September 20, 2009 1:11:00 AM
Birney Imes - [email protected]
Saturday, after the rains, Patricia McKinley sat on the porch of her house listening to music and visiting with her daughter and a handful of friends. McKinley has lived in the house all her 48 years. It belongs to her 84-year-old grandmother, who still lives there. Located at the corner of Coretta and Seventh Avenue North, the house is among a sprinkling of structures in this forgotten corner of the city that may give way for the proposed city park/soccer complex.
The Burns Bottom area under consideration is about 70 acres, but officials say a soccer complex could be built with much less. We hope the city and county will adhere to the vision presented earlier this month by a Main Street sponsored charrette, the creation of a large city park that has as one of its features, soccer fields.
McKinley says she''s not against selling if the price is right. She and her family live in a house they have owned for decades. If she sold she would expect to be able to end up in at least as good circumstances as she''s in now.
"If they are going to uproot us, it has to be worth our while," she said.
McKinley remembers as a little girl several houses on her street inhabited by the Burns family.
Thursday morning county supervisors and the city council in an 2-1/2 hour long meeting discussed the city''s recreation needs, with an emphasis on the development of a soccer park in that area that now bears the Burns name. (A selection of quotes from that meeting is printed below.)
As they often do, Leroy Brooks and Harry Sanders offered conflicting plans, both of which have their merits.
Sanders proposed the county buy the land in Burns Bottom and essentially build the soccer park. For its part, the city would contribute about 15 acres it owns in the area, along with streets and existing infrastructure. Additionally, Sanders wants the city to upgrade the Trotter Convention Center funding it with a hotel tax that generates about $200,000 a year. Developer Mark Castleberry has agreed in principle to put a Holiday Inn Express where the Gilmer is now if the soccer park is built in Burns Bottom.
Brooks suggested the supes approve a $6- or $7-million bond issue to pay for the soccer park, a reconfiguring of Propst Park and an upgrade of neighborhood parks. He proposed servicing the bond debt with money now going to pay for the jail. That debt will be retired at the end of 2012. As Brooks pointed out, the plan would take care of the county''s recreation needs for the foreseeable future.
In the end, the group endorsed Sanders'' plan voting to commit $3.25 million for the Burns Bottom project with the city agreeing to pursue the Trotter upgrade.
To those who take smug satisfaction in pointing to the city''s financial woes, Brooks had something to say.
"I don''t see county-city," Brooks said. "I see the city as the face of the county. If the city collapses, the county collapses."
Brooks is right. The city''s and county''s fortunes are linked. The county''s recent economic successes are in part due to the charm of Columbus, the town. As Brooks said, the city is the face of the county. Whether you live in Rural Hill, Lone Oak, Caledonia, Plum Grove or Steens, it is essential the city of Columbus flourishes.
Frank dialog on race
Charles Miller wrote the other day to say he and Frank Ferguson had been brainstorming about ways to build racial unity. They wondered if something could be done through the newspaper to foster more understanding.
Miller wrote: "This might be interesting. God knows, things in the country seem to be going to hell, and cable news is full of vitriol. Maybe now is the time for frank dialog. It certainly wouldn''t hurt. Maybe somebody can be reached and made better by the openness."
I think the most effective way to understand ethnic differences is to get people together doing things, even if it''s only two people going to lunch together, or having coffee.
Having things in the paper is good and is something we''re willing to do, but there is no substitute for human contact.
I like the idea of a series of community walks, blacks and whites walking together, along the Riverwalk or through different neighborhoods.
Call them Unity Walks. Organizers could pair walkers, a buddy system of sorts. Conceivably the end of the walk, a new bond would be established.
What would you suggest to foster better understanding between ethnic groups? E-mail me your ideas.
Write or phone Birney Imes at The Commercial Dispatch, 516 Main St., Columbus, MS 39701, 328-2424, or e-mail him at [email protected]
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.