Survey indicates strengths, failings of Lawrence County

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, May 9, 2000


MONTICELLO — Lawrence County received a positive reportin a survey of residents conducted recently by the MississippiDepartment of Economic and Community Development.

MONTICELLO — Lawrence County received a positive reportin a survey of residents conducted recently by the MississippiDepartment of Economic and Community Development.

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The survey was conducted in January and results werecompared with the same survey given in 1994. The Community Surveyis a tool used by the Lawrence County Competitive Community Programand county and city officials to guide their economic and communitydevelopment efforts.

The survey dealt with questions on the economicdevelopment, county issues, city issues, schools and lawenforcement of the county.

Calvin Fortenberry, president of the county’s board ofsupervisors, said the report was positive in most areas in topicscontrolled by the supervisors, but also showed where more emphasiscould be placed and work needs to be done.

One of the positive results Fortenberry pointed to wasthe increase in the number who rated the county as a good place tolive and raise a family.

In 1994, 28 percent called the county excellent,compared to 34 percent in 2000. The fair and poor categories werevirtually unchanged, but the good category declined from 53 percentin 1994 to 47 percent in 2000.

“It’s an all-around good place to raise your family withgood schools, roads, etc.,” Fortenberry said of the results. Headded that low crime and new additions, such as the Civic CenterPlayhouse, Cooper’s Ferry Park and a larger grocery store probablyhelped influenced the report as well.


The county’s greatest strengths according to the 1994 resultswere a small town atmosphere (70 percent), people (57 percent), lowcrime (42 percent) and schools (7 percent). The 2000 results weremore evenly distributed with small town atmosphere still leadingwith 36 percent, people at 32 percent, followed by schools at 18percent and low crime at 13 percent.

Fortenberry said the evening of the response field is a resultof better schools and law enforcement and the quality of the peopleliving in the county.

“Our greatest strength is our young people,” he said. “I don’tknow how many times we’ve been over to the schools with the drugdog, but we haven’t caught anyone yet. I don’t want to say the drugpresence is nonexistent, but it’s certainly not prevalent.”


A lack of jobs continued to dominate results of the county’sgreatest weaknesses. Lack of leadership, which was the number tworesponse in 1994, dropped off the list in 2000 and was replaced bydrugs-crime. Schools held the third slot in both surveys.

Fortenberry said he was pleased to see the public acknowledgethe efforts of the county leaders and admitted gainful employmentremained as an area where they must continue to work harder.

“We’re doing everything possible we can for the county,” hesaid. “Lack of jobs is a problem in just about every community.We’ve been working on getting industry here as hard as we can.”

Residents did, in fact, acknowledge the efforts the county’sleadership was making to improve the county when they were askedabout it. The county’s leadership jumped from 1 to 13 percent inthe excellent category and 30 to 53 percent in the good categorywhile declining from 42 to 27 percent in the fair grouping and 18to 3 percent in the poor category from 1994 to 2000.

“I think that’s true,” Fortenberry said. “I believe we’refortunate because this is an aggressive board. I think during themeetings you can tell the leaders are doing what is best for thecounty.”

The public was also positive about their tax dollars. From 1994to 2000, those who said they are getting their money’s worth fromtax dollars rose from 43.5 to 52.2 percent.

“That’s because the things we’re doing are positive,”Fortenberry said. “We have a new jail, a new grocery store, theSenior Life Center and a multi-purpose facility. A differentsection of society uses each of those so everyone is gettingsomething.”

The board president admitted he was confused by the results oftwo questions on the survey. When asked who was trying to improvethe local economy, supervisors were ranked first in 2000, but onthe next question, which asked who is not involved who should be,they were also listed first.

“It’s kind of confusing,” he said. “I don’t understand how thatcould be.”

Fortenberry could not offer any explanations for theresults.


The supervisor was also confused and surprised by the results ofquestion which asked how residents would rate their roads, streetsand bridges. The results were virtually unchanged.

“I’ve got every bad bridge in my district replaced and all theroads are in good shape,” he said. “Every supervisor has made largestrides in improving their roads and paved many of them for thefirst time. I don’t see how people can say they haven’timproved.”

Overall, however, Fortenberry said the results of the surveyshowed a county on the move and progressing fast. A few speed bumpsremained to be smoothed over, but he said the path ahead appearedto be a positive one.