• 75°

Survey shows accomplishments, new jobs to be done in Monticello

THIRD IN A SERIES

MONTICELLO — Officials here are pleased with a positiveresponse the town received in a survey of residents conducted bythe Mississippi Department of Economic and CommunityDevelopment.

MONTICELLO — Officials here are pleased with a positiveresponse the town received in a survey of residents conducted bythe Mississippi Department of Economic and CommunityDevelopment.

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 city and county officials to guide their economic and communitydevelopment efforts.

The survey dealt with questions that reflected on theeconomic development, county issues, city issues, schools and lawenforcement of Lawrence County.

Mayor David Nichols was happy with the surveyresults.

“I’m pleased with the overall responses,” he said.”However, it also shows that we in government and leadershippositions can be — and should be — even more responsive to theideas and wishes of the general public.”

Nichols used a tax question to prove his points. Whenasked if taxpayers were getting their money’s worth, 39 percentsaid yes, 16 percent said no and 45 percent said they did notknow.

“Obviously, we have not done a good enough job ofletting the public know where there money is going,” hesaid.

A counterpoint to the tax question was an increase inthe positive response to city leadership. In 1994, 6 percent ratedthat leadership as excellent, 30 percent as good, 35 percent asfair and 11 percent as poor. In 2000, results increased to 10percent as excellent, 45 percent as good, 29 percent as fair withonly 5 percent saying poor.

“I think the reason it’s up is because for the lastthree years the new administration has been blessed with a goodeconomy and has been able to accomplish many of its goals,” Nicholssaid. He added that many of these goals were identified by acitywide survey conducted when he took office in 1997.

Residents responded that crime-law enforcement was thekey political issue in 2000, up from second in 1994.

“We are striving hard to address this,” the mayor said.”We’ve hired three new police officers in the last year, which hasenabled us to have two officers on duty during thenight.”

Schools topped other issues in 1994 and replacedcrime-law enforcement in the second slot in 2000. Two issues thatappeared in 1994 and not in 2000 were a 911 system and taxes. Thecounty now has an E911 system and taxes were not raised. They werereplaced in the 2000 survey by fire protection andhealthcare.

The question was directed countywide, and Nichols saidthe same question targeting city residents would probably havedifferent results. He used the 1997 survey conducted by his officeas an example. In it, city issues were geared toward sewer lines,fire protection, parks and recreation, water supply and annexation.The mayor said they took those responses to form a three-year planand adopted it in 1998.

The mayor was listed second in 1994 and 2000 as one ofthe key figures in economic development although the top spotchanged from the community development association to thesupervisors.

“The supervisors came up and rightfully so,” Nicholssaid. “They made a commitment to economic development, and we atcity hall are just as committed as the supervisors. I think theresponse says people realize that we both know this is a criticalarea for our city and county.”

The mayor also avoided a confusing response tosupervisors. When asked who is not involved and should be,residents named the supervisors as first, banks second and civicgroups third. The mayor, who was listed third in 1994, was notpresent.

“The fact that the mayor is not mentioned in 2000 saysvolumes about our commitment to improving the local economy,”Nichols said.

In 1994, residents were asked if their downtown wasattractive, and 52 responded yes. In 2000, the question was changedso residents could rate their downtown and 3 percent responded itwas excellent, 26 percent good, 58 percent fair and 13 percentpoor.

“Even though the question is different, it tells me wehave even more work to do,” the mayor said. “Fair is not a badrating, but it’s not good either. The majority said the town wasfair. That is not good enough.”

Nichols said he was not surprised by the answer whenresidents were asked if there had been economic growth in thecounty in the last decade and 37 percent said no, down from 51percent in 1994.

“It tells me we have created more jobs and we haveoffered more shopping choices for the citizens, but mostimportantly, it tells me we are nowhere near finished,” hesaid.

The mayor said he was also not surprised when only 5percent said the county had enough recreationalfacilities.

“No, there are not enough,” Nichols said. “We need morethan just a recreational complex to accomplish this goal. We alsoneed a full-time recreational director coming up with activitiesfor citizens of all ages. I feel this can be best achieved if theleaders of all three municipalities, all elected county officialsand the supervisors would sit down together and jointly fund thisprogram.”

The mayor said such a project would not be cheap, butcould be done with a joint effort and he would be happy toparticipate in such a meeting.

In regards to housing, residents reported the city didnot have enough single family houses, rental houses, apartments,motels-hotels and childcare facilities.

“This is a good and bad problem,” Nichols said. “It’sgood because because it means we have more people moving toMonticello, but its bad because it does create a shortage for otherpeople wishing to move to Monticello.

“We are addressing this problem by partnering with aprivate builder to build ten new homes,” he added. “These homeswill be in the mid-to-upper ’70s to make them affordable for thefirst time home buyer.”

Nichols said the hotel-motel shortage will also be metsoon.

“We’re very pleased that as of now a new hotel andfurther development is taking place,” he said. “Barring anyunforeseen problems, the hotel should be completed within the next90 days.”

Nichols said that although the report shows the city hasareas in need of improvement, it also shows that many of the needsexpressed in 1994 have been met or plans are in place to meet them.He said he looks forward to the challenges presented by progressand believes the city has a good handle on issues presented in the2000 report.