Thursday, May 19, 2005

Leadership class chooses project

Staff Writer

A class of about 24 officials and staffers of local government offices in Marshall County have agreed on a project they believe will do the most for quality of life in the county.

Leaders have adopted a mission statement – to have a cleaner, safer community that enhances the quality of life for all citizens in Marshall County.

The first step toward accomplishing that task is to get the word out to about 50 percent or greater of the resident population, according to Chance McDavid, facilitator with the 2005 LeadershipPlenty class which graduates in July. A task force of people interested in action that will result in a cleaner, safer community has to be organized and the committees will need lots of interested people to join the action.

Short term goals are to organize the task force to examine town, city and county ordinances that address cleanup and safety issues. Team leaders set a five-year goal to reduce litter and illegal dumpsites in the county by 30 percent.

The next steps are to educate and promote clean-up and get the message to stop littering to churches and schools so they can get involved in the effort.

These steps will add to a goal of making Marshall County a beautiful place to live, work and to visit.

All local governments in the county have ordinances against littering, junk and other hazardous situations and conditions. Some boards are beginning to enforce them.

In Potts Camp, city clerk Marie Tate said the town adopted ordinances to control junk and litter a year or more ago. She estimates the town has sent out 10 letters in the first year enforcing the statutes.

“It’s really been on the books about one to two years,” Tate said. “People are complying. We had one or two to go from summons into court about it.”

Potts Camp ordinances deal with junk cars, junk in yards and uncut grass.

The town assists residents by picking up limbs and brush the first two working days every month.

“That is as long as the chipper is in working order,” she added.

The community has organized to help beautify businesses. That committee put up welcome signs at the entrances to the city limits, sold flower pots to different businesses, and some businesses bought American flags and are displaying them. The committee sold potted plants the first year.

Now every business is responsible for doing their own planting. The town uses the red, white and blue theme for flowering plants at town hall.

In Byhalia, city clerk Anna Marie Adkins said the town is enforcing lot cleanup orders and in several cases where owners refused to clean up lots the town had it done and charged the fee to the property owners’ taxes.

“We write cleanup letters on a regular basis for junk cars in the yard - about 10 in the last year,” Adkins said. “As a rule, we normally get a good response.”

The town street department also picks up limbs inside the city limits. Material has to be set close to the curb or at the edge of the driveway, because city workers cannot go on private property to get rubbish and white goods, Adkins said.

The Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce also participates in the America the Beautiful trash control campaign.

In the City of Holly Springs, a City Beautiful Commission has been active for about three years and with private donations, volunteer help and assistance from city and county government, the downtown is more beautiful and cleaner.

Private and business donations have helped purchase new benches and trash bin covers, install planters and improve the foliage at the Veteran’s Memorial.

“You know, it’s catching,” said city beautiful president Beverly Brown.

The design of a Welcome to Holly Springs sign is being enlarged and the local VFW post donated space for the sign to be displayed and electricity to operate the lights.

County government has been working on lot cleanup for several years, according to Conway Moore, executive director of zoning and planning.

“We’ve got 15 cleanup orders we are working on now and have a backlog of complaints to investigate,” she said.

There is a lot of work to clean up junk car lots with one lot being cleared of 150 old vehicles recently.

Some scrap iron businesses have become active again and at least one of those in Byhalia will accept old vehicles.

County supervisors are working to stop illegal dumping and clean up the worst dump sites, Moore said. The board of supervisors has decided to address littering and dumping road-by-road on a random basis. Moore said the road names will be put in a hat and the luck of the draw will be used to decide which road to work from one end to the other.

The names of residents who report unsightly lots or hazardous conditions to zoning will not be divulged, Moore said. Once a formal complaint is filed at zoning, the code enforcer investigates to verify and brings back a recommendation to zoning. Matters that are too complicated to be handled straightforwardly are taken to the zoning board or to the board of supervisors, Moore said.

She cautioned that it often takes three to six months to see improvements and even longer if special situations exist. Supervisors may extend a deadline when a lot owner is ill or needs extra time to get a job done, Moore said.

“Some cleanup orders can drag out one or more years when there is sickness or the owner is in jail,” Moore said.

In many cases, the board of supervisors never hear of a complaint because of voluntary compliance.

Moore added that zoning and the board of supervisors do not settle disputes between neighbors.

In keeping litter off the roadsides and highways, the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department provides for routine litter and trash gathering through the state inmate program. Sheriff Kenny Dickerson has reported that his inmate crews have picked up over one million bags of trash from state and county roads in Marshall County over the last five or six years using this program.

Dickerson is also serving with the safety, cleanup and beautification committee, seeking to organize and coordinate community efforts to beautify communities and highways.

Individuals who are willing to join a task force for the campaign to clean up and beautify Marshall County and its communities should call the Holly Springs and Byhalia Area Chambers of Commerce, Holly Springs City Beautiful Commission (252-3054, Beverly Brown), the county administrator Larry Hall (252-7903) or speak with a member of the board of aldermen or a member of the county board of supervisors.

Sarah Sawyer, executive director of the Byhalia Chamber praised the role Marshall County Extension Service has played in organizing and facilitating the learning modules in this LeadershipPlenty class since the group started meeting monthly in February.

“Janet Jolley with the Extension Service has done an excellent job with her leadership and contacts to make this county-wide program successful,” Sawyer said. “Mary Minor has also helped a great deal with the clerical detail.”

Jolley said the leadership class has been a personally rewarding experience.

“For me, getting to know the participants has been the best part,” she said. “The other is helping them see what the Extension Service has to offer. We’ve had fun and I’m really looking forward to the last session.”

Jolley said Mississippi State Extension Service is very involved in leadership development. Four MSU Extension employees have taught modules for this class.

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