Commission still waiting for update

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Jackson’s one-percent oversight commission has approved nearly $13 million in expenditures this year, all without knowing where they stand on previously approved projects.

For months, commissioners have been asking the city for an update on spending.

However, as of the board’s April meeting, no update had been provided.

Public Works Director Robert Miller anticipates that he will provide the update soon, and was still compiling information at press time.

“I have fully reconciled the projects, but am still putting together the details showing meeting dates when obligations were approved and check details showing when payments were made,” he said.

The “reconcilation” will essentially provide oversight officials a breakdown of one-percent funds have been spent to this point, including what projects have been completed, which ones are in the design phase, and which ones have not been started.

Commission members have been seeking a reconciliation since late 2016, under former Mayor Tony Yarber, but haven’t pressed the issue recently, in part, to give the new administration a chance to get its footing.

Mayor Chokwe Lumumba took office last July. Miller joined the city in October.

“We’ve been patient. The city has had a lot of extenuating circumstances, but they have to figure out how to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Commission member Jonathan Lee said.

Since taking office, the administration has had to deal with flooding in Belhaven, a major water crisis in January and a continuing water billing crisis.

 

Commissioner Ted Duckworth wants a breakdown of how much the city has spent on engineering versus actual construction.

“I need to follow back up on that,” he said.

The tax went into effect in 2014, and places a one-percent assessment on certain retail transactions in the city limits.

Revenues generated by the tax go into a special account and can only be used by the city on projects approved by the commission.

Under state law, the commission is charged with drawing up a master plan and ensuring the city follows through on spending the funds in conjunction with it.

Confusion sprang up last year after data revealed the city under former Mayor Tony Yarber had moved funding from some projects to fund cost overruns on others.

Around $700,000, for example, was moved from the second phases of the Eastover Drive water main replacement project and Riverside Drive reconstruction project to pay for overruns on a Robinson Road bridge replacement.

The commission vowed to stop approving major projects until a reconciliation was given.

To date, the tax has generated around $55.8 million, of which $54.2 million has been obligated to projects, according to city documents. Of the $54.2 that has been obligated, $24.4 million has been paid out.

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