City seeks infrastructure funding

moneyHOUSTON – The chances of obtaining a state grant are slim, but Houston certainly would not get it if they don’t apply.

The Houston Board of Aldermen voted to seek a $150,000 Small Cities grant from the state that – if they are successful in getting it – would be used to repair streets and make water and sewer improvements.

“We understand there are 10 small towns across the state seeking this money,” said Houston Major Stacey Parker. “We got one before, because we asked, and we will just hope for the best this time around.”

The state money is a 10-percent matching grant, which would mean Houston would have to pay $15,000 for the funds.

Aldermen did not name specific streets or project that might be the target of the grant. Aldermen did agree roads with base-failure should be made a priority since rain can quickly cause those streets to fail.

“I don’t think we will have a problem finding roads to fix,” said Parker. “Once we are approved for the grant we must say exactly how we plan to use this money. We would need to name streets at that time.”

Parker said there are also sewer concerns and water main issues around the city and, at the board decision, they could take priority over a street repairs.

Parker said getting the county to allow the city to use some of their heavy equipment might influence the direction of the grant.

Parker said the grant selection process is politically driven and he urged aldermen and the community to contact state representatives, senators, highway department officials and the governor’s office.

The motion to seek the grant was made by Ward 4 Alderman Willie Mae McKinney and unanimously supported by the board. Place 3 Alderman Frank Thomas was absent.

In other business:

• The city hired Daniel Vaughn as an equipment operator and water department employee. Vaughn lives north of Okolona in Chickasaw County and most recently worked for the North Lee Water Association. Vaughn has a number of years experience in laying pipe and operating heavy equipment.

• The city will soon begin adding an additional $25 in fees to the bill of property owners who require a second visit by the city code enforcement officer. The fee will double every new visit by the city

The city is seeing property owners ignore repeat visits by Code Enforcement Officer Dewayne Weaver and was seeking a way to make property owners maintain their yard, address safety violations and keep apartments in good working order.

• The city has completed paperwork to begin work on the fire loop serving six industries north of town. The work to improve water service and specifically fire service to the industrial park is expected to begin this fall.

The project is being managed by Three Rivers Planning and Development.

• The board agreed to contract with former City Clerk Bobby Sanderson to help draw up 2014-15 city budget this summer. Sanderson retired from the post last year.

The move was prompted by the resignation of City Clerk Jamie Dendy last month.

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