| Crenshaw Mayor Sylvester Reed encouraged the town’s citizens to drive to Batesville Monday to the Panola Board of Supervisors’ meeting to show support for the location of Rolando Foods in the facility that formerly housed Dana Industries there.
That was a good move by the mayor – to mobilize public support in Crenshaw for an industry which will employ people and help offset a dismal unemployment rate in that northwest corner of the county. A demonstration of support before Panola supervisors helps to convince them of Crenshaw’s appreciation for the supervisors having gone out on a limb in their decision to give the vacant, county-owned building to Rolando.
As Panola Board of Supervisors President Robert Avant observed, "Rolando could be to Crenshaw what Nissan is to Canton."
Another good move available to Mayor Reed would be the recognition that there is already much public support mobilized in Crenshaw in support of reversing the decline and deterioration that has depressed property values and which is turning a formerly picturesque town into a junk-strewn, overgrown landscape.
That the public support is already mobilized is evident by their contacts with this newspaper. A quick ride through the small town verifies reports of abandoned houses that have been allowed to sit unattended for years while yards have grown weeds, then trees and structures have rotted. Abandoned vehicles are routinely strewn about some yards in various stages of disassembly, and at least one mobile home has been allowed on a lot where mobile homes are prohibited.
"We were so much better off than other Delta towns," a lady lamented, observing Crenshaw’s present condition.
"How many of these do you think you’d find in Sardis, Batesville or Como?" a man asked, pointing to empty houses with overgrown yards.
Certainly, more jobs will help. But just as badly needed at this crucial juncture in Crenshaw’s history is a willingness on the part of elected officials to govern, manage and direct events. Steps taken right now to address the unsightly conditions which have developed along city streets would send a signal to Crenshaw residents, to officials of Rolando Foods and to the rest of the county that someone is in charge and someone cares.
Although, during an interview in May, Mayor Reed exhibited a rather startling unfamiliarity about whether Crenshaw had ordinances regulating such things as mobile home placement, abandoned homes, junked autos and overgrown lots, a veteran city official assured us that the city has in the past adopted ordinances dealing with all of the above.
Mayor Reed has said on several occasions that he is seeking to recover public records that were missing when he took office last July and has been unable to determine what ordinances have been adopted in Crenshaw prior to his taking office.
"We’re looking into it," has been the mayor’s frequent reply when citizens question him about the Crenshaw’s deteriorating conditions.
That’s not good enough for this group of Crenshaw citizens who are already mobilized to give their support to reverse the town’s decay and abandonment of government by elected officials. The mayor needs to make recovery of whatever records are missing an emergency priority. He needs to direct the current and former elected and appointed city officials to search for their own copies of meeting minutes and other documents. He needs to make inquiry of the former city attorneys – the most recent resigned abruptly following the May meeting of the mayor and aldermen – requesting what copies of records they have that could help reconstruct official records in city hall. Without the city’s records, it becomes a government of men, not of law.
Reversing this decline in the quality of life and value of property in Crenshaw is as important to the city as landing an employer like Rolando Foods to provide jobs. It is the part of the equation that will help keep closest to home the payroll money created by the jobs. If Crenshaw’s quality of life deteriorates, people who work there will choose to live elsewhere instead of living and paying taxes and buying goods in Crenshaw city limits where those dollars will have the greatest impact. Decline in property values means lower assessments for tax purposes which erodes the city’s income from property tax.
And those who think that this is a Crenshaw problem isolated over in the northwest corner of the county might consider a couple of worst-case-scenario questions raised during an impromptu, free-ranging discussion of the city’s plight:
"Could it revert back to the county?" one of those concerned citizens asked. "How do you unincorporate a municipality?"