Traffic issues concern Tupelo's Ward 3 residents

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third of a seven-part series about Tupelo’s wards. Each ward elects a representative to serve on the City Council. Candidate responses to an issue questionnaire will be published in a special section in Monday’s Daily Journal. Primary elections for this position, as well as for mayor, will be May 5. The general election will be June 2.

TUPELO – With its neat rows of ranch-style homes and wide kid-filled streets, Ward 3 captures the image of family-friendly Tupelo.
The south-central district claims several sprawling and tidy neighborhoods, including the Audobon subdivision with its bird-named streets and the Lee Acres area with its president-named streets.
It’s also home to the North Mississippi Medical Center and its numerous clinics, as well as most of the South Gloster commercial district – home to restaurants, automobile dealerships and retail establishments.
This year, because of a recent redistricting, the ward also has absorbed the historic downtown Mill Village neighborhood. It previously was part of Ward 4.
Nearly 4,900 people live here – almost one in five are black.
But like the areas of the city, this idyllic district suffers it own woes. Crime and neglect plague portions of the ward, and residents there said they need more help from the city.
“Our biggest concern is crime prevention,” said Bill Collins, president of the Willis Heights Neighborhood Association, which straddles both Wards 2 and 3. “I think we need a little more police presence.”
Better code enforcement also would help, said both Collins and Mill Village Neighborhood Association President Jane Carruth.
“Just the nature of the neighborhood being so diverse in economic and social issues, we’d like for code enforcement to take a more active interest,” Carruth said. “We’d also like more support from the City Council.”
Ward 3 currently is represented by third-term Councilman Smith Heavner, who decided not to seek re-election this year. Three other candidates are vying for his soon-to-be-vacant seat: former Ward 3 Councilman Mike Coutoumanos, James “Jim” Newell and George Witherspoon.
Republicans Coutoumanos and Newell will face off in the May 5 primary. The winner will meet Witherspoon, a Democrat, in the June 2 general election.
Whoever gets elected will inherit not only the code-enforcement complaints, but also a host of other issues important to Ward 3. Chief among them is traffic.
“We see quite a bit of people who don’t stop for the stop signs, just shoot though,” said Lee Acres Neighborhood Association President Nathanial Stone Sr. “Some of them don’t put on the signals, they just turn. And then there are people parking on the wrong side of the street. Those kinds of things need some attention.”
Residents there also desperately long to see South Gloster Street widened to five lanes to ease congestion and make the heavily traveled road safer. The project is scheduled to happen sometime in the next three years, courtesy of the city’s Major Thoroughfare Program. But many say it ought to happen sooner rather than later.
When it does happen, residents hope the declining shopping district along that route might once again flourish. They’d like to see more stores and other amenities return to the South Gloster Street area, Stone said.
Other than those items, though, residents said Ward 3 is the perfect place to live.
“We don’t see robberies or dogs running loose,” Stone said. “People are doing a good job of mowing their yards and keeping their yards looking good.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal