| By John Howell Sr.
Crenshaw alderman Keith Pride brought concerns about police cars repairs and police telephone communications to the April 3 meeting of the town mayor and board.
After Pride cited parts and maintenance needed on police cruisers he said, "I understand we sometimes don’t have long distance on police department telephones."
"That’s two different subjects," Mayor Sylvester Reed replied.
Reed said that Pride was naming "things that have already been ordered. … If there was a requisition filled out; we have to go through a chain of ordering," Reed added.
The discussion of police equipment prompted remarks about the visibility of officers in Crenshaw.
"There is a lot of citizens who complain that they don’t do enough," Reed said.
"Some of the citizens say they don’t move enough," Pride said, directing the discussion back to the police car repairs.
"There are reports that they are called but they don’t arrive," the mayor said, adding a remark about the cars: "Right now they are moving and decent."
"I’m going to make a suggestion that we look at new cars bought at the state contract price," alderman Shirley Morgan said.
"I have looked at a grant that we would match; the city would provide 30 percent," Mayor Reed replied.
The mayor said that the problem with outgoing long distance calls from the police department "was already like that" when he took office. Restrictions had apparently been put in place to curb abuse of the service, Reed said.
Three Crenshaw residents took advantage of the mayor’s policy of allowing questions near the meeting’s end. Cornelia Gates questioned locks not being placed on the meters of water customers whose service has been suspended for non-payment.
Crenshaw generates revenue through its water system, but the system has come under scrutiny in recent months, including a Mississippi Department of Health inspection which gave the town a 0.7 score out of a possible 5.0.
According to the MDH report, " … there are several customers that have not paid their water bills for the last few months but continue to receive water. Enforcement is necessary for the cut-off policy to be effective. Mr. Cotton [Crenshaw Maintenance Department worker Larry Cotton] stated that a purchase order was submitted for some meter locks a few months ago, but nothing was ever ordered. The system is losing revenue on these accounts," the MDH report continued.
"Water meter tampering is being looked at right now; we are ready to push such issues," Mayor Reed replied to Gates’ inquiry. "We do have some [locks] and some on order," he added.
Gates also challenged the town officials about their support for maintenance of the Sam Lapidus Memorial Library building, asking, "How many of you go to the library and see what goes on, what an asset that it is?"
"You of all people, being a teacher, should realize the value of that library," she told Mayor Reed, who is an instructor at Crenshaw Elementary School.
Mayor Reed replied that some children, "take the library as a recreation area."
"We have an excellent staff," Gates responded, adding that the staff disciplines the children who patronize the library and that the library benefits the town’s youth.
Bob Bryant followed Gates, directing his question to town attorney Mary Brown about dilapidated housing.
Abandoned buildings and unsightly, overgrown lots in Crenshaw have been a source of concern for a group of citizens who regularly attend meetings of the mayor and aldermen. Aldermen Alberta Bradley and David Whitsell regularly bring up the issue during meetings in an attempt to expedite action on tearing down old homes and cleaning up the lot. Mayor Reed just as regularly resists their efforts, citing the cost of cleanup to the town.
Earlier in the meeting, the mayor had cited the attorney’s fee of $300 for legal work in connection with a dilapidated structure that had been removed.
Bryant asked the attorney if the town clerk could initiate the proceeding by first sending a letter to person listed in her records as the owner of the targeted property. The clerk’s letter "might cut down the cost," Bryant said.
Sam Presley followed Bryant.
"I asked the same question last month," Presley said. "Does the town have a disclosure clause that would prevent certain conflicts of interest?" he asked, referring to a request during the March meeting from mobile home owner Lizzie Mae Jones who needed to relocate her trailer.
Dodson Trailer Park, the town’s one legally designated area where mobile homes can be placed, was filled, Jones told town officials at the March 6 meeting. Mayor Reed recommended designating an area on Levee Street as a trailer park and rezoning it to allow mobile home placement there.
During Jones’ remarks, it became evident that the mayor owned at least a portion of the Levee Street property he advocated, prompting Presley’s question.
"You don’t need a policy or procedure because state law requires disclosure," Brown said, replying to Presley’s question.
"Shouldn’t it be known?" Presley asked of the mayor’s interest in the land he was recommending for rezoning.
"It was brought up," the mayor said.
"After the fact," Presley responded.
"It wasn’t after the fact, it was during the meeting," the mayor said.