The start of a $5 million series of city projects in Clarksdale began with a simple groundbreaking for a new sidewalk this week.
City officials and residents to benefit from the first project held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday afternoon before beginning the installation of new sidewalks on Madison Avenue.
Clarksdale residents voted in favor of a $5 million bond referendum that would fix flooding problems and improve infrastructure in a 2019 special election.
Projects the city listed in seeking the bond issue include:
1. Replace Second Street Bridge: $3,800,000.
2. Sasse Street drainage: $800,000.
3. Pearson Street levee and/or pump: $2,025,000.
4. Sidewalks/Lighting: $1.1 million.
5. Street rehabilitation: $500,000.
6. Friars Point Road Bridge: $3,600,000.
Projects are listed by priority and Friars Point would be added if funds become available through possible grants.
Mayor Chuck Espy said while this project is small, it also shows the city’s stewardship with bond dollars.
Espy said initial cost for these sidewalks was $500,000, but with the city, Clarksdale Public Utility and Smith & Weiland Engineers doing the work, the cost was whittle down to $250,000.
“As people come down this particular boulevard coming into our downtown,” he said. “It will look and reflect downtown with new lighting and sidewalk improvement.”
Millicent Dixon, grant writer for the project, said the sidewalk will help the neighborhood.
“We’ve been working very closely with Clarksdale Public Utilities, Smith & Weiland Engineers all pulling together in order to add a sidewalk here on Madison Street that will not only be a great economic boost as it will help people to get to local businesses like J’s Grocery or The (Byrdcage),” she said. “It also facilitates trends through our downtown area for locals who live here as well as visitors who may be staying at one of the hotels on the highway.”
City engineer Arch Corley talked about some of the project details.
“Specifically, this project consists of removal and the installation of new sidewalks on the east side of Madison from the MLK Boulevard to Hickory,” he said. “In addition to the new sidewalk, we plan on installing approximately 20 decorative street lights along this project. Also, we will upgrade all the existing driveways along the project. After it’s completed, I think it will be a welcome addition to the attractiveness as well as the public safety for this area.”
Allasica Byrd, owner of The Delta Byrd and The Byrdcage next to Madison Avenue, stressed the importance of the sidewalk improvement.
“I would like to thank the mayor and administrators,” Byrd said. “I just thank you guys for letting me be a part of this groundbreaking event. Thank you for all that you do and have been doing to make this city great again. I’m just happy to call Clarksdale my home.”
Madison Avenue is the area of Ward 3 commissioner Willie Turner.
Turner said, as many intersections downtown were beautified, Madison Avenue was on his mind.
“As we embark on these projects, some may look like cosmetic work,” Turner said. “Some may look more like internal surgery for the flood zones. Some may just be basketball goals in the community. I’m proud to be working on this team, working together to turn this city around.”
Ward 2 commissioner Ken Murphey said the improvements will help give children a reason to stay in Clarksdale when they grow up.
“I do believe the quality of life in Clarksdale is certainly improving,” said Murphey. “This board is moving very fast. I’m excited to be a part of it.”
As a result of the $5 million bond referendum, Murphey said Pearson Street is about to get a levee. He said the bond will also cover residents in Cypress Ridge and Cypress Creek areas and homes in the Westover area and Greenbough areas.
Ward 1 commissioner Bo Plunk said COVID-19 has not slowed citizens down.
“This is a nice day,” Plunk said. “We’re finally fixing to start on all these projects that we’ve been promising for the last three years. We’ve got a good team of folks here working for the citizens of Clarksdale.”
Ward 4 commissioner Ed Seals said he once lived a half a block away from Madison Avenue on the corner of Walnut Street. He said the area has progressed tremendously since.
“Today is a special day for the city council and the citizens of Riverton, especially because Riverton some years ago was kind of left out, left out of the loop,” Seals said.
Terry Smith, of Smith & Weiland Engineers, said a lot of studying and planning went into the project.
“It’s what we’ve been waiting on,” Smith said. “You can hear the equipment in the background running. We’ve had some rain delays. This project is the first phase of a number of construction projects that are fixing to kickoff.”