Residents help plan for town’s future

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 11, 2006

WESSON – Residents helped the Wesson Long Range PlanningCommittee identify several areas of future focus during a townmeeting at Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Thames Center Mondaynight.

“We’ve come up with a lot of ideas, but we seem to be strugglingon which are the most important,” said Jeff Knight, a committeemember and the city’s engineer.

The committee, formed in January, has been tasked withidentifying the town’s needs and advising leaders on where to focustheir efforts over the next five to 10 years to help the town growand prosper.

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Through a barnstorming and voting process, the approximately 30attendees prioritized the town’s future direction in economicdevelopment, recreation and historical emphasis.

“This process will not minimize any ideas,” Knight said. “Everyindividual and the way they see their community is important.”

However, Knight admitted the process could be skewed slightly bythe age of the attendees, which was largely seniors. No oneattending the event was younger than their mid-thirties.

The meeting identified a grocery store and drug store aseconomic development needs, a family park and arts festival asrecreation needs and agreed to focus historical efforts on theWesson lumber mills and increase reference materials about Wessonin the town and college libraries.

“If we can work toward achieving just the top two ideas in thesecategories, can you imagine where Wesson will be in the next fiveto 10 years?” Knight asked. “It’s the small steps we start now thatlead to the big steps in the years and generations to come.”

Attendees were given a category, such as economic development,and asked to submit three ideas for future focus. Those items werethen listed on a board and attendees received a number of votes todistribute among the ideas, with no idea allowed to receive morethan three votes from one attendee.

Committee members would then refer to the priority listsgenerated during this meeting when making recommendations to townleaders and making decisions regarding the town’s future.

In economic development, attendees suggested a grocery store,drug store, retail development, housing development, entertainmentand recreation and industrial development to improve the town’s taxbase and boost population.

A grocery store led the voting by a more than 2-to-1 marginfollowed by a drug store.

Recreation ideas included a family park, arts festival,bike/hiking trail, recreational center (with an emphasis on theyouth), a Boys and Girls Club chapter, sports complex, movietheater and a swimming pool.

“Everyone here has a very open mind,” Knight said. “There werethree people who put down a swimming pool, but it got no votes.That tells me we’re willing to concede to better ideas.”

A family park was clearly the most popular concept after WessonPolice Department Capt. J.W. Inman pointed out that shade trees,benches and a relaxing atmosphere in the downtown area would makethe town’s two annual festivals more inviting to visitors byallowing them a place to rest comfortably.

Wesson is a historical town, Knight said, and he asked attendeeshow the town could capitalize on that history economically whileensuring its past remains important and fresh to futuregenerations.

Attendees cited emphasis on the importance of the lumber millsand educating the youth as the most important. Other ideas includedthe town’s architecture, a museum, the cemetery, the influential orinteresting people of the town and the old schools.

Attempts to define a focus on education failed.

Knight said further clarification on the committee’s educationalgoals would have to be devised. However, the committee would lookat the submitted ideas before submitting any recommendations.

“I think it’s very loud and clear we need better facilities atWesson Attendance Center,” Knight said, reviewing some of theideas.

Knight urged all attendees to stay involved in the town’sdevelopment.

“None of these ideas will work without your full support,” hesaid. “I think we have an excellent place to start.”