By Nicole Milev
The mass murder of three young Tupelo residents nine days earlier was a major topic at the Tupelo City Council meeting of August 3.
Early in the August 3 council meeting, Ward 3 Councilman Travis Beard remarked on the tragic slayings of three Tupelo youths on July 24, asking that attendees keep the families of those affected in their prayers. Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis added that it is more important than ever for Tupelo “to remember the young people.” In addition, Mayor Todd Jordan commended the Tupelo Police Department for their work thus far on this ongoing case.
During the meeting, the council also discussed the matter of approving the 2021-2022 North Mississippi Narcotics Unit [NMNU] interlocal agreement, which Councilwoman Rosie Jones challenged. The NMNU spans over seven cities and five counties in the state and its mission is to combat drug trafficking in these areas. Jones questioned Interim Police Chief Jackie Clayton about the representation of minorities on the governing body of the NMNU unit. Clayton responded that the members are elected by the sheriffs and police chiefs of their respective counties, and that Tupelo’s only non-white member had been a lieutenant who recently retired.
Clayton is Interim Chief while the search continues for a permanent replacement for Police Chief Bart Aguirre, who retired.
Councilman Beard also remarked on the increasing number of Covid-19 cases with the spread of the Delta variant, asking Tupelo residents to “be careful and faithful” and “wear a mask and get vaccinated.”
Despite the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Tupelo continues to offer resources to better the lives and education of its young people. During public hearings, Jeff Thomas of the Lee County Library thanked the City of Tupelo for its support. Upon reopening in May of 2020, the library amassed 20,000 visits and has over 23,000 library cardholders. Thomas mentioned his excitement over the Bookmobile, which is coming soon to the library, and emphasized the importance of reading during the pandemic for families with young children.
Also appearing before the Council was Robby Portman of the Regional Rehabilitation Center (RRC). He expressed gratitude for the city’s support for his organization, which offers services such as occupational, physical, and speech therapy free to those who need it. Portman asked the board to continue its support for RRC during the coming budget year
Alongside Portman, spoke Phil Hodgson, the father of two boys, one of which was struggling quite a bit with his studies before he started going to the Regional Rehab Center. Hodgson remarked that while entering the 4th grade, he noticed that his son spent quite a bit of time on homework. After just four years of working with the staff at the center, his son transformed from having difficulty with reading to having the highest math, English, and science scores in his classes. He stated with conviction, “Your money simply cannot buy the love and the attitudes of the staff working at Regional Rehab.”
Tupelo resident Carlos Conde had asked to be on the agenda and spoke to the board. Conde expressed anger that the city failed to clear snow from his street during the week of February 14, 2021. Born in the South, Conde relocated to the Midwest, apparently living with his Wisconsin-born wife in her native state before retiring to Tupelo. Conde said his Tupelo street was not promptly cleared of snow, which led to his trash not being picked up for the entire week.
Conde suggested that the city of Tupelo create a fact-finding committee to research the extent of the storm’s damage and to plan to prevent future winter road closures. City Council President Buddy Palmer of Ward 5 told Conde that the matter would be investigated.
According to the National Weather Service, the city of Tupelo experiences an average of 1.3 inches of snow per year compared to the United States’ average of 27.8 inches. It may be notable that Madison, Wisconsin has an average of 42.4 inches of snow every year. It appears unlikely the City of Tupelo will be able justify the acquisition of many millions of dollars of snow plows to match the kind of snow removal operation Conde may have observed in Wisconsin.