The Meridian Star
By Ida Brown
The Meridian City Council approved two new department heads at Tuesday's meeting.
Hugh Smith was confirmed as the city's Public Works Director, and Kevin McGruder as director of Parks and Recreation.
Smith, who has served as acting director of Public Works since Mayor Percy Bland took office, is also serving as interim chief administrative officer (CAO).
Upon his confirmation, Smith requested to discuss his salary. Ward 1 Councilman Dr. George Thomas, who also serves as council president, informed Smith that his salary would remain as is for now. The council had agreed to further discuss the matter in executive session, however it was tabled until a later date, according to Mayor Bland.
McGruder, a former school teacher, spoke briefly about his goals for the city's Parks and Recreation program, some of which have already been implemented, including: scheduling a Walk to School Day, revising Velma Young Park, planning a Park Day in spring 2014 and reviving youth sports at Northeast Park.
"I would like Parks and Recreation to speak for the youth of our community," he said.
McGruder said he has also restructured the department so that all programs work together, rather than separately.
The council also unanimously approved a modification of the current noise ordinance that would include a significant increase in fines for violations. Fines previously started at $25 for the first offense, with increases for each subsequent offenses.
Effective Tuesday, noise violation fines are $75 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense and $500 for the third. The new fines sets Meridian in accordance with the noise ordinances of other cities.
Signs will be placed throughout the city to alert the public of the strict enforcement of the noise ordinance.
Other highlights of the meeting included:
• Appointment of Al Willis to the E-911 Commission. Confirmed.
• Order accepting bid for work uniforms from UniFirst Corporation in Jackson. Confirmed.
• Fairfield Inn street improvement project. Confirmed.
• Resolution authorizing execution and submission of FY14 Sub-grant Application to the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety (Alcohol and Awareness Program). According to Bland, the $160,000 award is a one-year grant that will span over a three-year period. Confirmed.
The council approved a bill for t-shirts promoting the city of Meridian. According to the mayor, the t-shirts will be distributed to city employees, as well as to volunteers of city programs and events and to members of the Mayor's Youth Council.
Council members questioned a bill to shoot a commercial to promote the police chief with another agency. The city currently is under contract with Alter Ego to do all aspects of promotion of the city, however Mayor Bland explained that he would like to expand that to include other public relations agencies in the city.
Ward 2 Councilman Dustin Markham noted that the city signed a contract with Alter Ego with the understanding that it would handle all aspects of public relations. And, if the company was not able to do so that maybe there should be some adjustments or changes.
The mayor and council agreed to further discuss the matter in a work session.
In his presentation to the council, Mayor Bland noted notification of legal advertisement for the following:
• Roof replacement for the Holbrook Building.
• Backhoe loader.
• Dump truck and body.
Bland also announced that nine candidates are scheduled to attend the Police Academy.
It was also announced that three meetings are scheduled Dec. 10 at Union Station to discuss Meridian's public transportation future. EZTAG Regional Dialogue: "Community Transit of the Move," will be held at the following times: from 9:30 a.m.-11 a.m.; from 1 p.m.-3 p.m.; and from 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
The meeting ended with the council entering executive session to discuss a personnel matter. However, according to city attorney Michael Goggans, the matter was tabled.