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City, residents pursue Brignall fire loop

Helen Griffin and three of her friends have been to almost everyhouse in Brignall, asking questions, gathering demographics andtrying to have enough facts put together to convince the powersthat be that they need a fire loop in their neighborhood.

“It’s important because of our housing situation, the housesbeing so close together,” she said. “If my house catches on fire,they’re going to have to just let it go and try to save the housenext door because they don’t have enough water.”

Griffin and other members of the Brignall community were able todiscuss the fire loop issue at a public hearing Thursday evening atthe Lincoln County-Brookhaven Government Complex. About 15 peopleattended the meeting, and each promised to take their “homeworkassignment” to neighbors.

“We need each resident to write in their own words what benefitsthere will be for the fire loop, why it’s needed,” said Deputy CityClerk Marsha Fairman. “If you have questions you can call theoffice and we’ll talk to you, but we just need you to put it onpaper.”

The essays, as many as are written by area residents, will go tothe officials over the Community Development Block Grants, and willshow them that the community is interested and involved inbettering the community.

“If we can get this fire loop, it lets the community know we canget some help up here and we know that someone will help us,” saidGriffin. “That will uplift the community in a great way.”

Mayor Les Bumgarner said the city is willing to put up $350,000toward the fire loop, and that officials expect the rest of thework to cost around $700,00-$900,000. He said receiving the grantis especially important because of the cost of the project.

“We don’t have the money if we don’t get the grant,” he saidFriday.

Bumgarner and City Clerk Mike Jinks did not attend the hearingbecause they were out of town with a Southwest Mississippi EconomicDevelopment Partnership meeting. No aldermen were present at thehearing.

During the hearing, residents asked if there will be problemswith water lines going across private land, and if the streets willbe torn up to put the lines down.

“They’re bad enough already,” one resident said.

Fairman said she was writing down the questions to present themto grant consultants, who also were not present. She said theanswers would come back to the community through her or some otherrepresentative of the city.

Sanitation Department Director Willie Smith said he is slated tomeet with grant writer Woody Sample on Monday, and hopefully theywould be able to discuss some of the community members’concerns.

Meanwhile, the letters from neighborhood residents can be short,Fairman said, but still need to express how the fire loop wouldpositively impact the area.

“You all know what you need, but someone else who doesn’t livethere doesn’t,” she said.

She asked that the letters be brought to the city clerk’s officeby Monday if at all possible.

“It doesn’t have to be long, but it has to be to the point,” shesaid. “And the more, the merrier.”

At this point there is no time frame on the project, officialssaid, but residents said it is high time something is done. Notonly are they worried about their homes burning, they said, butalso State Farm Insurance dropped several of them in recent yearsbecause there were no fire hydrants in the neighborhood.

Bumgarner explained that there is a points system that rates allthe CDBG applications that come in from across the state. Based onprevious projects and the economic needs of the Brignall community,he said Brookhaven’s chances for the grant seem hopeful.

“We did really well on our senior citizen center,” he said. “Ourapplication will be in competition with other applicationsthroughout the state, and they’ll pick the best application throughthe point system. We feel like we have a really good chance to getit.”

Fairman said the board of aldermen will not finalize exactlywhat all is needed in the Brignall community until after their nextbi-monthly meeting, which will be held on Friday, April 16.

Griffin said she just hopes the community will rally behind theproject.

“I’d like for us to work with each other, to help one another,”she said. “Through these letters that are supposed to come out fromthe family, even a just word or coming to the meetings. If you’reparticipating, just step out and do it. We’re helping one anotherup here.”