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Mayor Perkins updates Rotarians on various topics

By Dennis Palmer

The Selma Times-Journal

Selma Mayor James Perkins, Jr. was the guest speaker at this week’s Selma Rotary Club.

Instead of coming in with a specific topic, Perkins asked members what they thought about what was happening in the city, and what they’d like to see done, which resulted in a wide range of discussion topics from public works, to law enforcement, to changing the culture in the community where people will show more personal responsibility.

“What I really want to do today is to ask you questions,” Perkins said. “I really need some answers on some things we’re looking at. What I remember about past Rotary meetings, y’all aren’t shy about your thoughts and opinions on the community, so I want to get your thoughts and opinions.”

One question related to the dilapidated homes and buildings in town and the unkempt properties, many of which the city of Selma owns, and are in violation of city code.

“There’s a lot of activity as it relates to the old buildings in the downtown area,” Perkins said. “There are developers who have either purchased some of the buildings or are negotiating for the purchase of the buildings. There are some families who do not want to transfer ownership. I am not an advocate of immanent domain by trying to solve problems by creating other problems. We have at least four developers who are actively interested in developing in our community who have the capacity and track record of doing these kinds of things.”

As to dilapidated homes around town, Perkins said the city owns more than 300 properties around town and the city has awarded contracts to local contractors to clean them up. Phase two of that project would involve getting some of those structures torn down.

“The first thing we did was put code enforcement back in place,” Perkins said. “When I got in office the code enforcement office had been dismantled. We have brought a code enforcement officer on staff that is dedicated to code enforcement in the city. The second thing we’ve done is we’re enforcing the code, which is a learning process. Most people, including us, want the code enforced on their neighbors, but not on themselves. It’s a popular thing to talk about, but it’s not a popular thing to do, but we are enforcing codes.”

Perkins also said the city on the verge of renegotiating the contract with Liberty Disposal for garbage pickup.

The city’s garbage situation, which he described as “broken,” has been a hot button item for several mayoral terms, including when he was formerly mayor, and Perkins said he’s committed to fixing it once and for all.

“I do expect some pushback on the new terms because they’re different,” Perkins said. “There will be more responsibility on the owners of the property.”

Perkins said government subsidized housing, often referred to Section 8, has funding built into the payments where either the tenant or the property owner receives payment allocated for garbage collection.

Perkins said he expects getting the new garbage collection contract to the finish line will test the councilmembers, especially since a prior public meeting devolved into shouting match in council chambers with property owners who were not happy about the city possibly charging them for garbage collection on their rental properties.

One thing Perkins asked Rotarians, and all Selmians for that matter, to do was to help police misinformation on social media, which he says is responsible for much of the challenges his office faces.

“Social media is hell,” Perkins said. “You can get one or two people raising all kinds of sand on social media… What I’d like to ask us to do is not pay attention to it, or call and ask us if what’s being posted is true or not.”

Perkins referenced social media posts claiming the city’s new cemetery director of not doing his job, something Perkins strongly refuted.

“He’s doing an excellent job of getting the cemeteries cleaned up, he really is, but the posts say he’s never there, which is not true. So I’m asking, don’t buy into that nonsense. When you post something about a department head, or a municipal department, you’re advertising something that’s not true, and if it is true, that’s not the way to get it resolved. The other thing it does is you’re hurling insults to individuals, and their families feel the pain.”

Perkins was also very complimentary of his team, mentioning Danielle Wooten and Henry Thompson in Planning and Development, and Denisha Hendricks in Recreation as two examples of department heads who are excelling in their jobs.

“They are doing great work, they really are,” Perkins said. “They are working hard for people so let’s ease up on them a little.”