TUPELO • Even though the program has been partially halted because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, city leaders took a step forward with advancing a project that seeks to employ temporary workers to pick up litter scattered throughout Tupelo.

The Tupelo City Council on March 17 approved a $30,000 contract with Express Employment Services to hire the temporary workers for litter pickup. The city is only providing the funds to the employment agency, and they will not be directly hiring or paying the future employees.

The program, termed “Project Solution,” is a collaborative effort combining municipal court officials, public transportation, Keep Tupelo Beautiful, Three Rivers Planning, Express Employment Services and Mississippi United to End Homelessness to tackle the city’s seasonal littler problem.

The city is looking to pay four to six temporary employees $9 an hour, and the program is set to last for approximately 120 days. The employees will be supervised by municipal court officials.

Don Lewis, the city’s chief operations officer, told the Daily Journal that since the Council had approved the project at its latest regular meeting, there haven’t been any new developments because of the outbreak of the virus.

“I had hoped to have conversations with Express and everything up and running this week,” Lewis said. “Basically, I’ve put it off for at least a couple of weeks, so I can stay focused on the coronavirus.”

The other partnership city officials are hoping to form with Mississippi United to End Homelessness is to possibly employ people who are homeless to transition them back into the workforce.

The city is partnering with the homeless outreach group because the agency likely knows some of its clients who are specifically looking for work and can help their clients get access to IDs, which are required for employment.

Lewis said the city could have this program each year to solve the long-term issue of seasonal litter in town.

“We’re working with Three Rivers (Planning and Development District) to maybe come up with a funding source or maybe a supplemental funding source to go to our beautification budget year round,” Lewis said. “Hopefully it could provide us with a more specific funding source.”

City leaders are likely set to implement the program within the next few weeks.

taylor.vance@journalinc.com

Twitter: @taylor_vance28

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