Como Park Grant

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Como wins grant to fund new park

By John Howell Sr.

Como has been notified that it will receive a grant of $100,000 for construction of a playground park on donated land, Mayor Everette Hill announced last week. A landowner has offered property near Elder Frank Ward Avenue at Dunlap Street for the playground.

The mayor also said the town may be eligible for a $27,000 grant to reduce energy cost in municipally-owned buildings.

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Hill’s announcements came during the August 10 meeting of the town’s mayor and board of aldermen. It was the first once-monthly regular meeting since aldermen voted in July to quit meeting twice a month. At the July meeting they also set the second Tuesday of the month for their regularly scheduled meetings.

Hill asked for a board resolution authorizing him to enter an agreement with North Delta Planning and Development District (NDPDD) to consummate the grant. NDPDD Program Specialist Chris Pope works with Como as a grant consultant. Aldermen unanimously approved Hill’s request and also authorized a checking account to handle the grant funds and private donations for the park project.

The other grant — the initiative on reducing the municipal energy consumption — comes through the Energy Efficiency and Construction Block, Hill said.

 Over half of the three-hour meeting was devoted to controversy over alterations to a building in the town’s historic district (See “Como aldermen hear crowing about proposed Rooster’s Blues Club,” in the Aug. 13 edition). The discussion about the Blues club triggered conversation about an adjoining building in the historic district which is in a state of poor repair.

“Y’all need to drive by there and look at that building,” Como maintenance supervisor Tommy Rayburn said shortly before the meeting adjourned about 9 p.m. “If that anchor they’ve got in that wall breaks it’s going to take the bank out,” he added, referring to the First Security Bank branch on Main Street.

Rayburn’s comment triggered a discussion among town officials about what had been done previously to condemn the building. Rayburn said that when former Mayor Judy Sumner contacted the building owner, “they jumped up there and did some work on it, but now they’ve quit,” Rayburn continued, “and the brick has moved. You need to drive by there and look at it,” he repeated.

“The historic commission has the authority under a demolition by neglect section of their ordinance to address issues like that,” board attorney Trey Lamar said. “Somebody may want to suggest to them that they look at that.”

Another thorny issue was brought forward from previous meetings: the payment demand from the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) for about $35,000. The demand came when a former employee — from whose paychecks the town deducted no retirement contribution, thus triggering no matching contribution from the town — retired and began paying into the PERS system his portion of the retirement amount not paid while he was working for Como.

“That whole issue issue is going to come to a head … probably sooner rather than later,” said attorney Lamar. The attorney asked aldermen about a PERS letter which asked for a portion of the payment — less than $3,000 — by August 13.

Aldermen have been reluctant to pay the PERS demand because the municipal clerk in Como responsible for making appropriate retirement deductions at the time is married to the former employee. During a July meeting, aldermen discussed fighting the payment demand in court.

“My problem is still the same,” Alderman Clark Gregory said after further discussion among the aldermen, Lamar and municipal clerk Scott Rhines, “… once you make that partial payment, you’re admitting guilt.”

Alderman Bill Mitchell asked Lamar to recommend an attorney to represent the town before PERS. Lamar said that an attorney’s representation could cost $10,000 and perhaps more.

No action was taken.

In other business, Como’s mayor and aldermen:

•    Discussed a municipal referendum on a tourism tax that will require approval of 60 percent of those who vote;

•    Approved a motion for a variance on the town’s building moratorium to allow Louise Brown to build a home at 306 South Sycamore;

•    Heard two representatives of the American College of Genealogy describe a virtual university they plan for 306 Sycamore Street. Lowana Blount and Carl Lindgren told about their plans for the school;

•    Approved a letter of intent from the mayor with Brad Jerry of Community Resources Group which offers assistance to small water systems in meeting compliance criteria;

•    Approved a request by William “Romeo” Holyfield to hold a blues show on Highway 51 Sept. 4;

•    Voted to join the county’s Crimestoppers program. The vote included approval of adding $2 per fine to help finance the program and approval for Police Chief Fred Boskey to appoint a representative from Como.

“I’ve worked in Crimestoppers in Memphis and it’s a good program,” Mitchell said.

Aldermen Forster Ruhl and Teresa Dishmon attended in addition to Mitchell and Gregory. Alderman Ruby Higgenbottom was unable to attend.