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Beautification — It starts with each of us

Since before I can remember, even as a child, I have been drawn to the beauty of Natchez.

With our views of the Great River, our unique buildings, parks and beautiful homes, this Jewel of the Mississippi is truly unrivaled. Add to this dynamic our people, the warmest and friendliest of any place in the country, and you have a true recipe for success.

It’s important that we keep it that way. And we all must set the example.

During the pandemic, the city has faced many challenges. One key challenge has been a shortage of manpower. In normal times, both state and county prisoners have been available to help clean up public right-of-ways, landscaped roadways and overgrown properties that have been adjudicated by the city. This has for many years provided tremendous help to our city where resources are limited and demands are great.

Because of COVID-19, however, the city has been denied its access to prisoners. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Mississippi Department of Corrections has turned down our requests for state trustees to perform public work in Natchez. Similarly, the availability of county prisoners has been limited — we are told many non-violent detainees have been bonded out or placed on house arrest. This has created a real challenge for Natchez.

To address this issue, I am excited to report that the Natchez Board of Aldermen has voted to invest in a citywide cleanup, utilizing funds that were saved in the renewal of the city’s Workers’ Compensation Coverage for the coming year.

A total of $67,000 is being set aside for this purpose, and actual details will be voted on in our next board meeting. Once the contracts are awarded to local companies, a cleanup of 218 adjudicated overgrown and dilapidated properties will begin all over town. In addition, public rights-of-way will be addressed, including attention to neglected landscaping and the removal of dead plants.

In addition to this beautification project, the city is applying for a reimbursement of qualified city expenditures made during the pandemic.

These “FEMA Funds” have been appropriated to the cities and counties by the Mississippi Legislature, and Oct. 15 is our deadline to apply. It is my hope that some of these funds may also be invested in the beautification of our community, and used for the purpose of keeping key city laborers who have been long overlooked while working so hard to keep Natchez going during this pandemic.

So now that the City of Natchez is doing our part, why can’t we as citizens all do our part too? Beautification starts at home — and now is the time.

To steal a phrase from so many cleanup campaigns, let’s all “Pitch In.” Help us control the litter. Use a trash can instead of your car window or the bed of your pickup truck. Clean up and fix up around your home or business. Let’s beautify Natchez!

Together we can do this. Natchez deserves more.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.