Strategic plan gets public comments

Published 9:34 pm Friday, February 1, 2008

In the first Strategic Plan meeting since Hurricane Katrina, turn out was high and public ideas on growth flowed freely.

Public officials and some members of World Vision at the beginning of the meeting shared some things they would like to see or things they have studied. Then the public broke off into groups to formulate ideas for growth.

The premise of Strategic Plan meetings, which are hosted by Partners for Pearl River County, is to gather comments on how the public would like the county to grow. Partners for Pearl River County board member Glade Woods said the meetings are held each year in a quarterly fashion. The next meeting will be held in Poplarville so north county residents won’t have to drive so far to attend. At each meeting previous meeting topics are reviewed and built upon, Woods said.

“It’s a living dynamic plan. It’s not a dead plan once you put it on a shelf,” Woods said.

District III Supervisor Hudson Holliday shared some thoughts in his speech at the meeting on the importance of economic development. He described economic development as a road trip to a destination.

“There’s going to be some detours, roads are going to be closed … but you never lose sight of the destination,” Holliday said.

In addition, the trip should not focus on only the county or a city, interest in economic development should be shared.

“There’s not room on this trip for self interest,” Holliday said.

District IV Supervisor J. Patrick Lee said his idea of a county vision is to provide his children with a good education and provide them good jobs close to home when they graduate.

Historically, the county government and city governments have not had good working relationships. Lee said differences need to be worked past so governments can work together, making decisions for the betterment of the county.

City Council member Leavern Guy echoed the possibility of unity, saying it is needed. He said City of Picayune is looking to move forward with the county supervisors.

Lee said public opinion is important and that he would like to see increased public attendance at board of supervisor meetings.

“The more interactions we have with the community, the better off we will be,” Lee said.

One major thing the county has dealt with includes an increase in population. Population increases can be expected, especially after a major catastrophe such as Hurricane Katrina. World Vision representative Tommy Goode said his estimates show the county’s population has grown by about 10,000, most of that as a result of Katrina. He placed the growth rate after Katrina at about 16.1 percent.

Guy has noticed is that even with the growth tax dollars have not increased since people are not shopping in Pearl River County. Shoppers have been taking their money across state and county lines to places such as Slidell, La. Guy has some ideas to overcome that obstacle, which he said he would share at a later date.

In coming years Goode projects the county’s growth rate to return to normal, or about two percent a year. Some other statistics he gathered show that while the median income in Pearl River County is about $47,000 about half of the population is living in poverty.

Another World Vision representative, Jocelyn Landry, said the county already has a number of services available. According to her statistics, Pearl River County has 23 schools, nine commercial trailer parks, two libraries, two hospitals, 26 volunteer fire stations and 76 places of worship. The next step will be to map services the county offers and locate flood areas while determining who lives in those areas. With that information the county should determine a land use plan.

After the speeches, attendees were broken into seven groups to discuss how they would like to see the county grow in respect to the seven building blocks. Those blocks include heritage, jobs and economy, education, civic infrastructure, social infrastructure, physical infrastructure and faith based. Each team took ideas from previous meetings and decided if they still applied. If not, the ideas were dropped or modified. They also came up with new ideas.

The Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation has provided about $368,155.67 in grant funds to spur growth. The board of supervisors received $286,678.01 while Partners for Pearl River County received $71,477.66 from LPRVF, Dr. Ted Alexander said.