CATEGORY: Tupelo Stories

AUTHOR: MOULDE

HED:Mission: Make Tupelo a safer, stronger community

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

Three citizen task forces are scheduled to begin work in earnest next week to devise ways to make Tupelo a safer and stronger city.

Task force members met jointly Monday night, then split to organize. Enthusiasm was high.

Creation of the 17-member panels was the first major act of Mayor Glenn McCullough's administration. The City Council, whose members helped fill the task forces, approved appointments last week.

"This is something we feel, the city feels, is one of the best things we can do," said MaryAnn Lewis, city grants administrator and a task force organizer.

The task forces were formed to address ways to make the city safer, to improve streets and traffic flow, and to solve drainage problems.

"We're going to ask that you people touch all your resources, intellectually, professionally and any way you can (to improve the city)," McCullough told the group. "We encourage citizens throughout the city to funnel their ideas through you."

The mayor said he hoped the panels can develop action plans in the next five to six months, although he noted that would not necessarily end their work.

The action plans would be submitted to the City Council as recommendations for adoption as official city policy.

The mayor promised the groups freedom from city intrusion although he said the city would offer support services. Two city staff members sit on each committee as nonvoting members.

After the groups went into separate sessions, members stressed they needed input from throughout the community to accomplish their missions.

"We're representing a lot of people ... we're representing everybody in Tupelo," noted Jeff Snyder, who was elected chairman of the safer city group.

The only early glitch appeared to involve public scrutiny, with members of the safer city force bumping up against the state's Open Meetings Law.

Panel member Hamp Rogers suggested the media's presence could "limit what this group can do."

"This is not an elected group, it's a volunteer group. There's going to be things said in here that should stay in here until recommendations are made," added member Richard Govignon.

But Mayor McCullough said Tuesday that a city attorney had advised him the task force meetings fall within the state act and "are open and should be open." However, the attorney would do additional research and provide a written response, the mayor said.

Officers of the task forces, and initial meeting times and locations, include:

- Safer City Task Force - Jeff Snyder, chairman; Steve Bain, vice chairman; Steve Mayhorn, secretary. Sept. 4, 6 p.m.. at the CREATE Foundation.

- Smoother Streets, Traffic and Roads Task Force - Jim High, chairman; Ernest Potter, vice chairman; June Franks, secretary. Sept. 8, 5:30 p.m., Bank of Mississippi.

- Effective Drainage Task Force - Evans Whittle, chairman; Chuck Herrington, vice chairman; Morgan Baldwin, secretary. Sept. 8, 6:30 p.m., CREATE Foundation.

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