Thursday, October 25, 2012
Letters to The Editor
It’s been less than three years since I walked into my best friend’s hospital room and realized that her days were short.
There she lay, trying to smile, her tiny, frail body disappearing under the sheets. My first thoughts were, “I must do something.”
So I dashed to J.C. Penney and purchased lingerie for her hospital stay. They were returned unused, for she succumbed to breast cancer the following day.
I set about writing a tribute to be read at her funeral and helping her two children, Jarvis and Krystal, and husband, Melvin, with the arrangements. There were things to take care of. Grieving had to wait.
Pennie DeBerry’s struggle with breast cancer ended tragically like so many others. Chemotherapy and radiation simply weren’t enough for this beautiful, courageous, determined educator, but it has been enough for so many others stricken with this horrible disease.
As October, “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” draws to an end, we must not forget all the Pennie DeBerrys and cancer survivors. We must continue to give generously. Cancer research offers hope for better treatment, new opportunities to prevent and detect the disease early on, and improved quality of life for those already diagnosed.
Yes, we painted the town pink, now let’s paint the American Cancer Society green.
Hill Crest, Chalmers
As the regular meetings of the mayor and board of aldermen are public meetings held according to the Open Meetings Act (Title 25, Chapter 41, Mississippi Code of 1972), what follows are public comments read to this governing body at their recent October 2 meeting on behalf of the concerned citizens for Hill Crest Cemetery, of which I am one and Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc., the local preservation non-profit for which I serve as president.
At this meeting, the mayor’s response to voiced concerns over the lack of activity at Hill Crest Cemetery allowed that only recently has the City of Holly Springs been able to secure approval for the planned work on this project from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH). We do not have copies of the documents the mayor referred to in this meeting (The South Reporter, October 18), but we now understand that this “permit” was a re-issue of a previously given permit for planned works that had since expired, due to inactivity. The correspondence between the City of Holly Springs and MDAH are public records available through the same Open Meetings Act cited above.
My presentation to the mayor and board follows.
Mayor DeBerry and board of aldermen, my name is Chelius H. Carter, both a concerned citizen of Holly Springs and president of your local preservation non-profit: Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc. and I greatly appreciate this time afforded me to speak this evening. I wish to briefly address two issues that are long overdue, one being a final resolution for $90,000 in state funds allocated through Senate Bill #2988 in 2003 and I read from the legislation:
…”to pay the costs of repairs and renovations of the Chalmers Institute in Holly Springs, Mississippi.”
Chalmers Institute is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Mississippi Landmark, thereby subject to Landmark Review for approval by Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) of any planned work on the building and grounds.
The second issue concerns Hill Crest Cemetery, which received an allocation of $300,000 in state funds through the same 2003 Senate Bill #2988 and an additional $200,000 in allocations in 2004 through Senate Bill #2010 and I read from its legislation:
“…to pay the cost of repairs to the historical portions of Hillcrest Cemetery.”
Hill Crest Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and any planned work on the historic fabric or grounds are, through The Mississippi Antiquities Law of 1972, subject to review and approval by Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Those are the two issues.
Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc. became the sole owners of Chalmers Institute through an act of foreclosure on the property in 2009, removing the City of Holly Springs from property title. We have since put in place a regular maintenance program and initial stabilization measures to protect this state treasure and recently held our second annual fund-raising event, “The Wrecking Ball” on the historic campus of Chalmers Institute. Our first fund-raiser in 2011 allowed us to gather sufficient cash-match funds to successfully apply for a Community Heritage Preservation Grant (CHPG), funded through MDAH and with this we have a current project budget of $70,000 – allowing us to put into place much-needed stabilization work. There was no CHPG in 2012 and it is our wish that the work continue with funds raised from our second Wrecking Ball and the reallocation of state funds approved specifically for the work that is now being undertaken by Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc. under MDAH’s Landmark Review process. We understand that $81,000 of the original $90,000 in state funding remains in the custody of the City of Holly Springs and we implore you to transfer these funds and their accrued interest to the non-profit who holds sole title to the property and are indeed now executing the actual work for which these funds were allocated. That is our request.
As to Hill Crest Cemetery, it has been under contract by IMS Engineers since 2007 and it is not clear how much of the original $500,000 in state funds allocated to its restoration actually remain. What is known is that there has never been an assessment of need for restoring the historical portions of Hill Crest Cemetery, as such an assessment would deliver a much needed overall scope of work with an inventory of the unique needs of an historic site, such as Hill Crest Cemetery. This wonderful and irreplaceable regional asset is literally falling apart as we meet: limestone, slate, marble, brick and in places historic concrete are deteriorating, as well as metal fatigue, vandalism and inappropriate maintenance practices have caused and are causing much damage to historic cemetery structures of cast-iron, wrought-iron, zinc and bronze. All of these historic materials, both metallic and masonry, have unique needs and requirements for their proper restoration, preservation and care. It is not a task for a maintenance crew that is unschooled in the proper care of historic materials. Nor should the entire project be managed by professionals who have proven incapable of actually getting the work executed. They have proven to be quite proficient at delivering studies, specifications and plans of questionable value ...all at great cost that would better spent by getting the professional expertise, crafts-persons and artisans who have a proven track record of working with the historic fabric, as is found all over Hill Crest Cemetery.
That being said, Mississippi State Procurement Laws allow municipalities to hire professional services at their own discretion, probably not a wise tact, when the project is a significant historic resource, but there we are; IMS Engineers was indeed approved by the Board of Aldermen for both this project and Chalmers Institute. The question that should be asked now, five years into their tenure on this project, is, with little or no measurable results…should they have been hired in the first place? If not, why then continue?
That question, I suspect, will not be answered tonight. So I shall close my brief remarks with a cautionary reminder to the board of aldermen to perhaps provide some motivation towards resolving this issue in a manner that will benefit their constituents by giving Hill Crest Cemetery its due respect. Should this project continue as it has since 2007 with planned works? Some might be viewed as inappropriate uses of the state allocation of $500,000, causing the final audit by the Mississippi Department of Finance Administration to come up short, according to the original legislation’s intent. And I read again:
“…to pay the cost of repairs to the historical portions of Hillcrest Cemetery.”
Then the funding amounts held in question shall be required by DFA to be reimbursed to the State of Mississippi by those responsible for approving the work: the board of aldermen, not the City of Holly Springs and not the mayor.
That is our request for Chalmers Institute and those are our concerns as regards Hill Crest Cemetery. On behalf of Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc. and the concerned citizens of Holly Springs, I thank you for your time and consideration.
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