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City, businesses prepare for PRCC population increase

Pearl River Community College’s fall classes begin Monday, meaning Poplarville’s population will double in size, said Mayor Rossie Creel.

“It’s a huge impact all the way around—economically of course, it increases traffic in the mornings and the afternoons,” Creel said.

The increase in the number of people in the city limits also increases call volume for the Poplarville Fire Department, said Fire Chief Jonathan Head.

“The amount of people they have on the campus on a regular day is sometimes more than in the rest of the city, so it’s reasonable that our calls for service there will increase,” Head said.

Chief of Police Greg Hartley said he is not sure if the influx of people will affect call volume, but does expect an increase in traffic congestion. Along Highway 53 near the Middle School of Poplarville and Poplarville High School is especially prone to back up, Hartley said. Every year, the police department asks college faculty, staff and students to exit the interstate at 29, so drivers can use Highway 26 to bypass high school and middle school traffic during busy morning and afternoon times, Hartley said. Traffic congestion is expected to peak in the morning between 7:30 and 8:30, and again from 2:45 to 3:30 p.m.

The fire department conducts safety inspections of the dorms before every semester to prepare for the students’ return to campus, Head said. The department also does pre-fire planning throughout the year, Head said.

“We work pretty well with the college,” Head said. “We have the same goal and mindset for the safety of everybody on the campus and throughout the city.”

The campus’ dorms will be at full capacity, with 815 students expected to live on-campus this fall, said Camelle Williams, the coordinator of residence life for PRCC. There are 451 students on the waiting list for dorms, Williams said. To meet that need, two more dorm buildings will be built in 2020 to increase the capacity of on-campus housing.

Enrollment numbers for fall 2019 are not yet available, because registration is still open, but in fall 2018, 5,029 students enrolled at a PRCC facility, with the majority of those students attending the Poplarville campus, according to information provided by the admissions office. The city’s population was estimated to be 2,938 in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Fact Finder.

Poplarville businesses expect to benefit from the increased population, said Chamber of Commerce secretary Michele Lewis.

Many of the downtown businesses incentivize students to shop by offering student discounts, said Creel.

“Without Pearl River Community College we’re not who we are. They’re a part of our identity, and we understand and recognize that and try to capitalize on that every year,” Creel said.