New Year off to strong start for Laurel businesses

Posted on: February 7, 2023

If the month of January is any indication, then renewal and growth will be major themes for local businesses in 2023.

The year started with the renewal of a community pharmacy on Monday, January 9th, when Diket Drugs hosted a ribbon cutting as they celebrated reopening in their original location.

Diket Drugs was originally opened in 1970 by Ed Diket at 1107 Jefferson Street across from South Central Medical Center. Mr. Diket served the local community for many years before retiring and selling his business. The business later moved a few blocks up the Jefferson Street before eventually closing in September 2019.

Last September, Joe Michael Robertson bought the original location and the brand and reopened the pharmacy at its original location. He even brought back many of the original pharmacy’s employees. All seven of the pharmacy’s current employees had worked at Diket’s before including their longest serving employee, Melanie Smith, a pharmacy tech and insurance specialist who has been with the company since 1984 and pharmacist April Stringer, PharmD. Stringer had worked for Diket’s for 12 years before rejoining the company in September.

In addition to bringing back the company’s original employees, Robertson also oversaw the restoration of the original building. The new pharmacy has a second drive through, new paint and décor (including a vintage-style jukebox), and new logos inside. Although some changes have been made, Stringer said that it was still familiar. “It feels like home,” she said.

Robertson, his employees, friends, and family members joined the Jones County Chamber of Commerce in celebrating the pharmacy’s reopening with a ribbon cutting and luncheon.  “I want to continue the legacy that he (Ed Diket) started,” Robertson said during the ceremony. “We’re off to a great start, the Lord has blessed us.”

Another local business is also off to a great start. Be Amazing Paper Company in downtown Laurel celebrated their ribbon cutting on Friday, January 20th. Be Amazing Paper Company, a full-service printer and stationary shop owned and operated by Elizabeth Fanslow, originally opened on Central Avenue in August 2021. Since then, the business has continued to grow. So much so, that Fanslow needed a larger location to accommodate the custom printing portion of the business. She is now located at 326 N. Magnolia Street. During the ribbon cutting hosted by the Jones County Chamber of Commerce, Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee thanked Fanslow for bringing her business to Laurel and for keeping it in Laurel once it started to grow. More information on Be Amazing Paper Company can be found at BeAmazingPaperCo.com. Their hours are Mondays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. , Tuesdays- Fridays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  More photos can be found on our Instagram page at Laurel_MS.

Victor Heidelberg retires from city after 17 years of service, honored by family and coworkers

Posted on: February 2, 2023

Victor Heidelberg officially retired from the City of Laurel’s Parks and Recreation Department at the end of January after serving the city’s residents for 17 years.

During a retirement party on Friday,  January 27th, his friends and coworkers gathered to share their congratulations to him on his long and successful career of service to others. Many stated that it had been an “honor and a pleasure” to work with him and thanked him for his mentorship. They also pointed out that his wisdom, spiritual guidance, and steady, calming demeanor will all be missed around the shop. While many expressed sadness about Heidelberg’s retirement, one person in attendance did not – his wife, Jennifer. “I’m glad he’s retiring and coming home,” she said. “I am blessed to have a good God-fearing man and blessed for the man that he is,” she explained and she is happy that he will be home to tackle the honey-do list. (Even though he told the crowd that he will spend his retirement fishing.)

Neighborhood group continues to beautify local park

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In 2021, a group of neighbors led by Cathy Padgett and Jeannine Howell got together to discuss improvements needed at Mason Park. Traditionally, local parks have been adopted by nearby garden clubs who take on this task. However, Mason Park had not been adopted. Howell theorized that it may have been adopted by garden club in the past that has since disbanded. In response, Padgett and Howell decided to form the Friends of Mason Park organization to establish efforts to support and beautify it.  “We’re technically not a garden club,” Howell said, “We’re just neighbors banded together to accomplish a project and we have accomplished a lot!”

Since 2021, they have been leading the charge to beautify the park through a variety of projects. Their first work day in the park was in fall 2021 and they had about 20 volunteers. Their next work day, in spring 2022, brought in 30 volunteers. They have been working with the city’s parks and recreation department to resolve erosion problems, plant 150 trees, and complete re-sodding projects. “The city has been very, very helpful and good to work with,” Howell said. “It’s been a good experience.”

They hope to build their efforts into regular quarterly work days. Their next work day will be on Sunday, February 19th from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Monday, February 20th from 8 a.m. to noon. Since it is President’s Day, they hope that people who are off from work will be able to drop by to lend a hand.

Those interested in participating can text Jeannine Howell at 601.580.8266 or Cathy Padgett at 770.403.3472. Participants will be asked to bring their own gloves and bottled water and can bring tools such as shovels, hand shovels, clippers, pruners, garden rakes, steel rakes, hoes, weed eaters, and blowers, if available. During the winter work day, the group will working on small projects between 18th Street and 20th Street on 7th Avenue on the west side of the park.

Laurel/Jones County Black History Museum and Arts celebrated ribbon cutting on Wednesday

Posted on: February 1, 2023

Black History Month in Laurel kicked off with the opening of a new local museum headed by Marian Allen. On Wednesday, February 1, 2023, Allen and the Jones County Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to open the Laurel/ Jones County Black History Museum and Arts facility at 820 West 5th Street.

The event began at 10 a.m. with an opening and prayer by Dr. Eleanor Collins who spoke on the importance of communities coming together in one accord. Guests were welcomed by museum curator Marian Allen who has long dreamed of bringing her collection of artwork and historical artifacts to a permanent location. She was followed by the Laurel High School Choir who presented several selections.

Former Jones County Sheriff and current candidate Alex Hodge and museum board member Derrion Arrington provided their remarks. The event’s keynote speaker, John K. Pierre, Chancellor of the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge spoke about the central role of the state of Mississippi in the struggle for civil rights.

Allen thanked everyone for their support and cut the ribbon officially opening the new museum.

Mayor Magee, advocates encourage residents to participate in Wear Red Day on February 3rd

Posted on: January 30, 2023

On Monday, January 30th, Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee signed a proclamation to declare Friday, February 3, 2023 Wear Red Day in the City of Laurel. Citizens are asked to Wear Red to raise awareness about heart health.

February has been recognized as National Heart month since 1964. For many years, cardiovascular health was thought to be primarily a concern for older men, but as more research has been conducted, heart health has become a hot topic for women’s health experts and advocates as well.

Since 2001, advocates for women’s health have promoted the Wear Red Day program to encourage people to wear red on the first Friday in February to raise awareness about heart health for women.

Locally, Ms. Faye Jackson and members of the Order of the Eastern Star have been advocates for women’s heart health and in promoting this event.

During the Monday morning proclamation signing, Ms. Jackson shared the story of her daughter Kaila Porter who passed away in 2006 at age 23. Porter was diagnosed with an enlarged heart when she was six months old and was not expected to live to adulthood. “I say it was enlarged because it was full of love,” Jackson stated. Jackson shared that her daughter was proud to beat the odds and live to 18, although doctors had told them that she would not. At 21, Porter would say, “I’m not supposed to be here, but I made it.” Jackson stated that it was always important to her that her daughter’s wishes for her care be carried out and, ultimately, Porter decided to move into a group home. She passed away a short time later.

“I miss my baby. I love my baby.” Jackson said during the emotional event. Jackson stated that she participates in the Wear Red Day annual event in memory of her daughter and would like to see the whole town “painted red” in recognition of heart health. Jackson explained that it is important to raise awareness so that people know that heart health is a serious issue that can affect men, women, and children.

The proclamation read as follows:

WHEREAS, heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing one in every four deaths among women; and

WHEREAS, women’s risk of heart disease begins to increase between ages forty and sixty; and

WHEREAS, women historically, have failed to make the connection between risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol and their personal risk of developing heart disease; and

WHEREAS, research reveals that most women underestimate their personal risk and do not fully understand the devastating impact that heart disease has on one’s life and family; and

WHEREAS, Wear Red Day is a program which was begun in 2001 when seventy leading experts in women’s health sought to develop a national action plan to reduce the toll of heart disease on American women; and

WHEREAS, Wear Red Day is designed to get attention, to convey the seriousness of heart disease, and to change the perception that heart disease is only a man’s issue; and

WHEREAS, the first Friday in February of each year has been designated Wear Red Day by The Heart Truth, which is the national campaign for awareness of women’s heart health sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS); and

WHEREAS, the City of Laurel wishes to participate in this worthwhile program

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Johnny Magee, Mayor of the City of Laurel, do hereby declare Friday, February 3, 2023 as National Wear Red Day in the City of Laurel and encourage all citizens to educate themselves about the risk factors of heart disease in women, the seriousness of the impact of heart disease on women and their families, and the importance of taking actions among women to protect their heart health.

The City of Laurel will begin offering event sponsorship as part of its new tourism program

Posted on: January 25, 2023

Last year, city residents voted to implement a new 3% tax on hotel, motel, and short-term rental stays in order to increase the city’s promotional and tourism efforts. Now the tourism tax is bearing fruit and the newly established Laurel Tourism Committee is hard at work to find innovative ways to reinvest the funds into the community. First up, is their event sponsorship funding. The funding program works like a grant to encourage the development and promotion of local events. Event organizers can apply for up to $2,500 in sponsorship from the City of Laurel to create, host, and/or promote their event.

The committee’s mission is to increase visitor traffic to the city, act as a liaison between local hosts and potential visitors, and, ultimately to “position the City of Laurel as a regionally, nationally, and internationally recognized destination by developing quality marketing programs and sales outreach to attract visitors.”

Applicants for sponsorship funding will need to demonstrate how their event or proposed event will support the city’s aims to increase visitor traffic. Individuals and organizations interested in applying for sponsorship funds may do so by downloading the application materials from the city’s website at Laurelms.com.

Applicants must be 21 years old or older, show valid ID, and must submit all forms required by the application process. If awarded, event organizers will be required to recognize the City of Laurel in all print promotions and in verbal acknowledgements associated with the event. They will also be responsible for keeping appropriate records. Since the City of Laurel is subject to the auditing processes of the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office, any funds awarded to a third-party individual or organization are subject to audit as well.

Applicants should submit their funding requests at least sixty days in advance of their planned event in order to ensure that funding can be approved and distributed before the event takes place.

All requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis and partial funding for a request may be granted.

Funds will be distributed at the discretion of the tourism committee and the mayor’s office. The city reserves the right refuse funding for any program.

“It will be exciting to see what new events we can bring to Laurel with this program and how our current event organizers can use this program to develop and grow their current offerings. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of new people in town!” Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee said. “Stay tuned for more great news from our tourism committee as they work to reinvest our tourism tax in innovative and impactful ways.”

For more information on this program, please contact the City of Laurel at 601.428.6401.

Download the letter here  and the application here.

Civil Service Exam for Field Inspector to be Held Saturday, January 28th

Posted on: January 19, 2023

Christmas Tree Lighting Information

Posted on: November 30, 2022

Please Note the Following Guidelines for Yard Sales in the City

Posted on: November 22, 2022

Yard Sale Info Yard Sale Info

Deadline Approaches for STR operators

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The City of Laurel would like to remind short-term rental owners about the new rules affecting short-term rentals (STR) in the city.

As many of you know, this year has brought several new developments in how the city is addressing its thriving tourism economy. Most notably, this year saw the passage of Senate Bill 2155 which levies a 3% tax on all hotel, motel, and short-term rental bills. The measure was enacted when a majority of the city’s residents voted in its favor over the summer. Additionally, the city council passed Ordinance 1725-2022 to establish standards and procedures for the operation of short-term rental facilities within the city limits.

One of the provisions Ordinance 1725-2022 establishes is that those who wish to own and operate short-term rental facilities in the city must obtain both a privilege license and a special use permit. The privilege license allows individuals and companies to conduct business in the city while a special use permit allows the property to be used in a manner that deviates from generally accepted activities within a specific area or zone. Both are needed for short-term rental operation.

Many people in the community who were operating short-term rental facilities did apply for and receive their privilege licenses but have not completed the process to receive a special use permit. Those who do not have the special use permit, should begin the application process as soon as possible. The deadline to do so is December 31, 2022. After that time, the City of Laurel Inspections Department will begin enforcing the ordinance as it is written. Currently, those operating a STR without the proper licenses and permits can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined.

According to the ordinance, “for purposes of prosecution of violations of this chapter, each day that any violation occurs is deemed to constitute a separate violation. Those found guilty of such violation shall, upon conviction, be fined for each violation, not to exceed an amount of one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the first offense within a calendar year; not to exceed an amount of two thousand dollars ($2,000) for the second offense within a calendar year; and not to exceed more than five thousand dollars ($5,000) for other offenses within a calendar year, in addition to all court costs and related fees.”

Additionally, if someone advertises an available STR without having the proper licenses and permits in place, he or she may be barred from receiving the license and permit for up to one year.

In other words, if you have a short-term rental property, please make sure that you have your privilege license and special use permit by December 31, 2022.

Interested parties can apply by filling out an application in person in the Inspection Department located on the first floor of City Hall during regular business hours, OR by emailing Inspection@laurelms.com OR by mailing their application and supporting material to City of Laurel, ATTN Inspection Department PO Box 647 Laurel MS, 39441.

Applications are available at City Hall and online at :https://www.laurelms.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Short-Term-Rental-Application.pdf

Frequently Asked Questions and Information about the process can be found at: https://www.laurelms.com/departments/inspection/permit-applications/

In addition to ensuring that they have the proper permits and licenses, short-term rental operators should also make sure that they are collecting the 3% tourism tax due the city per Senate Bill 2155. This tax went into effect on September 1st and property owners will be responsible for remitting this tax to the Mississippi Department of Revenue for every transaction that has taken place since then.