February 28, 2012 10:24:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Starkville's first town hall meeting via a social network proved that community stakeholders -- from students to retirees -- are passionate about moving the city forward.
It's exactly what Small Pond Graphics owner Haley Montgomery and Starkville Main Street Association Manager Jennifer Gregory had in mind last week when they announced Monday night's forum via the social media platform, Twitter.
Formed in response to a Twitter discussion about the growing divide between the residents and city/business leaders, the two-hour long forum also elicited quality ideas and feedback.
Starkville's sidewalks and paths were a hot topic, as was the debate between local shopping and chain retailers.
"It was a great way to have so many of our local stores participating," Gregory said. "But it was great to hear the (Mississippi State) students want to shop local, too."
Several of the suggestions, like improving parking downtown and on Main Street, are part of the Main Street Association's strategic plan, she added.
"How can we identify more parking, make some public-private parking agreements to potentially share during evenings and weekends?" Gregory asked. "Can we incorporate that into our new way-finding signage? There's no way to create more parking on Main, but in a two to three block radius, there's plenty."
Main Street has a team sifting through all the information gathered Monday to find the most relevant and helpful tweets. They'll compile a top 10 list that will be available to the public and distributed to local and county government agencies.
Monday, Starkville aldermen Jeremiah Dumas and Eric Parker answered questions. Gregory represented the Starkville Main Street Association and Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau, while various student group leaders represented students.
Some of the common threads were the need for more restaurants, paving of Blackjack Road and improving public education. Some participants railed against local bicycle helmet laws, arguing that the laws, which were established by the city in 2010, discouraged MSU students from riding their bikes.
The most common discussion was about what Starkville lacked or needed to improve its nightlife, dining and entertainment.
The much-delayed Cotton Mill Marketplace project is expected to boost Highway 12 and turn Russell Street into a vibrant shopping and dinning area. But the $80 million project hasn't officially launched.
"(It's) extremely crucial," said Dumas. "With it still moving, people wait to see what happens. A definitive answer is needed."
MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said he hopes the city will focus on improving public education and becoming more pedestrian-friendly.
Gregory said the CVB and Main Street are working with a consultant to market properties -- particularly on Russell Street or downtown -- to alternative grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.
Main Street and the CVB also researching a smart phone application to bundle retail information and happenings throughout town.
Twitter is an service that allows people to have conversations online. Twitter messages-- or tweets-- are limited in their length, allowing for very fast conversations to take place.
@BillFiord: Retroactive sign ordinance on 12. -RT @kwrather: Whats the coolest, cheapest thing #Starkville could do in next 3 mths? #starkville2012
@KatieKatherineC: 3) Best ideas: organic food market; creating an art gallery -everybody wants to promote local, what abt our local talent?!? #Starkville2012
@Rtrisler: agree! 10 and under what do kids do? How are the parks n rec for these kids? #starkville2012 . Promote growth thru children.
@AleStateYall: Move city hall and police out of downtown so restaurants can wrap around to Lampkin. Let downtown grow. #starkville2012
1. Vo-tech: City schools offer Falcons hands-on learning COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Breast cancer survivors share stories of faith, love COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Starkville, MSU officials tackling SMART route issues STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY