New state law allows counties, cities to address neglected cemeteries

Whitney Downard / The Meridian Star

Wayman Newell, the supervisor for District 2, has inspired a law with his efforts to address abandoned cemeteries on 10th Avenue. 

A CROWN FOR WAYMAN NEWELL and Mississippi House Bill 1477, which will authorize “counties and municipalities to expend funds to maintain abandoned, non-profit cemeteries.”

Newell, the supervisor for Lauderdale County District 2, has been a longtime leader in efforts to address neglected cemeteries that have become overgrown with weeds and brush.

Newell was involved in an effort to get historical protection for the Tenth Avenue Masonic Cemetery from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in 2011 and he has led volunteers on cleanup days at an abandoned private cemetery on 10th Avenue in Meridian.

A state bill that goes into effect July 1 will give government bodies a means to care for abandoned private cemeteries, which have become a disgrace to the way we care for the dead.

"It really should have been called the Wayman Newell bill," Greg Snowden, the state representative from Meridian who authored the bill, told The Meridian Star this week.

Specifically for Meridian and Lauderdale County, the bill could help restore the St. Luke Cemetery on the corner of 10th Avenue and 24th Street where overgrowth returns in the days following volunteer efforts to clear it.

More broadly, we hope dignity is restored to the many similar overgrown and neglected cemeteries around the state.

A FROWN FOR THE IMMINENT CLOSING OF FRED’S on 22nd Avenue and the thought of one more shuttered business.

As we noted in our report a year ago “The mile that could use a miracle,” the 22nd Avenue gateway to Meridian leaves a terrible first impression for the visitors to the Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Experience and eventually the restored Threefoot Building and the Mississippi Children’s Museum-Meridian.

The wheels are slowly turning for a “StreetScape” project to help spruce up 22nd Avenue, but those empty buildings need to be occupied or torn down – beginning promptly with the Village Fair Mall.

The city administration said in February it was working with the landowner, RockStep Capital, to address the deserted mall. Those efforts need to be accelerated before we run out of first impressions.

A FROWN FOR THE U.S. CENSUS ESTIMATES for 2018 released on Thursday.

Whitney Downard reports this weekend that Lauderdale County’s population dropped by 4,950 people since 2010, the second largest decrease in population of any county in Mississippi.

Besides the often repeated need to stem the loss of population, it’s a reminder of the importance of every household participating in the general census when it’s taken in 2020.

Population affects everything from federal aid to our region to our representation in Washington. Fill out the form when you’re asked.

A CROWN TO CLARKDALE HIGH SCHOOL’S LEADS program, which allows upperclassmen to develop leadership skills while helping freshmen with their adjustment to high school.

The program, Let Everyone’s Action Determine Success, combines the school’s student council and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and allows them to become mentors to new students who can use a friend in those high school hallways that can seem all too big when you’re starting out.

It’s yet another reminder that high school students do far more to impress than to disappoint.

A CROWN FOR LIFELONG FRIENDSHIPS.

If you read just one story in The Star this week, make sure it’s Cheryl Owens’ well-told story this weekend of Dwight Truhett Watts and Mary Evelyn Husbands Bond, the Meridian women who as Owens wrote, “can’t remember not ever knowing each other.”

They began their journey together in the Cradle Roll at Sixth Street Church of God in Meridian and in their mid-80s continue to worship together at NorthPark Church.

From prayer to hijinks, sad times to celebrations, we hope their friendship reminds you of the special people who have shared your life’s journey.

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