James Stonewall

Itta Bena Police Chief James Stonewall addresses the Board of Aldermen at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

Kathryn Eastburn

Itta Bena aldermen debated for more than two hours Tuesday, arguing the finer points of an agenda filled with routine issues, while department heads reported progress in their areas.

Public Library Director Jennifer Walker reported that in October, her department held Teen Read Week, encouraging young people to read more by choosing books that are interesting to that age group. Parents and teachers were also included in the program. Certificates were handed out to volunteer Friends of the Library, and the library hosted Breast Cancer Awareness Month with information available on a number of different types of women’s cancers.

Walker reported that a room in the library that has gone unused for several years has fallen into extreme disrepair, with tile falling from the ceiling, the walls spray-painted and garbage on the floor. She requested a better lock for the door in that room that leads to the outside so that it can be secured and used by the library. Mayor J.D. Brasel said the board would see that the problem is taken care of.

Fire Chief Vonzell Self announced that his department has 120 smoke detectors to be donated to local homeowners, with a particular emphasis on older citizens. The Fire Department will install the detectors for seniors in Itta Bena, Sidon, Morgan City and other communities around the county at no charge.

To claim a smoke detector, call Self at 254-0021.

Police Chief James Stonewall said he has begun painting lines on the street in front of the fire station and will begin issuing citations for illegal parking downtown. Stonewall is working on hiring a new officer, as approved by the board at its last meeting. He said he is slowly building up the department, which went defunct during the time when the Leflore County Sheriff’s Department took over all of law enforcement in Itta Bena. Leflore County still assists, but Stonewall hopes to gradually build a staff that can manage most of the patrolling and law-enforcement duties. Stonewall said he has been in contact with Vicksburg, inquiring about the possibility of getting patrol cars for his department.

Alderman Mildred Miller suggested Stonewall look into using reserve police officers, who can work at will when needed. Stonewall said that is an option but his primary goal is to fill full-time staff first, then part-time.

City Clerk Edna Beverly said she is getting a bid for surveillance cameras around City Hall, including in the front hallway area to capture rude behavior by residents and behind the building where vandals have damaged the air-conditioning system.

 The board approved a motion to prohibit employees from eating food anywhere besides the kitchen in Town Hall, responding to what Miller said were constituent complaints that Town Hall “smells like a cafeteria.” Miller said it looks unprofessional for workers to eat while sitting at their desks.

The board voted against giving city employees the day after Thanksgiving off after a heated and lengthy debate and a tie vote broken by Brasel. Alderman Reginald Freeman was not present at the meeting.

Bertina Jenkins, a nurse with Delta Health Alliance, appeared before the board asking for permission to set up a table at City Hall offering free information on healthy living habits and the nature of chronic diseases. The proposal is part of DHA’s Heart Health Network, which includes 21 counties covered by seven community health workers.

“The idea is to keep people from returning to the hospital,” she said.

The board approved the table at City Hall and took into consideration Jenkins’ request for space two hours a month at the Brazil Center to mentor young women in developing healthy living habits. Jenkins offered to pay a fee, but aldermen did not set one.

The board voted against a memo of understanding with Thelma Collins, the town’s previous mayor, and Mississippi Valley State University to accept exercise equipment and to provide space at the Brazil Center for exercise classes at a rate of $500 per month. In a tie vote broken by Brasel, opponents of the grant-based exercise program argued the Brazil Center is not in good enough shape to host such a program and that $500 per month does not cover the costs of having the building open multiple days a week.

In the coming week, the board will hold a special call meeting to go through a large number of applications received for two jobs at the city — one as the court clerk, keeping records for the Police Department, and another as a deputy to Beverly.

•Contact Kathryn Eastburn at 581-7235 or keastburn@gwcommonwealth.com.

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