Meridian, Miss. A comprehensive plan is being developed to revitalize parts of Meridian. City council members recently met with officials from the Community Development and Public Works Departments to start developing a five year plan that will revitalize parts of the city. Ward 5 Councilman Randy Hammon says the plan will have at least three phases; this includes one to hire an additional code enforcement officer, and another that will increase the city's population.
"We want to increase our population because we lose 300 to 500 people every year out of the city," says Hammon. "We want to at least stop that, put the brakes on it, and then move in a positive direction."
Councilman Hammon says that positive direction will not only improve the quality of life for residents, but also the city's tax base.
"We have an idea that we can increase the city's population by 1,000 people, which means on average $1,000 in real estate tax, which is a $1,000,000 plan. One thousand people generate $1,000,000. They generate $1,000 every time that they pay their taxes, and when we keep losing people we're losing $1,000,000 every two to three years."
According to Hammon the plan is being modeled after similar efforts that have been successful in the cities of Hattiesburg, Tupelo and McComb.
"The ultimate plan is to go to the ITP codes, which are the International Property Maintenance Codes."
In an effort to more quickly address the issue of urban blight in some areas, Hammon says the council is increasing funding for an inter-local project which removes dilapidated houses in Meridian.
"We've put $250,000 in the budget this year for the first time in twenty years to take some of the blighted houses down, to clean up portions of this city. In January and February that will pick up and next year I believe that we will finance more of that action and get some developers, Habitat for Humanity and other ministries involved."