Gear up for Great American Cleanup

Published 4:38 pm Friday, February 2, 2007

The Great American Cleanup Mississippi is about to start again this year and the focus is on forming a committee to help keep the city clean year round.

There will be many facets to the cleanup that will include educating the youth, enforcing litter laws in the city and eliminating current problem areas.

The education side will implement a program in the Picayune School District with grades K-3 called Myrtle the Turtle that will begin early in March, Picayune Community Policing Officer Monica Jacobsen said. The program’s goal is to educate the children before littering becomes a habit, she said.

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Enforcement will look for problem areas and residents who litter, while elimination will involve the cleanup projects to be implemented through the committee Jacobsen is working to form.

“So if we can work on the education, enforcement and the elimination, we’ll have it made,” Jacobsen said.

One resident and her club, the Civic Woman’s Club, has taken the initiative to provide places for trash to be put in colorfully decorated barrels. Nancy Griffin said the club bought about 40 barrels from an individual and had them sanded down by students at the Picayune Career and Technology Center to take off the plastic coating so they could be painted. The 55-gallon barrels were bought for $10 a piece and painted by local students in various schools with paint donated by Valspar and World of Color, Griffin said. Griffin purchased the supplies to help apply the paint.

Superintendent for Grounds and Beautification Daryl Smith said he appreciates the barrels, but he and his crew have run into problems with the barrels since some people decide to use them as their own personal dumpsters.

Griffin said she would like see cleanup days set up about four times a year for the committee to clean up the city, with garbage bag donations from the city. She said she has noticed when people have gatherings at the local parks they usually leave a mess behind. She suggested that could be remedied by requiring those who want to use the parks to apply for a permit and to be held responsible for any messes they may leave behind. County resident Jeanette Secrist suggested requiring a deposit for the use of the park, which would be lost if a mess was left behind. She also suggested stricter enforcement for anyone who litters.

“Don’t just give them a slap on the hand, give them a fine or make them do community service and pick up trash,” Secrist said.

The Great American Cleanup Mississippi is scheduled to kick off at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 24, at Picayune City Hall, Jacobsen said. There will be a ceremony before hand and then all the volunteers and committee members will go out into the city to clean up areas of the city. Those who want to join the committee can call Jacobsen at 601-798-6828.

Smith said Waste Management will lend some dumpsters to go with the various city containers to put trash in.

Secrist asked Picayune Police Chief Jim Luke if trustees could be used to help keep the city clean. Luke said he has no problem with that, except the trustees in the city jail are there for misdemeanors and do not stay long and it would be unwise to use inmates who are not trustees.

“Not only may they not be picking up litter, you may never see them again,” Luke said.

Since last year’s effort, there has been some improvement and Luke said he commends the city council and mayor for their support.

“We got a long way to go but I’ve seen a lot of progress since last year,” Luke said.

There are two places commonly known to take recyclable material in Picayune. Jacobsen said that Picayune Industries located at 1401 Sixth Ave. will accept old newspapers, aluminum cans and Mardi Gras beads. Also, the Picayune Animal Shelter will accept aluminum cans, which can be dropped off at the blue barrels outside of the building.

While the focus of the meeting Thursday night was to form a committee to keep the city clean year round, some residents picked that time to address other issues such as blighted properties. Public Works Director Chad Frierson said that if a property is determined to be a public nuisance, the owner is notified and given a set time to correct the problem.

So far, about 10 properties have been torn down, such as the old Shrimp Shack location on U.S. 11, Frierson said. Any property can be called for cleanup.

“It can be a piece of property that has grown up in weeds, it doesn’t even need a structure on it,” Frierson said.

Some county and city residents pointed out one area in Picayune that needs some attention near Alpine Road. Secrist and Ken Larpenteur said that piece of property has numerous junk cars and appliances in the yard. Frierson said the city council and the city departments will check in to the situation.