| By John Howell Sr.
Crenshaw Mayor Sylvester Reed and town aldermen agreed Tuesday for a short question session at the end of the monthly meetings of the town board.
The mayor said that he and aldermen would seek about six questions each meeting from members of the public who attend. The city officials will provide answers for the questions at the following month’s meeting, he said.
Reed said that he had met with Crenshaw resident Cornelia Gates who made the suggestion about fielding the questions.
Gates also appeared at the October 3 meeting to ask town officials and town attorney Mary Brown about efforts to clean up abandoned lots and homes. Gates is among a number of Crenshaw citizens who have attended board meetings during the last five months to express concern about the town’s deteriorating appearance.
"It seems to me we’ve stalled on the issue," Gates said.
Brown replied that she was awaiting an inspection report to research the cost of determining ownership of one parcel of property.
Alderman Alberta Bradley said that an inspection report of several pieces of property would be available soon.
"Once I get an inspection report, then we’ll take steps," Brown said.
Mayor Reed also reported on the familiar subject of the town’s broken backhoe. The backhoe has been moved from the Clarksdale Case dealership to the Quitman County shop where it will be evaluated for repair feasibility.
The backhoe is the town’s main implement and has been out of commission since before the May board meeting.
"What are we going to do if we have a bad water break," asked former mayor Franklin Rayburn who was among about a dozen people who attended the meeting.
"Panola County and (the Town of) Sledge allow us to use a backhoe," Reed replied.
Another familiar subject is the lack of a certified water operator to monitor the town’s water supply. Former water operator Jimmy Frazier resigned in July.
"We have until March," to hire a new operator, the mayor said, referring to a six months window allowed by the state health department. "The water is still being read at present," he added
"Have we had any water samples pulled?" asked Alderman David Whitsell. The mayor replied that water samples have continued to be submitted each month as required by the health department.
Aldermen voted to approve the night’s agenda after Bradley commented that she was "not happy about getting the agenda after we get here; we need to have it in hand 24 hours before the meeting."
"Normally you do; normally you have your whole package at least before that," Reed replied.
"So, we’ll have it at least 24 hours before the meeting from now on?", Bradley asked.
"Yes," the mayor replied.
Bradley also raised a question about reports from town departments such as the police department and maintenance departments.
"I check the reports; … it’s only a report …," the mayor responded.
"I think the board needs to see the reports," Bradley replied.
An emergency plumbing repair during the weekend apparently created confusion over procedures when the mayor is not available. The incident generated an exchange between the mayor and Alderman Marvin Phipps. Mayor Reed said the the person who performed the work had asked him for payment when, "I had no knowledge of the work."
The mayor said he understood that the work had to be done but was critical of how the repair was handled. "I’m the administrator; it has to come through me… If he has done the work, did he submit a bill?" Reed said, referring to the plumber who had made the repair and then asked for payment.
"The issue is who has the authority to authorize work for the city," the attorney said to clarify a question from aldermen about the emergency procedures. "The mayor," she said.
The aldermen approved unanimously the minutes of the September 5 meeting after clarification by attorney Brown.
Several questions were raised during the review of claims for approval. Alderman Whitsell asked about the cost of feeding inmates who perform work for the city. Whitsell said that he had also fielded questions from constituents about a lack of supervision for the state trusties who work at city jobs.
"I make a motion that we cut that whole deal," Whitsell said.
"No, they are doing their work," the mayor responded.
"Actually, it’s cheaper than having to hire people," Alderman Shirley Morgan commented following further discussion of inmate labor utilized in Crenshaw.
After the mayor fielded further questions from Whitsell and Bradley about amounts paid to Sammy Harrell and the duties he performs for the town, aldermen voted 4 to 1 to approve payment of the claims. Whitsell voted against the motion.
Whitsell also raised a question about a camper trailer that had been parked on a privately-owned lot and provided with water and sewer service from the town.
Placement of trailers in Crenshaw has been a controversial subject that has been tied to the town’s deteriorating appearance.
The mayor said that the owner of the camper trailer, who lives in Indianola, used it as a work trailer. "He only asked that when he stops through, that the municipal services be provided," the mayor said.
November’s monthly meeting was moved from November 7 to Thursday, November 9, because the town’s meeting room will be in use as a voting precinct for the general election on the month’s first Tuesday.