By Billy Davis
The town of Crenshaw is plodding ahead with a cleanup of abandoned properties, beginning with residents who are embracing the effort.
Town government will work with cooperating property owners before it summons others to a public hearing, Mayor Oscar Barlow said this week.
Five property owners have already come forward to ask the town to help them, said town clerk Renee Ward.
Crenshaw will charge a fee, which has yet to be set, when town workers raze homes, and cut weeds and grass, the mayor said. The fee, if not paid to the town government, will be added to property taxes.
Unsightly properties have plagued the little town for some time, ultimately drawing the attention of late county supervisor Robert Avant.
Avant had pledged help from the county road department if town government took action.
But former mayor Sylvester Reed failed to oversee a cleanup, despite the overt proposal from Avant, which left Barlow with an opportunity to promise action if he was elected.
Barlow has said he expects the cleanup will anger some residents, but he believes those people are outnumbered by others who want a cleaner town.
“I campaigned on a cleaner Crenshaw. That’s what I’m going to do,” the mayor said.
After Barlow took office in July, he selected town aldermen Barbara Bradley and Greg Reed to form an ad hoc clean-up committee. The two aldermen, in a week’s time, had accumulated a four-page list of unsightly properties.
“I was surprised that it was that many who had let their property go,” said Bradley.
The mayor and aldermen plan to use that list to contact property owners and demand a cleanup. If the properties are not improved, public hearings will follow led by town attorney Tommy Shuler.
Main Street in Crenshaw also needs a major facelift, but town government is taking a different approach with its main thoroughfare. Town government is seeking to designate Main Street a Historic District, which would prohibit property owners from razing their historic buildings.
Shuler is aiding Crenshaw in seeking the designation after doing the same for Sardis, where he also serves as town attorney.
Barlow said he considers the cleanup the most important topic he discussed at a town hall meeting on September 19.
“We want the word to spread about the cleanup,” he said. “Word seems to be getting around, which is why people are coming to us about their lots.”
Submission of a low-income housing grant, and announcement of an in-kind donation from Lowe’s for renovation of the police station, were also announced at the meeting.
Residents also learned that ICS Headstart, which operates in Crenshaw, wants to purchase property from the North Panola School District for a new facility.
Barlow said he wants to keep ICS in Crenshaw and is lobbying North Panola to cooperate with the land purchase on South Avenue.
The town hall meeting, held at Crenshaw Elementary, drew about 70 residents on a Saturday morning.