City liquor vote tops local news events of 2013Published 1:00am Sunday, December 29, 2013
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Editor’s Note: The following story is the first of a two-part series recapping local events of 2013. An upcoming story will focus on law enforcement-related news of the year.
Passage of an alcohol referendum by Brookhaven voters in June topped the news events of 2013 in the local area.
Other news, including the redistricting of county lines and moves to provide city water and sewer services to areas annexed in 2007, will play a prominent role in local news into the New Year, say city and county officials.
As a result of city voters’ 69 percent approval of legalized alcohol sales, city aldermen adopted a Mississippi statute for comprehensive liquor sales in the city on a four-to-three vote in July. The passage of a liquor ordinance defining hours of sale followed in October.
Since then, five liquor stores have set up shop in Brookhaven including Newman’s Package Store Inc. which re-located to the city from Wesson after 40 years of business in Copiah County.
In recent county news, the board of supervisors held a public hearing to reveal new changes to district maps. Recommendations presented by Bill Rigby of Holland and Rigby Political Redistricting see an extension of district one into areas south of district two to account for a population shift. The proposed changes are a result of 2010 census information.
“We hope to make the changes official early in the New Year,” said district two supervisor Eddie Brown.
Brookhaven saw key leadership changes in 2013, as voters elected Republican Joe Cox mayor in the June election. Cox replaced incumbent Les Bumgarner, who did not seek re-election.
“It’s hard to believe that six months have gone by already,” said Mayor Cox Friday. “I think we’ve all taken a great deal of pride in our work continuing to make Brookhaven a great place to live.”
In the aldermen’s elections in June, Fletcher Grice was elected Ward Five alderman, replacing D.W. Maxwell, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor. Randy Belcher beat out incumbent Dorsey Cameron as Ward One alderman. Other incumbent aldermen retained their posts, including Alderman at Large Karen Sullivan, Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates, Ward Three Alderman Mary Wilson, Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes and Ward Six Alderman David Phillips.
“It’s been a learning curve, as you might expect with the elections,” said Alderman Estes of the changes. “Still, we have gotten along well and have accomplished great things. We plan on continuing to explore many issues into the New Year.”
Voters elected Bobby Bell as the city’s new chief of police, following incumbent Chief Pap Henderson’s decision to retire and not seek re-election. Voters re-elected Michael Jinks as city clerk, a position he has held since 2004.
In December, the mayor and board of aldermen announced efforts to move forward with the potential expansion of city water and sewer services into some of the areas annexed in 2007. To that end, appraisals are ongoing and city officials intend on moving forward with their efforts into the new year.
“This will be one of our major focuses,” Cox said.
Long-awaited storm sirens finally arrived in the city, thanks to the efforts of Brookhaven-Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Clifford Galey, former Mayor Bumgarner, Mayor Cox and other city officials. Now, the sirens will be tested one Saturday every month provided there is clear weather.
City aldermen have been particularly successful in securing grant monies for the city, due in no small part by the efforts of Alderman at Large Sullivan.
In July, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation recognized Brookhaven as one of the state’s “Healthiest Hometowns.” The distinction comes from the city’s wellness and child nutrition programs within the school district, health initiatives for city employees and activities sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department. As part of the honor, the Blue Cross provided the city a $25,000 grant.
In August, city officials received a check for $100,000 from the Mississippi Department of Transportation to create a safer walking corridor for students at Alexander Junior High.
Also heading into the New Year, Aldermen Phillips and Estes are taking the lead roles in securing monies for a regional recycling drive partnership with the city of Natchez. The aldermen are requesting $161,000 in grant funding from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s Regional Recycling Cooperative Program.
Two local museum boards saw increased activity in 2013 with community events and ceremonies.
The Lincoln County Historical and Genealogical Society board dedicated two historical markers for the year. In October, the society unveiled a marker in honor of the B’Nai Sholom temple, which is now the site of the Lincoln County Historical and Genealogical Museum.
Additionally in October, the society board dedicated a marker at the intersection of Dale Trail and Old Highway 51 to mark the original site of Brookhaven before the advent of the railroad. The board also intends to unveil a marker at Rosehill cemetery sometime in the spring of 2014.
Similarly, the Military Memorial Museum board had a memorable 2013. The museum board celebrated the museum’s 10th anniversary with a Veterans Day celebration at the Lincoln Civic Center and participated in a national Wreaths Across America event in December.
Now, the Military Memorial Museum awaits approval from the Pentagon on the relocation of an F-86 Sabre jet from Hazlehurst to an area next to the old train depot, which is also the site of the military museum.
Some other local news for the year included:
House Bill 2, allowing adults to openly carry a firearm in public areas, led to a city ordinance by aldermen banning such activity on all municipal property in July. The board of supervisors passed a motion restricting the open or concealed carry of guns in county-owned facilities.
In July, Garrick Combs took over as the new executive director of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce.
The Brookhaven school district finally landed a new superintendent. Dr. Ben Cox will begin his term at the start of the new year. Cox will be leaving the North Pike school district where he served as superintendent for the last 14 years.
In June, Copiah-Lincoln Community College received a $1 million grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation for a pedestrian corridor at the Wesson campus.