chism (left) and Jeff Smith

“When it gets down here, it may very well have a direct referendum added (which would require a citizen vote before the tax could be enacted),” said Rep. Gary Chism (R-Lowndes County), who serves on the House Local and Private Committee that handles such sales tax legislation. “This is the way I drafted the bill because that is what the city and county wanted (in their resolutions), and I support it.”

Mayor Robert Smith reports that the City intends to use its share of the projected revenues to help pay for an estimated $1.6 million in ball field improvements at Propst Park, as well as building the second phase of the Sen. Terry Brown Amphitheater at The Island.

Supervisors’ President Harry Sanders stated that the County is considering using its share to make a “regional” sports complex.

Kudos to the Dispatch for staying on top of this!

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CAFB and Other Bases to Receive New Training Jets, Simulators

COLUMBUS – Courtesy of The Dispatch

CNN reports that Boeing recently agreed to a contract to produce a number of new T-X trainer jets, which will replace the T-38 trainer jets, which have been in use for nearly six decades.

“The Air Force currently plans to purchase 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators, and associated ground equipment,” the Air Force said in a statement announcing the award, according to CNN.

CAFB’s PAO, 1st Lt. Kara Crennan reported that the contract calls for as many as 475 new jets to be built and distributed among air bases; CAFB is one of the nation’s three major training bases.

“Columbus Air Force Base is excited to get a new trainer,” Crennan went on to say. “This is showing the progress that the Air Force is making as far as innovation and ensuring we are keeping up with the advancements in technology. While the T-38 is a wonderful trainer and aircraft and has served us faithfully the last 60 years, we are excited for what the future holds in this new T-X aircraft that Boeing is going to make for us.”

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New Starkville Parks and Rec Head Sees Great Things in its Future

STARKVILLE – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Starkville Parks and Recreation Director Gerry Logan talks about his department to the Starkville Rotary Club – Logan talked about parks and recreation’s impact on Starkville – Photo by Alex Holloway, Dispatch Staff

Starkville Parks and Recreation recently appointed a new Director, Gerry Logan, who spoke with the Starkville Rotarians recently. He spoke about upcoming tournaments and events both past and future, all of which help to contribute to Starkville’s bottom line by way of tourist (and local!) dollars filling the coffers at hotels and local shops.

“Parks and Rec is an economic impact driver,” Logan said. “We host tournaments. We host events. We contribute to the economic development of the community. We deal with quality of life issues. We have sidewalks and areas for people to walk. We have a free walking track at the Travis Outlaw gym . . . It’s about contributing to the … soul, if you will, of the community.”

SP&R runs seven local parks, accounting for about two hundred acres of territory and facilities. With a $400K+ budget increase for 2019, Logan plans to put the additional funding to good use, with new projects on the horizon: “What the comprehensive plan said we needed is certainly some additional field space,” Logan said. “That’s proven. We are certainly short on field space, particularly diamond field space — baseball and softball fields. It also noted we have a lack of multi-use trail. Those are things we need and it’s certainly our goal to get there.

“As part of this new process, with any new facilities that come on we’re also going to look at renovating the Sportsplex,” he added. “A second entrance has certainly been talked about. It’s challenging because of the creek and overall layout of the land, but with any potential discussion of new facilities and a new park, the second part of that is renovating the Sportsplex to make it as efficient as it can be — parking, access roads, things like that.”

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Israel is Getting its First Missile Defense Canister from Our Own Stark Aerospace

Israel is Getting its First Missile Defense Canister from Our Own Stark Aerospace

GOLDEN TRIANGLE REGION – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Stark Aerospace CEO Tom Ronaldi, flanked by Mississippi and Israeli officials, thanks guests for attending a commemoration event for the delivery of a missile defense canister to Israel - Alex Holloway, Dispatch Staff

Stark Aerospace CEO Tom Ronaldi, flanked by Mississippi and Israeli officials, thanks guests for attending a commemoration event for the delivery of a missile defense canister to Israel – Alex Holloway, Dispatch Staff

Stark Aerospace, with its facility near Golden Triangle Regional Airport, recently commemorated the delivery of the first Arrow 3 missile defense system to our Isreali allies. The unit is part of a system designed to shoot down incoming missiles. The project is a joint effort among Israel Aerospace Industries, Boeing, and Stark.

CEO Tom Ronaldi remarked that Stark has grown to 111 employees, nearly doubling its workforce as compared to this time last year; most of that increase has been in the form of welders, but they’ve also expanded their portfolio of executive, engineering, and other professional jobs. He also stated that they’re doing all the can to use local materials whenever possible: “One of the opportunities we see locally here is we try to source close to where we’re doing our work,” Ronaldi said. “Right now we’ve got 75 percent of the material cost coming from within two hours of Stark. We’ve tried very hard to share the wealth, as it was.”

Moshe Patel, head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization of the Israel Ministry of Defense, spoke about the joint program, which is funded by the US and Israeli governments in order to help protect them both: “We are combining the defense of Israel with bringing jobs to places like Mississippi,” he said at Monday’s ceremony. “Together it makes a big difference to us. As a government, we are very glad we have this capability here. On one hand, we can expedite our production capability, and on the second hand, money that is allocated us is being brought back to have more jobs in the United States for the defense of Israel. It’s a win-win situation.”

Boaz Levy, IAI executive vice president, spoke of the new system’s vast improvement over previously existing technology: “The Arrow 2 is for a lower altitude,” Levy said. “The Arrow 3 is actually intercepting ballistic threats deep in space.”

“This is one of the most advanced systems in the world, but it needs a canister and we’re manufacturing that canister right here,” Governor Phil Bryant said. “Seventy percent of the materials used in the manufacturing of the canister come from Mississippi, so you’re looking at Mississippi steel and a lot of Mississippi technology that goes in this. . .It is amazing, I think, in the last decade where we have been able to come to protect not only America but the world by our manufacturing.”

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Starkville Wants to Keep Downtown Historic

Starkville Wants to Keep Downtown Historic

STARKVILLE, Miss. Courtesy of WCBI

Starkville is looking into ways to help its Historic Downtown area remain just that – Historic and beautiful. They are looking into working with the Carl Small Town Center and soliciting funding from the state to help protect the historic buildings.

Buddy Sanders

Local citizen Buddy Sanders hopes “[to] put together a design guidelines for downtown Starkville and they would not be any type of regulatory document. Something suggestive to a person that is buying a building or going into a building for their store of how to appropriately renovate the building in a historical fashion . . . To protect the character of downtown. To give someone an idea of how to keep their store while maintaining their brand also keeping the storefront like a historical 1920’s 1910 building,” he went on to say.

Rebecca Tabb is a store owner in Starkville. “Keeping Main Street historic, I think there’s a draw to that, versus necessarily like Highway 12 or a high traffic street. I think people really have come back to shopping local and wanting to shop downtown and wanting things not necessarily be exactly how they were built really but really try to keep that downtown hometown feel,” said Tabb.

“We hope the Carl Small Town Center can use it as a template for other Mississippi communities to use so that they can use it to essentially either start some type of redevelopment in their downtown or just try to keep character historical character of their downtown,” said Sanders.

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Broadband Summit Opens Up Possibility of High-Speed Internet in Rural Areas

Broadband Summit Opens Up Possibility of High-Speed Internet in Rural Areas

HAMILTON, AL – Courtesy of WCBI

Last year, the Tombigbee Electric Cooperative began making high-speed internet available to some rural areas as part of a new program called “Freedom Fiber.”

“Fourteen miles east of the Mississippi line, some of the fastest internet speeds in the US at some of the cheapest prices are being offered, in some of the most rural parts of Alabama. If they can do it in Alabama, we can do it in Mississippi,” said Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley. This idea spurred Presley to hold a “Broadband Summit” at TEC’s offices in Hamilton, Alabama. The hope is that they will soon be able to make inroads towards making such services easily available to the people of Mississippi for a reasonable price.

While the results look promising, one hurdle that will need to be jumped is current Mississippi law, under which electric co-op’s are not allowed to provide internet service to rural areas, just power. They are hoping that the issue will be raised in earnest in the next legislative session: “That has to be changed by the legislature first and foremost and I think it will, beyond that we’ve got to sell the co-ops on it, it’s going to be a heavy investment on the co-ops,” said Rep. Steve Holland.

A federal initiative has set aside about $600 million in grants to fund infrastructure and other costs that will be required to expand high-speed internet to rural areas.

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MS SoS Sees Educated Workforce as Vital for State’s Future

MS SoS Sees Educated Workforce as Vital for State’s Future

STARKVILLE – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann speaks to Rotary Club members at the Starkville Country Club Monday – Photo by Luisa Porter, Dispatch Staff

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann spoke to the Starkville Rotary Club on Monday, emphasizing the importance of education in order to help further improve the state’s future workforce. He noted that this need not always mean a four-year college degree, and that proper training via career tech centers can be just as valuable for students who are willing to undertake whatever training suits them:”Taking that silo, where we have a university, junior college, a high school, all of that needs to be towards one goal and that one goal would be to have an educated workforce,” he said. “And about 60-70 percent of that educated workforce will not have a college degree. That’s critical — I want you to have that college degree if that’s what you want to do. If you want to work with your hands and be a plumber, you can come to Jackson in the winter and make a million dollars.”

Hosemann said that it is vital to expose students to as many different career path options as early as is practical in their education, to get youths interested in learning about career paths that suit their own interests and talents. He also noted that, while our Unemployment level is low at the moment, that number only includes adults who are actively looking for work, and have been doing so only up to a certain amount of time: “The most significant number that we have in Mississippi is not what our percentage unemployment is,” he said. “It is workforce participation. We are at 55 percent between 18 and 64 (years old). That number is one of the lowest in the country. . .If there were 65 percent working, we could build bridges everywhere,” he went on to say. “We could have schools everywhere. We’d have plenty of money to go around. We’d have another 100,000 or 200,000 people working in Mississippi.”

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Master Plan Has Been Approved for Starkville Athletic Complex

Master Plan Has Been Approved for Starkville Athletic Complex

STARKVILLE – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Starkville aldermen recently approved a contract with Dalhoff Thomas, a Memphis architecture firm. They are to be awarded $61,000  for a master plan of a proposed athletic complex at Cornerstone Park off Highway 25. Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker reports that this will become integrated with the master plan the city already has for its overall parks system. “This is for design purposes to get you to a master plan level,” he said. It is to be a basic, non-final plan/proposal for a possible athletic facility at Cornerstone Park, allowing the city to move ahead on getting the actual project in motion, pending approval.

Walker continued, “This is going to be the plan for us to decide how we want to do it, what we want to do and from that standpoint, there would be a separate contract that would go to construction documents to actually get the project built.” It will likely include things such as a projected square footage, drainage and other infrastructure requirements, et al.

Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill (courtesy photo)

Mayor Lynn Spruill said that the city might be eligible to receive roughly 114 acres in Cornerstone Park from the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority. “That gives us a whole lot of options we can use because we keep McKee, we keep the Sportsplex, and we have a real serious competitive opportunity we can use here,” she said. She also pointed out that success in this venture would eliminate the need to acquire similar land nearer the existing facilities: “Unless Cornerstone has … a huge wetland issue for mitigation, then the amount of acreage we were looking at (near the Sportsplex) was half of what we’d get at Cornerstone,” she said.

“We want to do high-end ball fields,” Spruill went on to say. “We want to be as competitive or more competitive than anyone out there. We want to do amenities to go with it — maybe a splash pad or a batting area. A jogging track — it’s very easy to put something around a facility to allow other facilities.”

Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller commented: “When the Outlaw Center at the Sportsplex fills up or there’s an event going on, I’d like to make sure that our youth or whoever it might have the opportunity to play basketball in other parts of the city as well and have good, nice facilities just like everywhere else in the city.”

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New Tariffs May Pose Problem for Steel Dynamics

New Tariffs May Pose Problem for Steel Dynamics

COLUMBUS — Courtesy of The Dispatch

The Trump Administration recently announced that its 25% tariffs on steel – which had exempted the EU, Canada, and Mexico – will now be imposed unilaterally, triggering Mexico to retaliate in kind. Some are concerned that this could be bad news for Golden Triangle businesses, such as Steel Dynamics.

Mark Millet, CEO of SDI

During a January 2018 conference call, SDI President and CEO Mark Millett pointed out the Columbus flat-roll steel plant’s stellar role in boosting the company’s profits to record highs: “We, I think, shipped about 220,000 tons of automotive (steel) from Columbus just last year, which is a massive increase,” Millett told investors. “And we’re on platforms to increase that to about 400,000 tons over the next 18 months …We continue to gain market share, especially at the Columbus flat roll division with our focus on automotive direct sales. We also benefit there from a cost effective access into Mexico.”

Much of the local plant’s steel is exported to Mexican auto manufacturing plants. They imported roughly 3.7 metric tons of flat roll steel, according to the International Trade Assn.; this number made up about 2/3 of Mexico’s total steel imports that year.

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