As the Mississippi state Legislative session begins this week, DeSoto County lawmakers will have a list of priorities from Olive Branch city officials they want to see considered.
The legislative session requests will range from funding for highway projects to consideration of a statewide tourism tax.
Highway funding is one of the priorities for Olive Branch officials. I-55 widening is one of projects where money is sought, not just in Olive Branch but across the county.
But Mayor Ken Adams wants lawmakers to work on getting funding for widening of state Highway 305, running south toward I-269.
“Highway 305 is at capacity,” Adams said Tuesday evening. “But we’re also asking for help on (Highway) 78 and Craft Road, where Craft Road goes from five lanes down to two. We need help with that area, as well.”
The average daily traffic county is 33,000 vehicles per day in that area. Adams noted the average daily traffic count on state Highway 305 now is at 25,000 per day.
Another item involves land the city received from DeSoto County as part of its most recent annexation.
“There were two acres of land that a developer had given to DeSoto County,” Adams explained. “We’re asking DeSoto County to transfer that land to us so we can put an animal shelter there. It’s an ideal location for that.”
The Mayor said it takes a local and private bill from the state Legislature for the county to give the land to the city since the donation was made to the county.
“They (the county) have agreed to do that and we’re appreciative that they are,” Adams said.
Adams said legislators are going to be asked to make it a misdemeanor for a parent or guardian to enroll a child in a DeSoto County school who does not live in DeSoto County and provide false information to do that.
Many times at the beginning of a school year, some have tried to enroll an out-of-district child in DeSoto County because of the education the public schools offer. Tennessee parents are often blamed for that, but Adams said it can also be Mississippi children who don’t live in DeSoto County.
“I may think of Shelby County first a lot of times, but it can be Marshall County or Tate County,” Adams said. “I’m fully convinced we have the best school system in the state but I know it costs money. The businesses and good citizens of Olive Branch send about $35 million to the school system. We want to make sure everybody is paying their fair share.”
Other issues Olive Branch city officials want to see addressed is the possibility of a statewide tourism tax, where cities can opt in to a tax with the local and private process that now exists.
“Last year was my first year to be exposed to that,” Adams said, speaking about the hotel/motel tax for parks that was allowed by the Legislature and approved by voters. “Every city that needs a tourism tax to support their parks has to go down and for lack of a better word ‘kiss the ring’ and ask the Legislature for approval.”
Adams would be in favor of a statewide allowance of cities to “opt in” and not have each city go through the process that is now in place.
The mayor would also want lawmakers to address the excess of rental homes being owned by out-of-state investors and funding for airport development.
ALDERMEN BOARD MEETING NOTES:
- As expected, board members authorized the issuance of General Obligation Bonds totaling no more than $8 million. Seven million dollars of that amount would go to build a new fire station serving newly-annexed areas of the city and other funds would pay to build a new city park in the same area. One more approval vote remains for it to happen.
- The city will consider a $1,000 donation to the Olive Branch High School Alumni Association toward a scholarship as part of the association’s second annual East Side High Throwback Night basketball games. This year, Olive Branch teams (dressed as East Side High) are paired with Hernando (dressed as the old Hernando Central High School) as part of an event celebrating the African American school heritage in Olive Branch and in DeSoto County.
- Assistant Parks Director Greg Booker received the December Mayor’s Award for his extraordinary work in getting Blocker Cemetery wreaths distributed to the head stones of veterans during last month’s Wreaths Across America observance.
- Adams said more than 450 non-emergency calls were received by dispatchers during the winter weather event around Christmas Eve, and that Olive Branch Airport operations totaled about 85,000 takeoffs and landings last year, about 10,000 more than the previous year.