Division of Council continues over cemetery fence

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A recurring dispute occurred during Picayune’s City Council meeting Tuesday evening, Larry Breland’s push for the installation of a fence at a cemetery.

The dispute as to whether a fence should be installed at the cemetery on Eighth Street has been ongoing since the Council voted against adding it to the budget at the beginning of the fiscal year. As a result of their request not being fulfilled, Breland and Councilor Lynn Bogan Bumpers were absent from several meetings thereafter.

Breland’s argument is that the wrought iron style fence installed at the addition to the Palestine Cemetery back in 2013 was put up when city cemeteries were segregated. In spite of his fellow Councilors stating the fact that segregation ended back in the 1960s, Breland continued to say that the cemetery on Palestine Road was segregated in 2013.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Breland’s continued push to have a similar wrought iron style fence installed at the Eighth Street Cemetery caused a normally calm Mayor Ed Pinero to verbally express his dissatisfaction, who like Tammy Valente participated in the meeting via phone.

“I’m incensed by this, I wish I was in that room right now,” Pinero said.

The mayor said he has been in discussions with city department heads and fellow Councilors to draw up a plan to address Breland’s concerns, but Breland’s continued push for the fence during open meetings only divides the Council.

When the motion came up for a vote to install the fence, Pinero, Valente, and Councilors Wayne Gouguet and Jan Stevens voted against the matter, with Breland and Bumpers voting for it.

With that motion failed, the Council dealt with another divisive topic, conducting electrical and lighting improvements to Leola Jordan and J.P. Johnson parks.

While dealing with that matter, Breland strayed off topic to address the need for bathrooms at all city parks within the precincts Breland and Bumpers represent.

Breland used Friendship Park as an example that all parks need to be maintained equally. Gouguet contended that years ago the city decided to put most of its funding into a central park, Friendship Park.

But Breland contested that not everyone has equal access to that park.

“Everybody can’t afford to play at Friendship Park,” Breland said.

Bumpers later elaborated that not every child has a ride to that park, which is located on South Haugh Avenue.

A vote on that matter ended with the same result as the cemetery fence, Pinero, Valente, Gouguet and Stevens voting against conducting the work, and Breland and Bumpers voting for it.

A short time after that vote, the call with Pinero ended.

When it came time to take a vote on whether to enter closed session to potentially discuss pending litigation, Breland refused to vote either way, saying, “Get the Mayor on the phone.”

In other business the Council:

— Approved submitting an application to the Keep America Beautiful  Affiliate, which will allow the city to apply for cleanup related grant funding. 

— Approved the bidding phase of the project to build a helicopter taxiway at the Municipal Airport.

The next Council meeting will be April 3, at 5 p.m. in City Hall.