City board addresses parking, loitering

By MARLAN JONES,

The Mendenhall Mayor and Board of Aldermen addressed a parking and loitering issue on Main Street during the latest board meeting.

Brandy Stuart owner of B & B’s Nutrition, appeared before the board to see what could be done about congestion and the lack of parking during Lighthouse Community Developments weekly food distribution. That organization operates a food pantry, Manna, that assists over 100 families to meet monthly food needs. The families pick up food from the pantry every Thursday. The doors are open from 1:30-2 p.m. to distribute.

Stuart explained to the board that people receiving assistance from Lighthouse begin arriving as early as 11:26 a.m., and will occupy parking spaces on Main Street for several hours. She said doing this during business hours is a detriment to the other businesses on Main Street, particularly the businesses neighboring LCD. Stuart described instances where she would have to deliver products in the middle of Main Street due to a lack of parking. She also pointed out, that several people loiter in front of businesses, smoking cigarettes and using profanity while waiting for their food distribution. Alderman Donnie Thomas believed that an officer presence should be felt in the area. Thomas called for an officer to periodically patrol the area on foot to let people know that smoking and profanity will not be allowed on Main Street.

 Stuart said, “I think what they are doing is great for the community and I have no problem with the people, just a problem with them sitting in front of our building with nowhere for customers to park.”

The board discussed possible solutions to the problem that included changing the distribution day and time. A suggestion was made that a time limit be put on parking places on Main Street. Alderman Tim Gray said placing signs on Main Street would affect everyone and believed the board should table the issue to explore other solutions. Another month was unsatisfactory for Stuart, and she urged the board to take action. Before the issue was tabled, Mayor Todd Booth said he would speak to the owners of Lighthouse Community Development, and make an effort to get things resolved.

Lighthouse Community Development Executive Director Charity Jones addressed the issues after being made aware. Jones explained after speaking with Booth, the LCD Board met to address the issue. Jones said, “We were not aware of the complaints made before the board. We are now putting new policies in place to address the issues.” She said, “We are willing to speak with business owners, the mayor, and other city officials on how we can meet the entire community’s needs.”

Jones said notifications will go out Thursday to LCD clients who will receive a written document of the new policies. The new policies state that no one can get in line for food distribution before 1:00 p.m. and instructed against loitering. Jones said the policies also encouraged carpooling if applicable to reduce the traffic on Main Street. Manna will continue to operate during their usual time of 1:30-2:00 p.m. Jones said a copy of the notice was submitted to the city.

Jones expressed that Lighthouse Community Development is willing to discuss any issues. She said, “I want to reiterate that we were not aware of concerns, but as soon as we were immediate action was taken.  Had we had the opportunity to address it before then we would have.” Jones said Lighthouse Community Development is willing to have discussions with city officials and business owners on any issues.

The Mendenhall Mayor and Board of Aldermen will revisit the issue during a recess meeting on April 16.