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Creek problems persist, residents seek help

By Staff
SHEARER'S CREEK Fredie Carmichael of The Meridian Star, right, with notebook, interviews Betty Poe, Annie Mae Williams and Bobbie Mason, who live on Davis Street near Shearer's Creek. The creek's bank has eroded over the years and is now within inches of Williams' home. Photo by Paula Merrit/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Oct. 2, 2003
The radio-clock flashed 10:32 a.m. Wednesday as I unbuckled my seatbelt, got out of the car and headed for my visit with the residents of Shearer's Creek on Davis Street.
As I walked toward the group, gathered around a roadside bridge overlooking a cluttered, overgrown drainage canal, I wondered if their story would be any different from others I'd heard in recent months from frustrated creek-side residents.
And, it was. But, even though many people who live near creeks face the same challenges, the problems affect each in different ways.
At 3605 Davis St., someone's house could be the next item in a growing debris pile that lines the slow-moving creek.
Annie Mae Williams owns the house. I met with her and her neighbors, most of whom are family.
I stood on a city bridge and watched her calico cat, named "Big Momma," chase a pint-sized water moccasin away from her home.
Erosion nears home
The creek's edge, which used to be a comfortable 12 feet away from her home, is now dangerously close within inches of her back door in some places.
The neighbors shook their heads in agreement.
The city's position is that the creek, like Gallagher and other drainage canals, is private property and Meridian officials aren't responsible for its upkeep. And even if they were, they don't have the money or the manpower to fix it.
Ward 4 Councilman Jesse Palmer Sr., who represents the Shearer's Creek residents, said that's an over-used excuse. He said the city should be able to "at least clean the creeks and put some materials in there to keep them from deteriorating."
Problems grow
Creek problems are common in Meridian. And, it's gotten worse since two rounds of floods in April caused many of the city's drainage canals, including Shearer's Creek, to flood their banks.
A few weeks ago, some residents of Gallagher Creek near Highland Park, after months of complaining, found out a federal grant once earmarked for the repair of a leak in Bonita's lower lake will be used to help them. Their problems are 10 years old.
Residents near Shearer's Creek say their problems are even older and they feel race may be a reason their problems persist.
Nowhere to turn
As I scribbled notes and recorded stories, including one about a refrigerator floating down the creek, I couldn't help but wonder what I would do in their situation.
These folks are angry.
It seems like Williams' anger has burned out. She seems numb and bitter. She's raised 15 children in this house and now she lives here alone with only a few cats scatting around the house to keep her company and defend her from the snakes and rats.
She doesn't know where to turn.