Beacon Street project

An artist's rendering of the Beacon Street project.

Old Gibson’s building sold for $350K

JL Holdings isn’t holding out any more. The company that owns the Burger King on Leontyne Price Boulevard in Laurel agreed to sell the right-of-way to a few feet of its parking lot to the city so a long-awaited beautification project could proceed.

The city was prepared to move forward by using eminent domain to acquire the land, but that won’t be necessary now, Mayor Johnny Magee announced in Tuesday’s meeting of the City Council.

Magee gave the Leader-Call some of the credit for helping the city avoid those legal proceedings.

“I think the headline may have helped,” he said with a chuckle.

Magee was referring to a front-page headline that read, “Whopper of a delay …” that appeared in the Dec. 1 edition. Three days later, company officials signed an order to sell the property to the city for $17,345 without having to go to court. The company was first offered $16,095 for the property that is going to be needed for the project.

The land needed to be acquired by Dec. 31, city officials said, because that’s when contracts were scheduled to expire.

Magee said he believes it is the last parcel of land that’s needed to begin the $4.5 million project, which has been in the planning stages for five years. 

The improvements will put a median down the middle of Leontyne Price Boulevard — which was known as Beacon Street when the Mississippi Department of Transportation approved a grant for the project.

The plan calls for other improvements to make a more visually appealing “gateway” from Interstate 59 into downtown Laurel. The improvements are expected to spur more investment and economic development along the route. The city is having to pay $900,000 of the cost and the rest is coming from federal grant money that is being provided through MDOT.

In other property-related action, the city sold the property known as the “old Gibson’s building” for $350,000 to Pine Tree Partners, LLC, which is Ken Keyes’ company. The property, which had been vacant for years, last housed the county alternative school and it has been used as a distribution point for Salvation Army Christmas gift-giving. 

The City Council unanimously agreed to the sale of the building, which is at the intersection of Mason Street and Sawmill Road.

In another matter, the council unanimously agreed to use city engineer Neel-Schaffer for its professional services in $1.2 million of water system improvements to water plant tanks on Hillcrest Drive and East 24th Street.

The improvements will be partially paid for with a Community Development Block Grant — $499,000 in grant money and the city will have to put up $701,000. One of the terms of the grant is that the city adopt a resolution prohibiting the use of excessive force if anyone protests the work. The city also had to agree to consider minority- and women-owned businesses for the implementation of the CDBG program. The council unanimously agreed to those terms.

In other infrastructure-related business, the council unanimously agreed to submit an application to the Mississippi Department of Transportation on the Emergency Road and Bridge Repair Fund Program to see about getting bridges replaced along Sandy Creek on Iris Drive, Airport Drive and West Drive.

The council also unanimously authorized a final payment of $211,635.50 to Schneider Electric for work and improvements it did around the city that was supposed to cut down on utility expenses.

Councilman Tony Wheat asked if any changes have been noticed in utility costs since the work was done.

“At budget time, we’ll be looking very closely at that,” City Clerk Mary Ann Hess said.

The council approved the purchase of a knuckle boom from Waters International at a cost of $160,500. It was the first purchase the city has made using a “reverse auction,” Hess said, noting that it paid off. “We saved about $4,500.”

The council also unanimously approved:

• A $582 rebate check from Hometown Publishing for use by the Laurel Fire Department;

• Travel for deputy city clerk Kristal Jones to attend training in Jackson;

• Gov. Phil Bryant’s order proclaiming Dec. 31 as a paid holiday.

The council agreed to let the city clean the following properties, which have been deemed a public menace by the Inspection Department, and bill the property owners:

• 1728 Gen. Pershing St., Lucious Newell;

• 324 Hillcrest Dr., Doris Biglane;

• 716 Poplar Dr., Plum Hill Properties;

• 1507 Airport Dr., Helen Pugh;

• 1350 West Dr., Van Miller;

• 911 North Joe Wheeler Ave., Lynx Investments, LLC.

Property owners Jerry and Nancy Coleman at 1952 Gladiolus Dr., were granted 60 more days to get their property cleaned.

The council agreed to set a public hearing date of Jan. 11 for the owners of the following properties that have been deemed a menace to the public health and safety:

• 1403 North Second Ave., Ruthie Arrington;

• 1935 North 1st Ave., Stephanie Green and Morgan Byron;

The council approved nine property-cleaning assessments ranging from $130 to $150.

The City Council will next meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18 at City Hall.

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