Town advances in bid to receive ‘retirement’ label

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Monticello’s bid to become a state-recognized retirementcommunity has advanced to the next stage of the process.

Only 18 towns plus the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a whole haveachieved the “retirement community” designation in the decade sincethe Mississippi Development Authority established the HometownMississippi Retirement Program in 1994. Brookhaven, McComb andNatchez represent southwest Mississippi on the list.

The program was reopened to new applicants late last year after10 years. Twenty-six towns have applied.

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Once this year’s selection is complete, the program will againbe closed.

“It loses its desirability as a designation if there are toomany entries, and we want to make sure we’re showcasing the best ofthe best,” said Diana O’Toole, program manager for MDA.

O’Toole said she could not say how many towns advanced to thesecond round but said last month the field would be narrowedsignificantly.

Monticello would be the smallest town on the list if selected,Mayor David Nichols said.

“We’re very excited to make it into the second round and arelooking forward to the opportunity of showing the selectioncommittee just how beautiful Monticello and Lawrence County trulyare,” he said.

The next step in the process is a site visit by the program’sselection committee.

“We’ll give them a tour of the city. I have some questions toanswer, and they want to meet with two retirees for an interview,”Nichols said.

The date and time of the site visit are not being announced atthe request of MDA, he said.

Once the selection committee has visited its short list ofapplicants, it will review and compare the towns and make tentativeselections. Those selections will then be reviewed by MDAexecutives for final approval.

“I don’t know how long that will take,” Nichols said.

Advantages to being selected for the list are many, Nicholssaid. Among them, MDA will promote the town nationally as a goodplace for retirees to live, and the designation provides a boost onapplications for grants designed to assist senior living.