Beautification committee holds first meeting

Published 11:05 am Friday, August 15, 2014

Vicksburg’s beautification committee began laying plans Thursday to get its Keep America Beautiful affiliation and to talk about the best use for the city’s $50,000 recycling grant with state officials.

Thursday’s meeting was the first for the committee, appointed by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in July to oversee the city’s war against litter and develop programs to improve and beautify Vicksburg. The committee will meet the third Thursday of each month at 5 p.m. in the conference room of the old Carnegie Library on South Street, which houses the city’s community development office.

The nine-member committee consists of three appointments each by North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield and South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson, and three city officials. Community Development Director Victor Gray-Lewis, city landscape director Jeff Richardson and community service director Robert Hubbard represent the city.

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Residents on the committee include Andrew Dawson, the manager of Bazinsky House and Re/Max Excellence and a building restoration company; former teacher and Vicksburg Warren School District trustee Zelmarine Murphy; S.J. Tuminello, architect and owner of the historic home Floweree; former city right-of-way supervisor Ray Banks; master gardener Barry Payne; and Mary Lynn Thomas, gardener and an office associate with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

“I want this to be driven by the citizens,” Gray-Lewis, who chairs the committee, told the group. “That’s why I asked for the residents to outnumber the officials.”

The committee’s Sept. 18 meeting will involve training by Keep America Beautiful representatives to prepare the committee for affiliation with the national beautification group. Its October meeting will involve the city’s recent recycling grant.

The beautification effort is the first undertaken by the city in decades. A volunteer effort, Keep Vicksburg Warren Beautiful, organized litter pick-up events and other activities for more than 20 years until it disbanded in 2009.

Vicksburg has received a $50,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to expand its recycling program. The board has directed the committee to develop a program to use the money.

The city in 2012 received a $25,000 DEQ grant for a pilot curbside-recycling program in several city neighborhoods. Under the program, the bins of plastic and paper are collected weekly by community service crews and taken to MIDD-South Industries, which prepares and sells the materials to manufacturers.

City grants coordinator Marcia Weaver and officials from DEQ are expected to discuss the provisions of the grant.

Gray-Lewis said he wants the committee to look at projects beyond beautification, adding, “We’ve got a lot of talent on this committee, and we want to take things one at a time. We don’t want to get into something we can’t finish.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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