Oktibbeha County resident Cheryl Martin has lived in the Blackjack community since she was 7 years old.
One weekend, her friend came to visit her to celebrate both of their birthdays. As they sat down on her back porch to enjoy a glass of wine, sounds of all-terrain vehicles and four-wheelers continuously whizzed back and forth at neighboring properties, keeping the two of them from conversing over the roaring noise.
“I can’t believe that it can be that bad, that we can’t even sit and enjoy company on my own property,” Martin said.
Martin addressed the board of supervisors at its regular meeting Monday on the issues that have arisen over the past few years in the community along Blackjack Road and neighboring streets.
She said she continuously sees trash along the roads and on properties, people gathered under stop signs, cars driving too fast, people using drugs, and she deals with the loud noises that come from ATVs. While the road is currently in the process of being repaved, she said she believes all streets and roads in the area should also be paved.
Martin asked the board to take action in this area of the county because she is concerned about the safety of her family and feels uncared for.
“When any place is going down, what happens is that nobody cares,” Martin said. “I feel like we aren’t cared for in that community. … We’re only 2 1/2 miles away from the university. We have people coming through (the area) all of the time.”
Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Brett Watson said the department does receive phone calls and alerts about this area sometimes, but in order to prevent these actions from happening, he recommended Martin create a community development group of others in the area that have concerns about these issues.
Forming a group would not only bring awareness to the carelessness and unlawful actions that occur but could help OCSO respond more rapidly, Watson said. Community groups can also receive grants, he said, which could possibly be used to fund things such as cameras to alert dispatchers, such as when ATVs are racing.
“My suggestion would be if there are enough community members interested in taking some positive steps, would be the formation of a neighborhood watch, appoint some watch captains, formalize some meetings to encourage the cooperation of the community with (OCSO),” Watson said.
Board president Joe Williams, who represents District 5, suggested the board look into speed limit signs to help alleviate fast driving down Blackjack Road.
District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said he hears Martin’s concerns but wants to find the best way to attack the situation, such as no ATV signs or the possible discussion of an ordinance in the future.
“If you want to protect your community, it’s going to have to start in the community,” Montgomery said. “Once they get onto a public road, or if we need to enact a noise ordinance or what have you, I have no problem with that. I’m just trying to think of ways to be creative to help with that.”
District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard, who personally knows Martin, said he understands that it is frustrating when people do not care about a community, especially when “ghost riders” tear up the roads on four-wheelers.
“At some point, we’ve got to address (the issues) in some kind of way,” Howard said. “I don’t know when or how, but we know we’ve got to start addressing them. We’ve got to stay away from codes in the county and things of that nature because we want people in the county to have some freedoms, to not just be dictated to, but at some point we’re going to have to address them.”