A Million for JATRAN, Fireworks, and 'Capacity' at City Council

Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon found during her research that there was no ordinance outlawing fireworks in the city.

Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon found during her research that there was no ordinance outlawing fireworks in the city. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

— Repairs to the hard-hit JATRAN fleet of public transit buses, with 27 currently out-of-commission and in need of serious repairs, total an estimated $934,657.

"This is a matter that we take very seriously and we will get it resolved," Chief Administrative Officer Marshand Crisler said on behalf of Mayor Tony Yarber during the June 28 meeting. "I think we have a good plan of action."

That "plan" as it turns out, is to have the contractor responsible and the city sit down and discuss a number of back-due invoices for repairs the company has made as well as which of the serious, major maintenance work projects the city can afford to start on first. Documents handed out by representatives from the company responsible for maintaining the fleet for the city, National Express, show that the estimated total cost to rehabilitate all the buses is $634,657. In addition the company has performed another $300,000 in repairs since October when they took over.

"We are waiting on the city to approve those repairs to those vehicles so we can put those back in service," Foster said, adding that in the meantime they have considered using rented buses to fill in the gaps.

At the moment paratransit buses, which are smaller than the main fleet buses, are being used to meet public demand. However, this necessarily means that these paratransit buses are not available to pick up people with disabilities that require the specialized vehicles.

Christine Welch, head administrator of JATRAN for the city, said that while the city was waiting on the correct paperwork for the repair work already finished, there was a concern that the needed repairs to the fleet cost more than the city had budgeted.

The City Council decided to put the matter to the next meeting while the city administration and National Express prioritized the repairs and assembled a cost to begin repairs.

Fireworks and Ordinances

Even as fireworks are banned in many cities across the country—the New York Police Department posted Instagrams of the contraband yesterday—the Jackson City Council could not pass an ordinance to ban fireworks in the city before the July 4 holiday, amid concerns by members about the noise and its similarity to gunfire.

"I've been getting calls about the City's policy or law for or against fireworks," Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon said. "Our research analyst researched this extensively for us and the only thing we can find ... is a 1949 legislation, ordinance, by Mrs. J.R. Skinner, the city clerk, and in all of my years I thought that fireworks were illegal in the city, but the only thing we can find is that the sale of fireworks is made illegal."

Barrett-Simon said that she had been receiving phone calls from residents who were anxious in the days leading up to the June 28 meeting. One call, she said, was from a woman in South Jackson who reported that her house had been hit with both Roman candles and bullets during past July 4th celebrations. As a result, Barrett-Simon said was willing to suspend the rules governing ordinances to rush new legislation through.

"I don't feel comfortable drafting an ordinance to push it through to meet this deadline," Council President Melvin Priester said.

The City passed as ordinance recently to raise the penalty for discharging a firearm in the city to the fullest extent allowed for a misdemeanor. Marshand Crisler, the City's chief administrative officer, said during the meeting that a firework was usually handled as a disturbing the peace charge.

Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps said that he was more worried about "celebratory fire" in the city, of firing guns into the air.

"That kind of activity needs to cease and come to a halt," Stamps said.

Although this "celebratory fire" is illegal under city ordinance, it is notoriously difficult to prosecute, almost requiring the officer to witness the event personally.

Local Contractors and 'Capacity'

The city council approved two 1 percent sales tax commission contracts last week to firms from outside Jackson, despite reluctance from council members committed to keeping the dollars in the city.

The two projects that the council approved were an agreement with Infinity Engineering Consultants from Tampa, Fla., for the Hanging Moss Road Waterline Improvements and with Stuart Consulting Group from Metairie, La., for the Woodrow Wilson Avenue to Erie Street Drainage Improvements, totaling over $300,000.

New Public Works Director Jerriot Smash said that the two companies were chosen based on their "capacity."

"They are not using the same personnel for those jobs to the extent that when we call them they are not able to handle our requests or our requirements in a timely fashion," Smash said. "That's what we look at when we talk about capacity."

"This was a quality-based selection. It had nothing to do with pricing," Public Works Engineering Manager Dr. Charles Williams said, adding that the department looked at over 50 companies. "This is not about a competitive quote."

Barrett-Simon said that the city should focus on keeping contracts, like the ones to clean up blight, in the city of Jackson, employing local companies and firms to perform the work.

"These are 1 percent funds so this is purely Jackson shoppers' money," Stamps said, following Barrett-Simon's lead. "This money does not come back to Jackson, no way."

Email city reporter Tim Summers, Jr. at [email protected]. See more local news at jfp.ms/localnews.


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