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West Point gears up for charrette


Jason Browne



WEST POINT -- West Point has charrette syndrome. 


The town is gearing up to host the same charrette team that visited Columbus in September to offer comprehensive suggestions for improving and promoting the city. 


Sponsored by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and organized by the Mississippi Main Street Association, the charrette team will visit West Point April 12-14 to gather as much input as possible, perform analysis and research and construct an action plan the city can put to use. 


"I''m excited about it. It''s going to help the community decide how it wants to go forward and what we want to look like in the short term and the long term," said Mayor Scott Ross. 


The charrette team has already visited West Point once for a preliminary introduction to the town, but work will begin in earnest April 12 when the meetings begin. 


First the team will meet with its local connections: Clay County Growth Alliance Community Director Martha Allen and Mississippi Main Street Regional Director Jan Miller. Then they''ll meet with city and county officials, including Ross, Chancery Clerk Robbie Robinson, Building Inspector Mike St. Louis, Grant Writer Melanie Busby and members of the Planning Commission. 


But the big meeting comes at 6 p.m. on Monday at The Ritz when the entire town is invited to a public input session. The charrette team will ask questions to garner opinions from private citizens of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds regarding what West Point needs or should do to advance. 


"It''s critical that we have a good representation of everybody here," said Ross of community involvement at the public meeting. "It''s not going to be successful if you don''t get buy-in from the whole community." 


"We need people to come in. Now''s the time to voice their opinions," said Ward 5 Selectman Jasper Pittman, who serves on the Growth Alliance board. 


The charrette team will split up for multiple meetings with representatives from various stake holder organizations Tuesday morning before getting to work on the final presentation. The cumulative community vision plan will be unveiled Wednesday at 6 p.m. at The Ritz. 


Miller, who served as director of Columbus'' Main Street Association for seven years before joining Mississippi Main Street, says the charrette will generally address needs from design to branding and marketing to economic development. More specifically, during its preliminary visit, the charrette team and local officials identified the need to address making Highway 45 Alternate more attractive, finding a use for the Mary Holmes College campus and, of course, attracting jobs. 


Among local leaders, employment and Highway 45 were first on the list of necessary improvements.  


"Their suggestions could be things as small as new logos to as big as Highway 45, community planning and job creation," said Allen. 


"We need to enhance both the downtown area and Highway 45 in addition to bringing in industries," said Pittman. 


Although the charrette team will attempt to find funding opportunities for its suggestions in follow-up reports to the city, West Point may find itself in a situation, similar to Columbus, deciding which ideas it wants to pay for. 


"I think it depends on what the suggestions are," said Ross. 


The Growth Alliance has been raising money to help fund improvements and hopes that money, along with in-kind labor from city employees, will make some of the charrette suggestions possible, Allen said. 


Columbus is still in the midst of drafting a strategic plan for the city and is considering suggestions from its own charrette, such as creating a soccer and recreation park as opposed to a fenced sportsplex. The city has adopted logos developed by the charrette team on some publications in an effort to create a consistent brand. 


Four Mississippi cities are scheduled to receive charrettes this year through the ARC at an average cost of $23,000 per town. De Kalb, Winona and Byhalia will follow West Point.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment karren commented at 4/8/2010 7:47:00 PM:

This was a great presentation they did for Columbus. What has the city done with it? I can not see any results from what was show to us. Does anybody know what happen to this?


Article Comment kelly commented at 4/9/2010 7:42:00 AM:

Les see how Mayor Ross handles this. I don't think Columbus has done one thing to move on their presentation. Why have we done nothing?


Article Comment dave commented at 4/11/2010 1:10:00 PM:

What ever happen when Columbus GEARED up after their Charrette. Maybe the winner of the "GREAT FIGHT" will get the ball rolling. Good luck on that one. Paint a bridge? Oh, OK that's a good idea. What color?


Article Comment dave commented at 4/11/2010 8:52:00 PM:

They painted a bridge remember. Or at least they talked about it. Or they couldn't get the money. Or they picked out the color. Didn,t they? Go for it West Point but please don't copy us. That is if we do something. Even if we don't do something at least we though avout. Didn't we?


Article Comment ted commented at 4/12/2010 8:40:00 PM:

Does anyone in West Point read this? Let us know how you feel. Hello is anybody out there?


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