Hed: Tupelo leaders laud appearance efforts
By Philip Moulden
City leaders are applauding major strides in the initial year of a program to upgrade Tupelo’s appearance, and they envision similar gains through this year and beyond.
Citing a progress report on a citizens Community Appearance Committee’s program, officials noted visual improvements in power line placements, rights-of-way, welcoming signs, and residential and business areas during the past year.
More and more flowers adorn roadways and intersections and many new trees dot the city. Meanwhile, less clutter mars the skyways as utility lines head underground.
The report also points to renovations of deteriorating homes, a neighborhoods improvement program, widespread sidewalk repairs, and substantial improvements to city parks as efforts that are significantly enhancing the city’s appearance.
“Completion of (those) projects will remain a priority for 1996,” the report states. The program was endorsed by the City Council in January 1995.
Also proposed for this year are new strategies to control litter, including stepped-up police surveillance and an increase in fines to $500 per violation.
Mayor Jack Marshall last week called the program an “absolute necessity” for the city’s future.
“The efforts put in so far are very visible,” Marshall said. “As we grow, we need to be constantly aware of the esthetics of our community. The program, both those projects under way and those coming up, all add to the beauty of our community.”
Up, down, around
Major landscaping has been done at numerous intersections, with key projects on McCullough Boulevard at both Mount Vernon Road and Coley Road and at Coley Road at Jackson Street.
Roughly 10,000 daffodil bulbs were planted all over the city with wildflowers programs established along U.S. Highway 45 North, McCullough Boulevard and in the airport area.
The Public Service Department planted 650 trees in 1995, including 40 at Milltown Park, 22 at Robins Field Park, and 54 along North Green Street.
Key among the work are efforts to place utility lines underground – or at least relocate them to the rear of property lines – to erase the unsightly tangle of wires and poles along city streets.
The Crosstown intersection (Main at Gloster streets) renovation included the first underground utilities project and also was a key element in a move to place traffic signals on mast arms rather than cross wires.
“Crosstown is the city’s most heavily traveled and visible intersection, and therefore, a most logical place to start …,” the report said of underground wiring.
It projects South Gloster Street as the next area for burying or relocating utility wires, to be followed by East Main Street.
The Water & Light Department is replacing wooden poles with better looking concrete poles as replacements are needed, and all new subdivisions are required to have underground electric utilities. New commercial facilities are required to bury wiring between power poles and buildings.
By the end of this year, mast arms are expected to supersede traffic signal wires on four intersections on Gloster Street and six on Main Street. By the end of 1997, six more Gloster Street and two more Main Street intersections are to be included.
The top priority among committee “special projects” is beautifying the southwest quadrant of the U.S. Highway 45 and Main Street interchange, dubbed the East Main Gateway Project. The area lies between the Tennessee Valley Authority power substation and Main Street.
“It is just an eyesore, to be honest,” said Fred Rogers, city director of Planning and Community Development.
Site plans call for construction of a lake surrounded by a walking and jogging track and extensive landscaping.
Rogers noted that TVA has been working for several years to improve the looks of the substation, and under the appearance program a great deal more will be done.
As the “gateway” to the city for many visitors, the area provides the first impression of the city, an impression that needs to be favorable, officials observed.
“I think there would be a fountain in the lake, park benches, landscaping and other improvements. It would be a park,” Rogers said.
“We’re accomplishing a lot of things, but we’re still having a problem with litter,” said Boyd Yarbrough, operations manager for the city Public Service Department.
The city put off its normal Trash Bash cleanup effort this month to intensify the program. Tupelo Trash Bash is now set for June 22.
“We’re looking for a lot more volunteers,” Yarbrough said.
Committee members also want the city to consider ongoing programs to use jail inmates for litter pickup; to use city employees for the same chore, especially in high litter areas; to increase littering fines to $500 with accompanying signs to warn would-be violators; and to set two one-week periods each quarter when police, unannounced, would conduct major crackdowns on littering.
The proposal also calls for building inspectors to ensure that construction sites remain free of debris.
Beautification doesn’t just involve city planners or city departments. Virtually all segments of the community are involved, Rogers noted.
For instance, businesses have significantly complemented the effort.
The old Tupelo Mall between Gloster Street and Industrial Avenue – now Gloster Creek Village – sports a new life, marked by an awesome landscaping effort “to complement the superb regeneration of this prime property,” according to the report.
Smaller commercial centers across the city have followed suit.
Rogers said the appearance program should continue into perpetuity.
“We want to implement all the strategies in the program. We want to keep the committee active,” he said. “You should never stop doing things to improve the appearance of your community.”