Lowndes, Columbus use savings, bonds for sundry projects
Now that the 2-percent restaurant sales tax has passed, Columbus’ park improvement projects can keep moving forward.
The city has earmarked the $400,000 anticipated revenue from the tax for the continuance of repairs on Propst Park and the Terry Brown Amphitheater, both of which are still in different phases of construction.
The $1.6 million vision for Propst Park includes the upgrading of all four sports fields, new lights for those fields, and a new park entrance.
Phase I of the amphitheater refurbishment project concluded in 2017. Phase II – which is estimated to cost roughly $2.5 million – would spruce up the concession and ticket stands, the restrooms and the fence surrounding the property. The city also purchased the property beside the Plaza Motel and plans to turn it into a parking lot. If the additional 1-percent restaurant sales tax requested by the city passes through the Legislature, those funds would be put toward paying an outside entity to manage and maintain the amphitheater instead of continuing to have the city do so.
“We’d like to have someone who knows what they’re doing (manage the property),” Columbus Mayor Robert Smith said.
Both projects should begin in June. The city will take out a general obligation bond of about $4.5 million to fund both refurbishment projects, and that bond will be repaid by the restaurant tax revenue.
County park improvements
The county purchased the 89-acre Penn-Taylor Farm near West Lowndes High School for $890,000 last year. Lowndes County administrator Ralph Billingsley said the land is intended for a future sports complex, but no concrete development plans have been made. Meanwhile, the county is still paying the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks $500 per month to rent three baseball fields and a football field at Lake Lowndes State Park near New Hope.
Construction on a $1.2 million horse park/arena on Tom Rose Road is well underway. Expected to be complete by May 2019, the park will be home to local 4-H livestock shows and East Mississippi Community College rodeo shows.
Fire station construction
The future Fire Station 4 for Columbus Fire and Rescue sits empty on Airline Road. However, new designs for the 10,000 square-foot facility were completed in late January, and a bid for construction is expected to be accepted by the end of February.
The building only a mile west of the city’s current Fire Station 4 was originally scheduled to be completed in late 2017 or early 2018. Construction halted in 2018 after city officials learned plans for the building’s interior were going to be more expensive than expected. There is no definitive word yet on how much the current construction is expected to cost.
The Columbus Crime Lab will expand into the old Fire Station 4 building, Smith said. The new Crime Lab will have space for showers, offices and other facilities.
The Retail Coach, a retail recruitment and development firm based in Tupelo, has identified 17 retailers who “showed interest” in establishing retail locations in Columbus.
The mayor assigned Joe Dillon, the city’s public relations coordinator, to work with The Retail Coach on identifying retailers who might consider doing business in Columbus. A detailed report on the group’s efforts is due to the city council by the end of February.
The future of Leigh Mall, once an attraction for many interested businesses, remains uncertain. Twenty-seven properties, including the mall, were put up for sale after the owners, Security National Properties, went into foreclosure last year. According to Lowndes County Tax Assessor-Collector Greg Andrews, there has been no sale or deed filed for the property. Jones Lang LaSalle Americas (JLL), the Chicago-based real estate company currently managing the mall, paid taxes on the property on Jan. 31, Andrews said.
Construction near Highway 82
Columbus received a $5 million grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation to add streetlights, traffic signals and an additional lane to several Highway 82 exits. Columbus-based Gregory Construction will begin the projects on five ramps in late March or April.
A new traffic signal will be installed at the end of the 18th Street exit off Highway 82 westbound. The exit ramp will also be widened to accommodate an extra lane.
The Highway 82 eastbound Military Road exit will soon be illuminated by brighter streetlights. Just down the road, the intersection of Woodmont Drive and Military Road will receive a new streetlight and an updated signal controller, as well as two new utility poles.
Elsewhere along Highway 82, Atmos Energy opened their new regional office building on South Frontage Road just past the Macon/Meridian exit this February. The new facility will replace Columbus, Starkville and West Point offices with one central location. Atmos’ former Main Street office is for sale. A church and two other industrial buildings along South Frontage Road are still under construction.
Story by Amanda Lien