Officials meet with residents about issues

Published 7:20 pm Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Residents in the city’s Garden District packed Mount Calvary Baptist Church on Klein Street Tuesday night to learn about plans for the area and discuss neighborhood problems with city officials.

The meeting called by the Vicksburg Housing Committee was designed to discuss improving and beautifying the area and helping elderly residents repair and improve their homes.

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“We called it to invite all the neighborhood to come and understand what we’re doing with the code enforcement,” said Lynn Brush, housing committee chairman. “We want to get people working together as a community so we can make a better Vicksburg.”

Also, she said, the committee wanted to find out what the residents in the area needed.

The residents told them, describing problems with streetlights, drainage and sewer lines.

Streetlights were a major complaint, with several residents saying their streets were so dark they couldn’t see anything outside. One woman said the streetlights on Pearl Street were out, adding, “It’s so black, you can’t see anything. I keep hitting potholes because I can’t see them at night.”

An Oak Street resident complained about odor coming from a sewer manhole cover, while another resident living in the 2400 block of Oak Street said blocked drains on Oak cause runoff from other streets to pool in front of his house.

“Every time it rains, all the water and trash comes down from Fairground Street and stops in front of my house,” the man said. “Every time, I’m having to pick up all that trash out of my yard after it rains.”

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, who represents the area and attended the the meeting, said Wednesday he was taking steps to remedy the problems, adding he was sending his assistant Leroy Thomas to go through the neighborhood door-to-door to discuss the problems in the area.

He said he met with department heads about the problems and made plans to correct them.

“We’re trying to address these problems as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Mayfield said. “We’re getting everybody lined up to address these issues that have been brought to us, and in short order we’ll make a difference.

“When you get a group people together, whatever their problems are, they’re going to tell you and try to address them,” he said.

“It was kind of disheartening to know that we came to talk about housing and all the different aspects of what the city could do to help them, and they had so many issues they brought forth that we could not do what we went there to do. Everything is being addressed.”

Helping with repairs

The meeting began with a discussion of city’s plans for improvements in what the housing committee called the “Oak Street District” and programs to help people repair their homes.

“We looked at a multi-approach to this,” said Victor Grey-Lewis, city community development director. “One was code enforcement — we’re going to be targeting this area for code enforcement (violations) on private property, we’re going to ask you to participate in that; if there is a property that you think we need to address, we hope you can call us and tell us about that.

“We want to be able to reach out to that property owner and help them fix up their property. It’s all about how we can assist in improving property values, quality of life in this area.”

Grey-Lewis also recommended the community form a neighborhood association.

“We need a group that we can work with directly for your neighborhood and we can have that one-on-one dialogue, so when issues come up, we can talk to that neighborhood association president or members of that association.”

He said neighborhoods that have associations have less property issues, get streetlights fixed and potholes filled, “Because they already have that line of communication (with officials).”

He asked the residents to develop a group “that can be vocal and bring to us your concerns.”

Resell Williams, city housing coordinator, discussed grant programs the city has to help elderly and disabled low- to moderate-income families with home repairs. When one man said he didn’t meet those requirements and needed help, housing director Gertrude Young said the city was looking for other grant programs for assistance.

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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