Zoo looks to ‘premier’ exhibit

By BUSTER WOLFE,

The Hattiesburg Zoo will be spending $800,000 for a “premier” exhibit in the next year, but Convention Commission Executive Director Rick Taylor would not tell the City Council on which animal would occupy the space. All he would say is that his first choice did not work out.

Taylor presented amendments to his Fiscal Year 2017 budget and went over the FY2018 ledger sheet for Council members Tuesday afternoon in the City Hall Boardroom.

Taylor said the Convention Commission is expecting growth in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

“The great news is we are projecting a 12 percent increase in earned income between operation of our facilities and food and beverage operation,” he said. “The Zoo has become a really strong contributor in income as well as the Saenger Theater. This year, the good news is that we will not subsidize the zoo. It will actually make more money than it costs to operate.”

Project facility operations and general operations will remain constant, Taylor said. However, a $55,000 increase – 13 percent – was allocated for repairs and renovations.

Among the increases for the upcoming year are insurance and talent production costs. Work also continues on the Eureka School, which Taylor hopes will be fully operational as far as a building, not as a museum just yet.

“The big opportunities are in our special projects,” he said. “We are looking at in terms of these to complete the historic renovation of the Eureka School by December. … We have allocated $500,000 to begin the museum project this fiscal year. This will allow us to start this project and flow into the next fiscal year and open the museum in Fiscal Year 2019 as an operation.”

Amendments to the FY2017 budget included a larger starting cash balance because invoices were not received on Eureka School work, the loss of an expected $340,000 from state bond for work on the Science Exploration Center, increased allocation from $500,000 to $1.5 million because of FY2017 spending and the acquisition of Osceola McCarty’s home.

In other business Tuesday, the City Council:

• Approved Minutes for the Aug. 4, 7, 8, 15, 21, 22, 23 and 31 City Council meetings.

• Authorized suspension of all City of Hattiesburg permitting fees for an additional 30 days for anyone affected by the Jan. 21, 2017 tornado.

• Authorized mayor to execute five copies of contract with Fairley Construction Services for the Gordons Creek Repair between Hardy Street and Camp Street Project.

• Approved waiver valuations and appraisal amounts and declared them as fair market value for property necessary for COMSWIP Sewer Project Phase V Site 4 and Site 5; authorized fair market value offers for the following property: No. 2 Madison Place Blvd., 211-A Pecan Grove Drive, 211-B Pecan Grove Drive, Madison Place Boulevard and 71, 79, 85 123 and 131 J. Ed Turner.

• Acknowledged receipt of Permanent Utility Easement for Cornell Malone on behalf of Hub City Timber and Land Management for Lamar County Parcel No. 24546 for the COMSWIP Water Phase V Project.

• Ratified and confirmed the mayor's appointment of Ann Jones to the Pine Belt Regional Solid Waste Authority for a term beginning Sept. 5, 2017 and ending June 29, 2021.

• Acknowledged receipt of request filed by Don Brewster, owner, to appeal the Hattiesburg Historic Conservation Commission's vote for the petition filed by Sharon and Don Brewster, owners, to request to remove a grouping of trees for a certain property located at 503 S. 22nd Ave. On Aug. 9, the Hattiesburg Historic Conservation Commission voted to approve, provided that only two pine trees are removed from the front yard: one that has been previously “topped” by tree contractors, and one that is significantly leaning toward the house); set a public hearing before City Council at 4 p.m. Oct. 2 and authorized publication of Public Notice setting an Appeal Public Hearing.

• Acknowledged receipt of the 2016-17 End-of-Year Report for the University of Southern Mississippi Symphony and Opera Community & Educational Outreach Program.

• Approved Specifications and Authorize Publication of Advertisement for Legal Advertising for the City of Hattiesburg.

• Approved the sale of grave spaces.

• Approved claims docket for the period ending Aug. 31.

In agenda items that were considered during the Aug. 31 special meeting, the City Council:

• Adopted a Resolution and Order to Condemn Property to be acquired from Stephen and Mary Dryden for the COMSWIP Sewer Phase V Project.

• Declared repairs of a drainage pipe off Grand Drive on Thornhill Drive as an emergency; accepted proposal from C. J. Morgan, Inc. to install arch concrete pipe to replace failed plastic pipe for a not-to-exceed amount of $350,000.