By Josh Troy
The City of Clarksdale will be focusing the remainder of 2023 on projects that have been neglected since Mayor Chuck Espy took office in 2017. Espy said at last week’s Board of Mayor and Commissioners meeting that, back in 2017, he promised residents on Park Lane that curb and gutter work would be taken care of. He added that water had been in front of the home on Park Lane for several years prior to 2017, and the problem was never fixed. Espy said that inspired him to go back and address other issues the City has not solved.
“We are at the phase where we have completed almost every single major project in this city,” Espy said. “Every project that we have been a part of, we have delivered. There’s no politician that wants to admit we forgot something, none. But the ones that are worth anything will admit things that have been omitted.” Department heads addressed the Board of Mayor and Commissioners to identify projects that need to be addressed.
Issues in the Public Works department sparked the most discussion. “We have a lot of problems at the landfill,” said Assistant Director of Public Works Craig Amerson. “We’re trying to open a new cell. We closed the old one, but it’s an ongoing process.” Amerson said the department is working on every ward’s curbs, gutters, and sidewalks. He added that the goal is to have concrete contractors in place to begin work during the summer.
Other projects Amerson mentioned included painting Anderson Boulevard and flooding in Wards 3 and 4. Code Enforcement Officer David Walker said there have been hearings about properties not in compliance, but there is still work to be done. “There are several citations I need to give out on major properties,” he said. Ward 1 Commissioner raised concerns after the reports.
“What’s the timeline on the landfill getting it done because we’ve got major issues on that?” he said. Plunk also asked about trash being picked up and speed bumps. “We are working with MDEQ trying to get permission to open a new cell,” Amerson said. “Once a new cell is open, that will go a long way in correcting a lot of the problems we have.” Plunk said there have been issues with the landfill for the 14 years he has been a commissioner.
“A plan needs to be devised by you to give to the mayor so he can go over it with us,” he said. City Clerk Cathy Clark, who is retiring at the end of the month, said there are several issues she is working on. Deputy Clerk Laketha Covington will be the acting City Clerk when Clark retires. “The City of Clarksdale is very dear to my heart,” Clark said.
“I’ve been with it for a long time and I do not plan on abandoning the City of Clarksdale. I do have some major projects that I’ve been working on. I will continue to work on them and will come back and help the board with any other issues, plus continue on these projects that I have.”
After Clark’s retirement, she will be working with the City on a part-time basis to complete projects, including getting a generator for city hall, roof repairs for the city auditorium, replacing the elevator, repairing Friars Point Road and the bridge on the road and the audits going back to 2021. “In the legal department, we are looking to streamline contracts by drafting more boilerplate agreements that are favorable to the city,” said City Attorney Melvin Miller. “We do have things in place as far as certain agreements, but we want to get more of that to streamline the process and make it go quicker.”
Miller said he will also be preparing the City’s redistricting map for the 2025 municipal elections. Fire Chief Rocky Nabors said the new training facility on Sasse Street is nearly completed. He added that he hopes the new facility improves the City to a Class 3 fire rating, with ratings from Class 1 to 10, with 1 being the best.
Police Chief Robbie Linley said he and former Chief Sandra Williams began several projects in 2017. Linley said projects that need to be completed include renovating the dispatch office and getting a new digital fingerprint scan. Personnel Director Tarra Slack said she has been working on a new employee handbook since 2019. At the meeting, she said the handbook was 75% complete and may be ready for review by the end of the month.
It will be the City’s first completed handbook since 1987. “Of course, the employee handbook is for the purpose of ensuring that employees know how the city will deal with issues for things that come up,” Slack said.
Grant Writer Millicent Dixon said the Pearson Street levee project is 95% completed, and the Sasse Street drainage project is 75% completed. Four engineering proposals came in for the Friars Point Road and bridge project, and she is working on Spruce and Russwin street floodings and the Sunflower Street sidewalk projects.