Hed: Town meetings to address future of Pontotoc County
By Jane Hill
PONTOTOC – Pontotoc County residents tonight will discuss what they see as the major issues facing themselves, their property and their jobs and what they think should be done to address those issues.
The public meeting, the second of three to be held in the county, is one step in defining what problems residents think need to be addressed to keep Pontotoc County growing in a way that everyone can be proud of.
The first town meeting was held in Pontotoc earlier this month; the second will be held at the Ecru Fire Department tonight; and the third meeting, which has not yet been scheduled, will be held in south Pontotoc County, said Pontotoc Chamber of Commerce Director Bill Wardlaw.
About 80 residents, businessmen, developers and public officials attended the first meeting April 9 and discussed issues such as quality housing, industrial and commercial job development and community planning, Wardlaw said.
Sponsored by the chamber, the town meetings are designed to encourage countywide participation in addressing issues that face every Pontotoc County resident.
Ken Pruett, a local businessman and organizational development committee chairman for the chamber, said the first meeting was a good start in efforts to find out what issues are on people’s minds and how they need to be addressed.
Pruett characterized the meetings as the initial step toward developing a local Community Development Foundation to help the county “control its own destiny.”
“We don’t want to be a county with a transient labor force and substandard housing,” he said. “We want to be good neighbors – good neighbors to each other and to our neighboring counties.”
Some of the issues raised so far will be considered controversial, Pruett said, particularly those that address rural development in the areas of land use and zoning.
The future of growth
“Some people are going to be for it, and some people are going to be against the idea of property zoning,” Pruett said. “This is one issue we are looking at.”
Pontotoc Mayor Herman Austin said he was encouraged by the number of people who attended the first meeting and the issues that were raised.
“There is a shortage of affordable housing in Pontotoc County, just as there is in Lee County and Union County,” Austin said. “But one of the things that was discussed the most was controlled growth and that usually means looking at zoning ordinances and building codes.”
Austin said he was pleased with the open forum style of the meeting, which encouraged people to speak their minds.
“I believe that when the people talk, just like E.F. Hutton, public officials need to listen,” he said.
Pruett said people need to come to the meetings with open minds and a willingness to discuss what they see as the future of their communities.
After all the meetings are held and the issues defined, a Planning and Development Committee will meet to start developing strategies for addressing the issues, Pruett said. The committee will be composed of 12 to 16 members, a cross section of people from every part of the county and every walk of life.
“This is going to be a Pontotoc County effort,” he said. “We want every community involved and excited about making this a better place to live, work and raise a family.”