Ask the candidates
Editor's note: In an effort to help inform the public about issues in the Meridian mayor's race, The Meridian Star is posing a series of questions to the candidates. The questions are based on input from our readers, and the candidates' responses to the third set of questions appear today.
Q: What impact do you think the new industrial park will have on the future of Meridian?
Charlie Haynes: I believe that the Industrial Park in the VERY long term will help our community gain and secure some of the much needed industrial growth we need to stimulate the economy of Meridian and the surrounding area. Before that ever takes place there is MUCH more site development work to be done and much more money to be spent to get it ready.
We need industry NOW not later.
As mayor I will get busy trying to make proper and profitable use of the existing facilities we already have in place to bring more immediate economical progress to the hurting people of this community.
William Hugh Johnson: The so-called "new industrial park" is, in reality, undeveloped pasture land at the Malone Ranch site. Tens of millions of additional public tax dollars will be required to make the area usable for industrial purposes.
Meridian already has almost a thousand acres of empty industrial park property. The Smith administration has failed to lease the Delco building for one dollar a year. And there are empty buildings all around our city which could be used for industrial purposes.
Until we fill up existing empty industrial sites, it is insane to raise taxes for another empty industrial site.
Bill McBride: We have been informed by both city and county officials this new industrial park was the missing piece of the puzzle which was needed to spur our economic growth. I certainly hope and pray they are correct.
It will have very little impact until infrastructure is available, which is some 12-14 months in the future. Then it may have a larger impact if aggressive action is taken to pursue industry and manufacturing companies to locate there.
John Robert Smith: The new industrial park will allow us to attract manufacturing and distribution operations that we've been unable to attract in the last few years, primarily because these kinds of businesses need large tracts of land and access to both interstate highways and rail.
Five years ago, we started discussions with local business leaders about the need for an intermodal industrial park but we've just recently all come together and made that a priority.
Since the announcement of the new park, we've already had a strong interest shown by both national and international companies. The development of this park will create excellent jobs and allow us to play off the strength of our transportation network.
Q: Meridian Public School District officials say two new schools are needed as soon as possible. Do you agree? If not, why. If yes, how would you propose to generate the money for construction?
Charlie Haynes: I will not say that due to the continuing growth of the county as a result of folks fleeing the city that we won't at some time in the
foreseeable future need to build some newer schools county wide. BUT as mayor my focus must be on providing the finest education possible to kids in the inner-city schools.
I will be personally involved in seeing that the facilities that are currently in place are brought up to standard and operated efficiently and I will be personally involved in seeing that the standard of education in our city schools remains high for BOTH the performance of the teachers and the students.
William Hugh Johnson: Meridian Public School District officials seem more interested in raising their own salaries than in the educational needs of students.
The only way to construct two new schools would be to raise taxes to pay off another massive bond issue. The voters rejected two school bond issues, and without fundamental changes at the Central Office I believe would reject another bond issue attempt.
Because of the wasteful spending of the Smith administration, we simply can't afford additional taxes at this time.
We must repair existing schools and work to upgrade education, rather than seek new buildings until a new city administration rebuilds our local economy.