Local leaders are expressing optimism about new legislation which could help address the problem of urban blight throughout Mississippi. Prior to ending the most recent legislative session, Mississippi lawmakers approved Senate Bill 2394. It allows corporations to purchase land that has been sold or turned over to the state because of unpaid taxes.
"Hopefully it will allow corporations to redevelop in areas where people have not found a use for the property, and get these properties back on the tax rolls, and hopefully revitalize some distressed areas," says Mississippi House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden.
"It'll be very positive for this city," says Meridian City Councilman Randy Hammon, who represents Ward 5. "We've already got a lot of people here that are very interested in some of these areas. We may have to rezone some areas, but the bottom line is that we've started, and we've started down this journey of our five year program."
Addressing the issue of urban blight is a key concern for Councilman Hammon. Recently he says a consultant from the Mississippi Association of Code Enforcement was in Meridian reviewing procedures.
"He spent three days in the city, and he said to get caught up 50% of what we're behind, it would probably take five years," says Hammon. "So, he said that we need to be set for a long run, but that we need to start so that we can get some positives."
According to Hammond, the consultant says that the city of Meridian needs more than just code enforcement officers to spearhead the effort, but instead a code enforcement manager. Hammond says a proposal regarding this suggestion is expected to be made to the council within the next month.
Councilman Hammon says each year 1% to 2% of the budget for cities is set aside for code enforcement. Less than 1% of Meridian's current budget was set aside for the effort. Councilman Hammon is confident that next year that number will increase to 2%.