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Poplarville beautification project

The Poplarville Chamber of Commerce met with Mayor Billy Spiers and the board of aldermen yesterday to get permission to begin plans to turn a downtown railroad property into a park in hopes of beautifying the area.

The property in question is a section of land adjacent to Martin Luther King Drive and the railroad track where the NAPA Auto Parts had been located for years. Extensive damage from hurricane Katrina forced the 100-year-old building’s ultimate demolition.

Bob Applewhite, owner of Apple’s Ltd. located on Main Street, asked to partner with the city to make the property an asset to the downtown area.

An entire block of Main Street burned over a year ago, destroying The Other Side and The Kloze Klozet along with the 82-year-old Masonic Lodge. Although The Other Side temporarily relocated to a building behind Pearl River Drugs, owner Belinda Holden is hoping to return to Main Street. The Kloze Klozet reopened on the corner of Main Street and Larkin Smith Drive.

Plans to rebuild on the vacant lot left on Main Street are at a standstill, which has Applewhite and other downtown business owners concerned. Because of the desolate feeling of the area on Main Street, the Chamber is hoping the park will become a bright spot in the downtown area.

Mark Bridgers, owner of Radio Shack on Main Street, asked the board what the city’s long-term plans are for the railroad property’s use as the city owns the lease on it. The mayor and several board members agreed there is a need for additional parking in the downtown area and said they had discussed in the past of the idea of a park area and parking in that location.

Bridgers said the Chamber possibly has volunteer labor to begin cleaning the property and asked if the city would give permission to begin clean-up. The board was agreeable and asked if the Chamber would bring a copy of the park plans to the next meeting.

Bridgers asked if the city could help fund some of the project. City Clerk Jody Stuart told the Chamber group the board would need to look at the plans and cost for the project before it could commit any funds to it.

In other activities, the board opened sealed bids for a project that will repair broken sidewalks, gutters, curbs and areas of streets throughout the city damaged during Hurricane Katrina. The bid by Bush Construction was for $135,632, a figure far beyond the value of the scope of work.

A Mississippi Emergency Management Association (MEMA) representative told the board FEMA would absolutely reject that bid and recommended the city use the five original work orders to hire the work to be done locally.

Previously, the repair project was broken into five small work orders. MEMA had recommended putting all of the work orders into one large package to be able to bid out the project to one company. Because that idea proved wrong, the MEMA representative urged the city to go back to its original plans of fulfilling each individual work order. Because each of the projects is a small amount, it would alleviate going through a major bidding process.

The board agreed to MEMA’s recommendation and will begin getting estimates on doing the repairs.

Also at the Tuesday board meeting, Pam Applewhite asked the board to allow for a road block on Main and Erlanger Streets Thursday, March 13 for a block party to raise money for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The “Runway for Life” benefit will feature a fashion show of about 40 models — all cancer survivors or immediate family members of those affected by cancer.

The event is from 7-9 p.m. in the parking lot of Hancock Bank and will feature food by the Railroad Café, along with music, dancing, and door prizes.

Zack Barrett will be the disc jockey for the evening of music and dancing. Picayune native Rudy Melancon and his hip-hop dance students will perform at the event as will Doug Rowell, chairman for this year’s Relay for Life.

“Runway for Life” tickets are $5 and may be purchased at: Apple’s Ltd., Bella, Transitions, Salon 53, Kaptions by Kristi and the Railroad Café. T-shirts will also be on sale for $10 beginning next week at Apple’s and at the “Runway for Life” event.

All proceeds from both t-shirt sales and the evening benefit will go toward the American Cancer Society.