Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite Thursday morning floated the idea of a walking bridge being built over Getwell Road to connect the Silo Square development to Snowden Grove Park.
Some aldermen offered a lukewarm response to the idea, but will still explore its possibilities.
Aldermen met Thursday morning in a special called meeting since no quorum could be achieved Tuesday night at the regular time due to the visit of President Donald Trump in the city.
Musselwhite has proposed that more than $1 million in excess surplus money in the city coffers be used to build the bridge near the May Boulevard entrance to Snowden Grove Park.
“We’ve done a great job in a short amount of time trying to make our city more pedestrian-friendly,” Musselwhite said about plans on the drawing board for walking trails, adding that Silo Square will be one of the first truly walkable communities in the city.
“It makes sense for us to connect the two,” Musselwhite said.
The mayor added that there are plans for a walking trail from Getwell to Tchulahoma Road and make connections with walking trail plans to connect Central Park to Snowden Grove Park.
Musselwhite believes a walking bridge is the safest way to make the connection.
“We believe the net cost is about $1.3 million,” Musselwhite said. “We’ve got the money in excess surplus to build a bridge.”
However, Alderman George Payne said he was not sold on the need for the walking bridge.
“I love the idea and I think it would be a monument to what we want be in an entertainment area for the city,” Payne said. “There’s already going to be a stop light and it’s not like we’re going to be crossing an interstate. I’m just not sure on this.”
Alderman Charlie Hoots questioned Musselwhite about an option for handicapped people not able to climb the steps of the bridge.
Consultant Dan Cordell of Civil Link said handicapped needs would be provided at grade level.
“You would still have your crossing location, but for more regular use, you would have a pedestrian crossing with the bridge,” Cordell noted. “ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) would be handled through an at-grade crossing with a bridge for the more prevalent crossings.”
He added a ramp configuration, instead of steps for the bridge, would add to the cost of the structure, making it cost in the $1.9 million range.
If approved, construction could start in April 2019 and take about six months to complete.
“This is just preliminary and we wanted to get the discussion going and inform you about it,” Musselwhite said. “We can make adjustments to it and we’re still looking at the pricing. We’re going to do more research on the pricing.”
The mayor also talked about the need for renovations for the City Hall building, which Musselwhite said now would be best done in phases.
One of the immediate needs would be in replacing the roof as leaks have developed in the current roof.
There are also landscaping needs, Musselwhite said, explaining, “There are some trees and growth so close to the building they are actually growing into the building.”
Security, ADA and parking lot improvements are also top of mind. The first phase would involve the ADA compliance issues and removing the front porch to the entrance as the current structure is rotting and makes the building less secure. It is estimated the first phase cost would be about $700,000-$750,000. The entire cost of renovating City Hall is expected to be about $4.5 million, a less expensive price tag from a complete rebuild, which would be in the $10 million area.
A Tribute Hall concept, as part of the City Hall renovations that honored residents who have greatly impacted Southaven, was also presented.
Nothing concerning the bridge or the City Hall renovations was acted upon Thursday morning, but provided as information during Musselwhite’s Mayor’s Report portion of the agenda.
Aldermen did approve renewing the city health insurance program with Cigna, the current provider. There are no changes to the health insurance plan Southaven provides its city employees. However, premiums that the city pays to cover its employees will go up 19.9 percent over the last year’s plan.
“We want all of our employees to have great coverage,” Musselwhite said. “We went to great lengths to do it.”
“We’re looking at the best decision on a bad option as far as cost increases go,” City Administrator Chris Wilson said. “Whatever we do, we’re going to see a cost increase.”
The vote to renew with Cigna came on a 5-0 vote. Alderman William Brooks could not attend Thursday’s meeting and Hoots had to recuse himself from the discussion and vote because his wife works for Cigna.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.