Jackson Report: Of Cheap Land, Water Woes and Subcontractors | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Jackson Report: Of Cheap Land, Water Woes and Subcontractors

Mayor Tony Yarber

Mayor Tony Yarber Photo by Imani Khayyam.

First Dibs for Neighbors

The Jackson City Council passed the Neighbors First Lot Program at its Feb. 23 meeting to address the city's neighborhood blight and revitalization plans. Open to all Jackson homeowners and local organizations, the program is tiered to allow homeowners adjacent to the property to purchase vacant or unused surplus city and state property.

"We want to fix problems of blight," Mayor Tony Yarber said. "We want them cleaned up and fixed. We want to make sure that the land goes to people that can do something with the properties."

Neighborhood residents and associations, and community land trusts affiliated with the neighborhood associations, then have the opportunity to buy the land if the adjacent homeowners pass.

Many city homeowners are already taking care of adjacent abandoned properties but without the rights of ownership. The program will not only provide this title for them but will also play a major role in revitalizing neglected areas of Jackson.

The cost of purchase, after completing the registration process, will begin at $10 but cannot exceed $250. Participants must adhere to rehabilitation requirements for the property or risk ownership reverting back to the city. The program begins 30 days after Tuesday's council decision.

Water Woes Continue

The city declined to declare a state of emergency over lead readings in the water, while still exploring options to help assist those that may not be able to afford solutions such as replacing their pipes or water filters.

"And that's all I am proposing here, that we 'ring the bell' about the specific issue as it relates to people's homes," Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps said when he proposed the declaration. "And also ask for the EPA, USDA and HUD to do specific things to the area as we discover people's homes that have the bad plumbing. And get resources to help solve some of their problems."

Ongoing billing and meter-reading problems are affecting the city's budget still, according to information released during a budget meeting of the city council last week. Director of Public Works Kishia Powell outlined steps the department has taken. "At this point we have caught up all of the residential and commercial billings," Powell said.

Billing delays have led to a slump in the revenue for the department in the first quarter. "At the end of the first quarter and starting out the fiscal year we knew we had issues getting financial reports on our revenues and the cash from the new billing system," Powell said. "By the end of the first quarter we were showing about 3 percent of the revenue in. Which is not great. ... We just checked the revenue report last week. We are still behind, but it is about 23 percent. But we have been managing our expenses pretty well."

Powell did say that around 5,000 meters are now being read with the wireless meter system and that those households will be receiving their bills on time. The department is working on bringing another 3,000 up to wireless reading and automatic billing. "That will start relieving the issues with the meter reads, estimated billing and customers being behind on getting billed," she said.

In case you missed it, here are other city stories since last week's print edition:

Airport 'Takeover': An Ethical Minefield

Letter: FAA Could Close Jackson Airport During JMAA 'Takeover' Process

City May Annex Airport Land, Collect Rent On It

Upgraded 'Fondren Point' Will House Wier Boerner Allin Architecture

Cleaning Up Jails, Carjackings on Rise, Escapee Still at Large, Citizen's Police Academy

Lumumba's Family Alleges St. Dominic's Didn't Check for Heart Attack

City Council Seeks Input on Subcontractor Transparency Ordinance

Stamps Calls for ‘State of Emergency’ Over Lead, Walks Out After It Fails

Jackson's New Rental Regs May Target 'Slumlords,' Property Owners Unhappy

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