By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Renovation of the Baker Street Park is a step closer to reality after a public hearing held Tuesday, Nov. 27 at City Hall.
The park is located in the eastern part of the city and is bordered by Baker, Lee and Mills Streets.
According to Mayor Bill Norris, the park will have new playground equipment, concrete basketball courts, and a six-foot cyclone fence with six entrance gates when the project is completed.
The hearing is the first of several requirements that must be met in order for the city to receive funds under the Community Development Block Grant Citizen Participation Plan of the Mississippi Development Authority.
“We are applying for $97,000 (grant money) with $47,000 in-kind work,” Mayor Norris said, “It’s going to be a great park when we all get through with it.”
The in-kind work is part of the Self-Help program that will satisfy another requirement of the MDA.
Self-Help encourages citizen participation, particularly by persons of low to very-low income who are residents of the area in which CDBG funds are to be expended, according to Brenda Lacy, an associate manager with the MDA. “It solves problems for less cost.”
Lacy said the MDA takes a close look at the number of participants who attend the public meeting and fill out volunteer survey forms.
“If the people are here it means they are willing to do the work and they want this in their town. If the people aren’t here, that means they don’t want to do it because it is sweat equity,” she added.
Sweat equity is a term used to describe the contributions made to a project by people who willingly contribute their time and effort. One of those already at work on the project is Levert Hawkins.
“We looked at the conditions in the park and we are starting with everything that is already broken,” Hawkins said.
“I really didn’t want the city to just put all of this stuff into the park,” Hawkins added, “I wanted the community to be involved because you take great pride in things you participate in.”
One of the concerns expressed by some of those attending the meeting is security. “That open lot gives people an area to congregate,” said Barbara Herod-Hence.
“I think the community has a responsibility,” Hawkins responded. “When we see things that aren’t appropriate, we need to report it. Now that we have CrimeStoppers in Water Valley there isn’t any reason for anyone to feel intimidated.”
“I think this is going to be a huge project for the community,” Hawkins continued, “But, I think it is going to be one that the people – even our young people – can be proud of.”
The MDA allows from two to three years for the project to be completed. However, many similar projects have been finished in as little as six months, according to Lacy.
“Once you do this (project) you are so excited you may want to do something else for your town,” she added.