By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times
City officials have agreed to hold a public forum to address the issue of criminal behavior among youth.
Laura Marshall and her son-in-law, Shedrick Shaw, appeared before the Eupora Board of Aldermen on March 6 to express concerns about their neighborhood and the city, specifically regarding at-risk youth.
Marshall said three vehicles in her family, including hers and Shaw’s, apparently among others, were damaged last month by acts of vandalism. According to Marshall, her Cadillac was egged and bags of flour were poured on the windshield.
The Eupora Police Department’s monthly report for February shows seven incidents of malicious mischief last month: two egged vehicles on West Clark, salad dressing on a car’s windows on West Clark, an egged vehicle on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, an egged vehicle on Malone Street and two broken car windows on Naron Avenue. The report also shows that a fight involving youths occurred on Malone Street.
Marshall said the same group of youths is involved in the acts of vandalism and asked, “What are you doing as a board to provide services to the youth in Eupora?” … “Something has to be done,” she said of criminal behavior among youth.
Mayor Dan Burchfield recommended that Prairie Opportunity Inc., of which Marshall is a longtime employee as a licensed social worker, partner with the city to provide programs for youth.
“We’d love to have that expertise,” he said.
Burchfield said he emphasized with them, and added that the Police Department “is doing the very best they can.” He also said the EPD could increase its presence in the area, but noted that most of the time, only one officer is on duty at a time, two at the most.
Responding to questions from Marshall, Police Chief Gregg Hunter said the city does have a curfew for anyone under 18, which is 10:30 p.m. during the week and 11:30 p.m. on weekends. Marshall was also informed that the city has two ordinances addressing noise violations.
Ward 1 Alderman Junior Shaw said, “The simple fact is, parents are not involved with their children anymore,” and, “We need to hurry up and do something.”
Hunter said of youths committing vandalism in yards, “This is not just in isolated areas. It’s unfortunate.” He explained that many of those involved in the most recent incidents are in the Youth Court system already and that the Police Department has to abide by the Youth Court process.
Hunter agreed that adult and parental supervision is needed, but cautioned that most juvenile vandalism occurs after parties, ballgames and such are over, when the youth don’t have enough adult supervision.
Marshall said she wanted to work with the city to address the issue. The discussion concluded after 35 minutes with Hugh Gibson (Ward 3) recommending that a community forum be held in the Community Center regarding youth crime.
He, Marshall, Hunter and any other available aldermen were to meet Friday afternoon at the Community Center to develop the community meeting. Gibson said he also planned to invite city/county Prosecutor Jan Butler and a representative of the Sheriff’s Department to Friday’s meeting.
Also on March 6, Lara Bowman, executive director of The Enterprise, presented a detailed contract to provide community development for the city. The matter had been tabled from the Feb. 6 meeting, when the mayor recommended contracting this service out to The Enterprise, which is the economic development organization for Choctaw and Webster counties.
Last week’s discussion ended with the board approving the formal contract based on its job description for the duties involved. The motion authorized the mayor to sign it on behalf of the city to be attested by the city clerk; a representative of The Enterprise will also sign it. The contract starts April 1 and can be voided with at least 60 days’ notice by either party. The monthly fee of $206.41 will come from the city’s economic development line item.
The community development assistant will be responsible for such things as meeting with merchants, scheduling ribbon cuttings and planning events, website development and maintenance, and social media communication.
“The city does not have anyone to do community development,” Burchfield said.
The Enterprise board of trustees has authorized Bowman to hire a part-time assistant, who will dedicate four hours a week on average to the community development work for Eupora. The community developer will be under the direct supervision of Bowman, who agreed to submit a monthly summary report to the Board of Aldermen.
Bowman also discussed completing “due diligence” for marketing Eupora Industrial Park, preferably this calendar year. She explained that performing due diligence would involve removing the barriers to making the park a “shovel-ready site” as part of the Mississippi Development Authority’s site certification program.
The first step would be updating the park’s Phase 1 report, which includes an environmental assessment and other studies. Bowman has obtained two quotes from engineering firms for this, and plans to return next month with another quote and more details. She said legislation is being considered to reimburse entities the cost of completing these studies.
Assuming the studies come back clean, Bowman said any needed upgrades would be made and conceptual planning would be attained (such as for building pad design). She said programs are available through the Tennessee Valley Authority to help with this.
The mayor and Bowman mentioned the possibility of the city buying the vacant Alloyd building with grant funds. “You can be more successful in getting a tenant in a publicly owned building,” she said, adding that the building is in “fantastic shape.”
Other action taken by the board March 6:
- Voted to accept an engineering and administrator contract/resolution with Calvert-Spradling Engineers for the grant-funded project involving infrastructure improvements to the city lagoon. The board voted last month to approve the firm for engineering services on the project.
- Voted to accept a $1,900 quote (the lower of two) from Netcomm Wiring of Eupora (Phillip Lewis) for installation of a security system/fire alarms in the City Hall complex/fire station.
- Voted to accept a Community Fishing Assistance Program agreement and submit a signed copy to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks for joint management of Whites Creek Lake.
- Voted 4-1 to reaffirm a previous motion to place a speed bump on Marie Lane; Jerry Gary (at-large) voted nay. This was done at the request of the owner of The Blue Boutique, which is located at 35 Marie Lane.
The board had voted 4-1 in February 2016 (with Gary voting nay then also) to put a speed bump on Marie Lane in the proximity of the former establishment at that location, The Back Alley, upon the owner’s request. After that business relocated, the board voted 5-0 that April to rescind the original motion of putting a speed bump there.
As part of the same agenda item, the board voted to have Hunter monitor speeding and traffic patterns in the area between 85 and 100 E. Fox Ave. Some residents of that street and other citizens in Ward 2 have petitioned the board and mayor to place a speed bump on East Fox Avenue in that location.
Their petition said the speed bump is needed to slow traffic along the residential area because of the number of children and elderly that live there, adding, “East Fox is used as a way to detour the busy highway and people drive too fast.” Another speed bump is located further east.
- Voted to accept budget amendments in General City and Water/Sewer from City Clerk Gail Newton.
- Voted to approve Public Works Director Mike McCain’s successful completion of his 90-day probationary period as public works director. McCain said he is working on obtaining his water operator license as required in his contract and job description, and will be taking the operator test in July.
Upon passing, he will have to work with a licensed operator for a year to be certified. The board voted last month to hire certified water operator Scott Cooper to fill a vacant water operator position.
- Voted to advertise for a full-time police officer to replace Sgt. Donald Card, who is retiring effective April 28.
- Voted to declare a non-working 1988 boat that had been donated to the Police Department surplus and disperse of it.
- Voted to add Joey Stroud to the Fire Department roster.
- Voted to preapprove the purchase of bleachers at Gary Park at $5,772. Park Director Rusty Bowen said Monday that four sets of bleachers have since been purchased, with North Mississippi Medical Center and Plymouth Tube Co. each agreeing to buy a set, and the remainder being purchased through sponsorships and sign sponsorships.
No action was taken on the agenda item of “Burned Lot — Main Street,” but board attorney Jacqueline Meek said the lot (former Classy Closet/Maryetta’s/M&O Couture building that burned in July 2014) had been sold. She said the new owners have asked to be given 30 days to clean it up.
Alderman Shaw said citizens had come to him about car damage from running off in potholes. Burchfield asked him to give McCain a written list of their locations.
The board also considered a request from Ann Hubbard to reimburse her $16.05 for tire damage. Burchfield said she ran over a water meter lid that someone (not a city worker) had thrown onto Figgatt Avenue and punctured a tire. During the discussion, Meek confirmed that the city did not legally owe her for the damage. The mayor called for a motion three times and the request failed for lack of a motion. The lid has been replaced.
The board was to have a special-called meeting Monday afternoon for the purpose of street personnel.