By NEMS Daily Journal
Smithville’s efforts to recover residentially, commercially and financially from the devastating and deadly April 27 tornado moved forward last week with the beginning of formal input from community members about the “design” of rebuilding.
The town’s sector committees organized a Smithville Design Meeting Thursday at the Monroe County governing center, where a vision for the new Smithville began to take shape.
While some residents who were left homeless by the EF-5 tornado have started rebuilding residences, others remain in temporary housing, and some are some not living in Smithville but hoping to return.
The sector committees are comprised of Smithville and Monroe County residents with interests in the area, and their focus is on economic development, education, housing, infrastructure and social services.
Some of the ideas involved replacing widely popular recreation infrastructure, and other ideas were technology focused, like expanding fibre optics capacity to help attract Internet technology businesses.
Smithville’s process is a smaller version – but just as important – of the massive redesign efforts undertaken on the Mississippi Gulf Coast six years ago after Hurricane Katrina left rubble and ruin from Waveland near the Louisiana state line to Pascagoula.
Smithville Mayor Gregg Kennedy said late week that the town is out of money because its sales tax revenue stream dropped to almost nothing following the storm.
That critical issue is being addressed in the planning of a strong public-private sector collaboration involving officials of agencies in Monroe County, in the Northeast Mississippi region, and among elected officials in the county and at very high federal level, Gilmore Foundation Executive Director Danny J. Spreitler said Friday. Details have not been finalized and no information will be released until a full plan is ready.
Most of the businesses were damaged, destroyed or closed after the tornado. As in most other Mississippi communities, especially small towns, sales tax rebates from the state are the lifeblood of municipal revenue.
Smithville’s planning and its determination create optimism that recovery can happen, even less than three months after the storm.