Perry to seek public input to move city forward

chwright@macon.comApril 15, 2013 

PERRY -- The community is going to have to help Perry reach its full potential, city officials said Monday.

“There’s no way that we can -- as a council or as a staff -- get that all done, short term or long term,” said Mayor Jimmy Faircloth.

Faircloth was referring to notes that filled three walls of Post-It notes in the New Perry Hotel after the council’s three-hour planning session. Facilitator Langford Holbrook, from the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, led city officials in a discussion about their vision for the next three years.

Holbrook scribbled council’s suggestions on the large pieces of paper as he asked council what they’re doing well, want to do better and must accomplish to become a better city. He then posted them around the room.

Towards the end of the meeting, Faircloth asked Holbrook if he thought the officials should bring in outside help.

“I would be spending my time bringing in other people to come in and help,” Holbrook said. “Y’all’s role is to decide on the direction. Then you bring in folks to decide how it’s going to happen.”

Holbrook explained he knows plenty of examples of cities that have brought in private, public and community groups to help achieve their visions.

Many of the topics discussed Monday weren’t new. Among them were funding for the staff of the new fire station, service fees, recruiting small businesses and a new Farmer’s Market location.

Holbrook said he’ll prepare a report of the topics discussed and his recommendations. It should be ready next week, he said.

The top two topics were economic development that would help the city diversify its revenue stream and improving recreation to produce a better lifestyle for residents and potential residents.

“We want to force people in Macon to think, ‘Well Macon’s great, but let’s move down to Perry,’” said Council Joe Posey.

Council members listed swimming, fishing -- not just at the Go Fish Georgia Education Center, and passive recreation as possibilities.

In their discussion about economic development, council once again said it’s time they find more stable sources of revenue.

When they talked about trends that will affect the city as time goes on, Faircloth noted a continuing decline in revenue.

“It just keeps declining,” he said. “We need to be aware of that.”

Service fees have not gone over well with community members in the past, and council recognized that Monday. But they said, the city has to explore options.

Other trends the officials identified included health insurance changes, technology, a review of Robins Air Force Base and longer life expectancies.

Council members said they have accomplished a lot since taking office. Faircloth pointed to the new fire station under construction, the completion of the Ball Street extension and growth of festivals, such as the Dogwood Festival.

“We are moving toward the community that we all want to have,” Faircloth said, adding some changes have been subtle while others have been drastic.

The mayor said though council has a vision, it will ultimately conform to what the residents want.

“What we put on here today may not be what we actually do,” he said. “If someone in the community has another idea or a better idea on how to do it, we’ll change direction.”

In order to do so though, the community has to become more involved in the process.

“The days for government being the answer to people’s issues are gone,” he said. “We have got to have the people weigh in.”

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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