The City of Southaven will again ask the Mississippi State Legislature to re-instate a restaurant tourism tax plan similar to the Penny for the Parks program that ended earlier in June when legislators would not approve an extension.
Southaven aldermen at their Tuesday meeting voted a resolution that will ask the Legislature to support a 10-year plan to again add a one-percent tax to gross restaurant sales at Southaven eateries with the proceeds earmarked for tourism, parks and recreation promotion in the state’s third-largest city.
Legislators refused to extend the “Penny” plan in the last session and many later alluded to city officials that their opposition came mostly due to the DeSoto County delegation not supporting their local tax plans for their districts.
Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite stated again Tuesday night that many lawmakers have now come to the city asking the proposal be brought to them again, with the expectation that it would now be supported in Jackson.
The resolution backed by aldermen Tuesday seeks legislative support and allows for a city referendum to take place if lawmakers determine the need for one before the tax would be enacted, if approved.
Southaven City Parks and Recreation Director Wes Brown, when contacted Wednesday, said it has been a challenge to work without the additional funds the “Penny for the Parks” levy previously provided, a charge that helped support parks programs to the tune of $1.9 million annually.
“We have made cuts,” Brown said. “Our expansion projects, like the indoor softball training complex at Greenbrook and new soccer fields are in a holding pattern. Despite what happens in Jackson, we come to work every day with our mission in mind, to enhance the quality of life of our citizens and to be the economic driver for our city and county.”
The previous levy helped provide for new amenities at the Greenbrook Softball Complex, the stage enclosure at the BankPlus Amphitheater at Snowden Grove, the Senior Center at Snowden Grove, Pine Tar Alley street extension to the new Tennis Complex and the Tennis Center expansion itself, among other items, city officials noted in the resolution.
TOWING POLICY CHANGES: Board members also voted to make amendments to the city’s policies regarding towing services doing work for the city.
Services that are part of the rotation used when towing is requested by the city can now apply to add another service to that rotation, as long as they are separate companies with separate addresses, even if they are owned by the same person.
In the past, some services have found loop holes to “work the system” and get more towing calls, Mayor Darren Musselwhite said.
“There were some that attempted to get more spots in the rotation, so they would put up a temporary sign and get two hats into the rotation, but they were not two companies,” Musselwhite said. “This is for someone owning two legitimate companies with two different locations.”
In a related matter, aldermen approved another amendment that would allow for trucks to be parked in front of the driver’s residence when they were on call for the city under the rotation. The trucks would have to have a sticker to indicate that they were home in case they were called up, since trucks in the rotation are required to be at an accident scene within 20 minutes of being called.
The trucks cannot be parked in one location for more than 24 hours, however, or could be considered a nuisance if neighbors call to complain.
Commercial trucks are otherwise not allowed to park in residential neighborhoods in Southaven.
“This change will allow for those on the rotation to do that within the required time and be consistent with the ordinances that will still not allow certain commercial vehicles in residential areas overnight,” said City Attorney Nick Manley.
“This was a situation that demanded a compromise,” said Musselwhite about the ordinance amendment. “Commercial vehicles are not attractive in neighborhoods, however our city is not big enough to have a wrecker service open 24 hours. That’s what leads to a need for them to have access to a wrecker to meet the time requirements.”
Board members ended Tuesday night’s meeting in executive session, discussing litigation in the Southaven Police Department, personnel matters in the fire department and had discussions about economic development, specifically business expansion and a relocation into Southaven.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.