Thursday, June 26, 2008
Mayor updates projects
By SUE WATSON
Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry was the invited guest Wednesday of last week to a second town hall meeting in as many months. He talked about lots of topics, including community pride and development near U.S. 78.
This meeting, held at the Marshall County Library, was conducted by the Marshall County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The first meeting was held at ICS Head Start.
DeBerry said the meetings are an attempt to “bring out the facts about the city’s financial matters, economic development efforts and problems with joblessness.”
“Sometimes people tend not to know what is going on,” he said. “We need to know how to create economic opportunity, wealth and employment opportunities for people.”
He began by laying out what the city is doing with the Information Technology Center, established with a $382,000 federal and state grant six years ago.
The objective of the center has been to help people, particularly adults, to transition to a technology-based workforce through basic computer training, he said.
DeBerry said his children are “very astute and trained in techology and able to do things with computers I can’t dream of.”
But many adults have not had the exposure to technology that the younger generation has, he said. So the center provides certification programs and workforce development training using instructors provided by Northwest Mississippi Community College.
DeBerry envisions the Information Technology Center providing basic training in fiber optics to prepare the workforce to participate in building the next level of infrastructure in Mississippi when it comes.
“Technology has now become the fifth utility,” he said.
The city will look for grants to help set up the new hospital for telemedicine, he said.
A new system, to be in place soon at the enhanced 911 office, will allow dispatchers to pinpoint the location of emergency calls from cell phones, he said. That will enable first responders, eventually, to respond more effectively once emergency vehicles and law enforcement are interfaced with the new 911 communications system.
The city fire department and Marshall County Emergency Management, together, are writing grants to build this system.
A third project, the development of the south side of Holly Springs at the intersection of U.S. 78 and Highway 7 is being patched together with private, local government, state and federal partnerships, DeBerry said.
The foundation for a new 100-bed hospital is expected to be poured in September this year next door to the new Williams Clinic. When the new clinic facility opens, the old clinic on J.M. Ash Drive will be renovated by the city for a new and much needed and deserved police department.
Turning to what the community can do to help the city financially, DeBerry explained that a portion of locally-collected sales tax dollars are returned to the cities where they are generated. These tax dollars provide monies to improve sidewalks, maintain streets and utilities and provide services, he said.
“It is a must, when at all possible, to shop locally,” he said. “We have to understand, we have to take care of home first.”
The city’s budget is at $6.4 million, he said, better than some cities of like size, but needing improvement.
Community pride is lagging in Holly Springs, even though visitors and newcomers speak highly of the beauty and the friendliness of Holly Springs, he said.
“We don’t see the value of Holly Springs that visitors do,” he said. “So, we need in this time of economic downturn for the front-line workers in businesses to be ambassadors for the city. We all are ambassadors for this city - the people in the churches, schools, stores and restaurants.”
DeBerry explained that government is not a business.
“It’s (government is not) not about bottom-line profit,” he said. “In most cases, it is the reverse. Government provides service that does not give back to itself.
“So, what is the priority?” he asked. “We don’t spend enough on education because we don’t have it to spend.”
The school administration should not have to worry about the physical plant but have freedom to focus on creating an environment for learning, he said.
“Until we create economic opportunity and close the divide, it will never happen,” he said.
DeBerry said the city loses its brightest “who are leaving for opportunities, housing, and quality of life.”
In the questioning and answering session that followed, Alfred Moore opened by asking DeBerry how locals will find jobs when the state has no workforce training center.
DeBerry said the city is trying to get an e-Win center at the IT center.
Someone asked how people can do all their shopping in town when some things are available only seasonally like school uniforms and supplies.
DeBerry said that people can ask the stores to order or stock things they need and most businesses will.
Fergenia Hood asked what the city does to showcase what it has to offer.
DeBerry said every year the city showcases its antebellum homes, the Audubon Center’s hummingbird celebration, and the Ida B. Wells Museum.
This fall, the travelling Vietnam Wall Memorial will be here, sponsored by the Collins-Hurdle VFW Post and Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce.
“We need to showcase all we have and make use of what we have,” he said. “We should support the library because education is more than just the classrooms.”
Vice-Mayor Tim Liddy stated that the city should strive for 100 percent participation in the chamber of commerce through individual and group memberships as well as employer memberships.
He asked what the timetable for the next intersection at J.M. Ash Drive, West Boundary extension and the hospital would be.
“By 2010, it all has to be in,” said DeBerry. “They are pouring the slab to the hospital in September and will let bids in November for West Boundary Extension.”
There will be three access streets to the hospital when all is done - Crescent Meadow Drive, J.M. Ash and W. Boundary.
The next red light at J.M. Ash will cost $800,000, he said.
Librarian Diane Schule asked if the city has recreational computers at the IT center.
DeBerry said some are in use at the Multi-Purpose Building this summer.
Rust College broadcasted the town hall meeting live on WRUC.
Attendance at the meeting was between 15 and 20 people.
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