City, council officials talk shop in meeting

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tight budgets and a decreasing population were the popular topics discussed at the quarterly Intergovernmental Cooperative Council meeting Tuesday, hosted by Tyronza mayor Marion Bearden.

Poinsett County Judge Charles Nix and the mayors of Trumann, Marked Tree, Tyronza, Harrisburg and Lepanto all met to discuss what was happening in their respective communities.

In Trumann, mayor Sheila Walters mentioned that several new businesses have moved in, including Tropical Twist Pizza, Pawpaw's BBQ, Country Mart and Higginbotham's Dental. The police got cameras for their cars, she said, and the city got lift stations for the sewers with telephone lines installed.

Walters said the city was "okay" with the budget last year, adding that she is "cautiously optimistic -- but we want to have a few dollars in the bank for hard times."

Mayor Wayne Nichols said things in Marked Tree are "going real well." He mentioned the money that Robert Leet-Corday left the city. Nichols said the current economy "kind of scares me."

"Hopefully we'll have a reserve at the end of the year," he added. "We'll need to be frugal with our money." Nichols also talked about the need to make cities in the Delta attractive to young people.

"In the Delta, we're losing population, and we've got to turn that around," he said. "We've got to have our schools be the nucleus of each community."

He added that having great school systems would make younger families want to stay.

Mayor Steve Jernigan of Lepanto said that city has applied for a grant for cameras in police cars. Jernigan also mentioned that "the population of our cities is older, and we've been losing population at our school system for years now."

He emphasized the need to turn that around. Of the budget, Jernigan said, "There's not 50 cents left over in that." He went on to say that if Delta cities do not make themselves attractive and bring people in, "we're doomed."

For Tyronza, mayor Marion Bearden said that city is "in the same situation with revenue," but added she was happy to report that Tyronza had a balanced budget every year. Bearden mentioned the Senior Citizens Building, groundbreaking for which should start in the spring. She also mentioned the October fire that took out four buildings downtown.

Bearden said they have a Master Street Plan designed, adding she "would love to see small businesses come in downtown."

Tyronza also received a JAG grant for $49,000 which is going toward a new police car and equipment, she said. Bearden is looking forward to 2011 and said, "We've been blessed with young people not wanting to move out. I credit the schools with that."

Harrisburg mayor Randy Mills said new housing is selling well and that the city is working on economic development. Mills said he wants "to search out grants and grow the city," and mentioned the need to develop long-term and short-term plans for Harrisburg.

"I think it's essential that citizens have a part in the plan," Mills said. Mills also hopes to bring more businesses to the area and wants to do a marketing survey and try to be more conservative on spending.

Judge Charles Nix said he "feels good about how the county ended the year" on budgets. He mentioned a Courthouse Restoration Grant, noting the courthouse is in good shape, though workers still are trying to isolate a leak problem.

On economic develop, Nix stressed the need to bring people together and ready a plan on the county level.

"The big thing is trying to make a plan that's sustainable and works," Nix said.

The next meeting will be held in Trumann on April 12.

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