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Speeches dominate City Council meeting

Councilman Larry Breland checking his notes during his speech

At last night’s meeting of the Picayune City Council, council members Larry Breland (Precinct 4) and Lyn Bogan Bumpers (Precinct 2) returned to the council for the first time since the September 15th meeting when both left the meeting abruptly prior to the 2017-2018 budget vote.

A somewhat unusual request was presented to and approved by the council in accepting a donation of $6,000.00 from Craig Griffing to upgrade the sidewalks at 6th Avenue and Magnolia Street. Public Works Director explained that this would encompass a horseshoe of sidewalks starting on 6th Avenue behind the Southeast corner of Crosby Commons, heading eastward, then down Magnolia Street heading southward to Wiggins Ave and then headed westward toward the school down Wiggins Ave to Griffin Lane. This work will make these sidewalks ADA compliant. The city will have to spend $2,940.00.

After other city business matters were covered, Councilman Breland addressed the crowd gathered in the council chambers for just over 16 minutes attempting to explain his and Bumpers' reason for absence from the meetings. Breland explained that many times he has brought motions to the council in hopes of gaining approval for projects in his precinct only to have those fail for either a lack of second motion or lack of votes from other council members. Breland gave an example of his frustration.

Breland said “The city has approximately 12 boards and 12 commissions and these boards and commissions were not equally diversified. When a vacancy occurred on a board or commission, councilwoman Bumpers and I made a motion, it usually failed with a vote of 4-2 or 3-3. When asked why, we were told that ‘we want qualified people to serve on the boards’. After several meetings and discussions, we brought a petition with approximately 600 signatures from precincts 2 and 4, asking that this be corrected. After several meetings, the boards and commissions became more diversified, and really, it should have not really ever gotten to that.”

Breland revisited his disdain for the situation once again referring to his disappointment of the lack of action by the city council on installing a wrought iron fence around 8th Street cemetery.

Breland said “the clearing of the land at Palestine Cemetery and the other improvements was about $112,000.00 with the fence portion approximately $30,000.00. At the time this was done, Palestine was a segregated cemetery located outside of the city limits. When the vote (to approve this work) was done, it was 6-0. We voted for this because this was the right thing to do. Prior to the budget this year, councilwoman Bumpers and I informed the city manager, the city clerk, and the public works directory that we wanted to make some improvements at the 5th Street cemetery and some of the parks, excluding Friendship Park. The parks in question were Ben Taylor, Snider Park, J.P. Johnson, and Leola Jordan. The total improvements that we wanted done at the parks was approximately $29,000.00. Over at 8th Street Cemetery, we wanted the ditches to be covered and a fence put around like the one out at Palestine. When we said that, we were asked ‘what about chain link fence?”, but we said we did not want a chain linked fence, we wanted the same one like the one put around Palestine.”

Breland said that they (the council) were presented with two budgets, one with the requested capital improvements and one without the improvements. He said that the one without the improvements was passed. Breland said it was stated that this money would have to come from millage, but he said that “what was not told was the cemetery operating fund has approximately $139,000.00 and the cemetery CD (certificate of deposit) is approximately $112,000.00. This money is earmarked for the cemetery. What we were asking for was the same thing that was done at Palestine and that’s not fair.”

Breland said that every time that he and Bumpers would ask for park improvements, he and Bumpers were told the city didn’t have the money, but every time Friendship Park needed something, it got it, and it should be, and it should be that way at all of the parks.

Breland also said “I may stand to be corrected, but I think Friendship Park is the only city owned entity that we don’t know how much is taken in, how much is spent, and so forth. That’s not right. We’ve asked for that, but still haven’t got it.”

Councilwoman Bumpers said during her comments time, “I just want us, as a council, to work together. We all want our city to look good. We just need to sit down and talk about things. Thank you for the ones who understand where we were coming from and for the ones that didn’t understand, I’m hoping they got the understanding tonight when Mr. Breland explained everything.”

Reverend Brian Dees, Pastor of East Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church, addressed the council and crowd after Breland and Bumpers and stated that he “wanted to see unity”.

Dees shared his gratitude for the difficult job the council members have to perform. Dees also stated that he believes that if the money is available, why would the rest of the council not vote to fund the 8th Street Cemetery improvements if money is truly available.

Dees asked, “What is the reason? A lot of us here tonight have loved ones in the 8th Street Cemetery and I can’t understand what is so hard to fund this cemetery? I asked myself what would be the motive, and I really don’t know. I think we should look at what’s best for all people.”

Charles Jones at the podium at Tuesday's meeting

Charles Jones and Jimmy Richardson took the podium asking for consideration to make the entire city clean and look beautiful regardless of where it might be geographically, which included all the parks, neighborhoods, and lots.

None of the other council members commented on the speeches during the meeting.

Prior to the meeting, a memo in spreadsheet format (see below, prepared by City Clerk Amber Hinton. was distributed that showed park related expenditures for the parks in Picayune.


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