According to Magee Mayor Dale Berry, the cleanest ward in the City of Magee is Ward Four, Alderman Patrick Brown’s ward.
At last week’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting, the mayor stated that he is taking an interest in the city’s dilapidated properties, and they will be cleaned up or they will be cited,
He specifically cited properties at 322 Raleigh Road, a house on Ninth Avenue which has been abandoned, and 842 First Street. It was reported that the owner of the First Street property wanted to donate it to the city. However, it needs asbestos abatement and the consensus was that it needed to be demolished.
City Attorney Bruce Smith advised the board that they may not want to accept property because the City then becomes responsible for its maintenance.
The board discussed the abandoned house next to Entergy as well as the property at 571 Simpson Hwy. 149. It was stated that the house on Hwy. 149 was removed but a shed still stands on the property. Board members discussed a house at Cherry Street and Ninth Avenue and a house on Fourth Avenue that had burned. Owners collected the insurance, but the house still stands as a nuisance.
Alderman Patrick Brown got the board to approve attempting to get tippage fees waived for two houses he had demolished in his neighborhood. The board attorney said the action was acceptable and did not violate any statutes.
The mayor said one of his priorities is getting the town cleaned up but that the city departments have been working short-handed, which has prevented completing more projects.
Berry reported that illegal dumping was going on at SASE Apartments as well as other sites in the community.
He also reported that Magee Police have issued several citations for what is termed “crotch rockets” for the loud noise.
Police Chief Randy Crawford noted that several people had been issued warnings about the use of four-wheelers on city streets. They are not permitted unless they are properly licensed and tagged according to state law. Crawford said the department is going to start issuing tickets. He said they are also warning people about excessive noise at night time.
Two positions are currently open in the city’s Buildings and Grounds Dept. paying $10 and $14 per hour. The board is also in the process of filling the superintendent’s position.
The board is expected to approve the annual budget at the next board meeting. However, it does not become finalized until it is adopted by the board. Currently, no new taxes are planned to fund the upcoming budget year, which starts October 1.
Some adjustments have been made to previously reported budget information. The Police Department’s request for four new vehicles has been adjusted to two new Explorers. The City plans to purchase new body cameras for the officers as well as new Tasers.
Part of the reason for the reduction in requests is because collections of fines have changed. Starting in July 2019 offenders could no longer be jailed for not paying fines. According to Berry, the department is issuing as many citations but collections are down. This year they have collected $192,000 compared to $700,000 the year before. Berry also noted large increases in health insurance costs for city employees. He announced plans to start meeting soon to select the insurance provider the city will be using beginning in February 2021.
Next year should see some needed improvements in the parks in the city. Plans include $35,000 for improvements at the new Marvin Jackson Park, to include new basketball courts as well as other upgrades. There is a new mower and engine replacement for $11,800. The batting cages are being replaced for $3,200, and $15,000 will be budgeted for maintenance of the parks, which will include some slides that need to be replaced at the city park and improvements at the splash pad.
The next scheduled meeting of the board is set for September 15.