Manila hosts monthly Mayor's meeting

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Gaylon Lawrence of Wilson was the guest speaker at the Mississippi county Mayor's meeting held in Manila.

Manila Mayor Wayne Wagner welcomed mayors and guests to the monthly Mississippi County Mayor's luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 21. The luncheon was held at the new terminal building at the Manila Municipal Airport.

"It is a pleasure to have you here and show off Manila's new terminal building," Mayor Wagner said. "The Manila airport was a training base for pilots in World War II. In 1951 the federal government gave the airport and a section of land to the city. The revenue from the land and airport has to be spent on the airport and can be used for matching funds for available grants. We would like to take credit for this but actually our forefathers made this possible for us. The airport features a 4,000' runway."

Wagner recognized Judge Randy Carney who works to make Mississippi County the best it can be, he said.

Judge Randy Carney praised all who work to make Mississippi County the best it can be.

Judge Carney recognized Cliff Chitwood praising him for the work he does in economic development of the county. He also welcomed Dr. Tommy Wagner; Randy Scott, Farmers Bank and Trust president; Sheriff Dale Cook and staff members.

He introduced each mayor present and asked them to share their recent progress.

Manila Mayor Wagner reported the end of the first full season for the swimming pool which broke even. He said the park projects are almost complete with the addition of a new walking trail and he hopes to begin downtown projects in the near future.

Luxora Mayor Jasper Jackson said the city received a $50,000 grant for a new fire truck. Rivercrest School District recently donated to the city a school building.

Etowah Mayor Bo McCullum said their sewer extension project should be completed in December. They have received a grant for a brush truck. He said they are working with Mayor Wagner and Representative Wagner to try to get natural gas to their area.

Keiser Mayor Jerry LaRue said water lines are being replaced and street work is being done. She said, "The meetings have helped me since I've been in office. I know county workers and officials and it is good to work together."

Blytheville Mayor James Sanders said they are working on a grant for a prayer garden and a new wastewater lab, and water expansion. An overlay on Moultrie Street is completed and other street work will be done. He said there is some economic development underway. He reported he has been elected vice president to the Municipal League in the 1st District. The league recently met with the Association of Arkansas counties, with the intention of coming together to present legislation as a solid force.

Leachville Mayor Shelia Spurlock said work has been done on the waste treatment system. The city received a grant for repaving. The council is excited about working on a clean-up project. She also asked for any help or information pointing them in the right direction for any grants available. She said their fire department building needs repairs.

Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook said they have been working on the annual budget process. He said there is some maintenance work needed on the jail facility. His deputies are busy working burglaries and dealing with drug issues. Deputies live throughout the county.

Judge Carney then introduced the guest speaker, Gaylon Lawrence, of Wilson. Lawrence recently purchased Lee Wilson & Co.

"I am not an elected official and I will just speak from the heart," Lawrence said. "I love this part of the world. At one time it was one of the brightest spots in Arkansas."

He went on to say the mechanization of agriculture took a lot of jobs away. He said too many people are just hanging on and optimism is missing in the Delta.

Lawrence said he wants to lead by example.

They have started cleaning up streets, painting buildings, repairing abandoned structures, reopened the cafe, renovating a building to house the Hampson Museum, laying out three new subdivisions, looking at lodging options and working on opening a private school.

Lawrence said Delta School, an independent school, will open in the fall of 2014 with grades K-6 and each year a grade will be added. Tuition will be charged, but hopefully there will be some subsidizing and scholarships offered.

"We have to stop the declining population," he said. "The employees who are going to work at the new steel mill and other new industries will live in West Memphis, Memphis or Jonesboro if we do nothing. We have to put our best foot forward."

Lawrence said each town in Mississippi County is unique and special and working together will make northeast Arkansas a better place.

"Each town has assets," he said. "I am interested in the county doing well."

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