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Growing outside the city… County living a magnetic draw

By Staff
GOOD AREA FOR KIDS' "The school was one of the big attractions. We heard that is was a really good area for kids," said Bruce Marsack, a resident of Okatibbee Dam subdivision. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
July 1, 2001
Although it isn't quite an exodus of Biblical proportions, more and more families are opting to bypass living in the city of Meridian in favor of newer subdivisions in Lauderdale County.
With a declining population and an eroding tax base as proof, city officials are wrestling with a basic question: Why do more and more people choose living in the county?
Some say the answer is as simple as the magnetic draw of county schools and open spaces. Others believe "reasonable" housing options inside the city continue to shrink with the passage of time.
Whatever the reason, Census 2000 showed a drop in the city's population and a commensurate gain in Lauderdale County.
New homes
One of many comfortable new residential developments in Lauderdale County is the Okatibbee Dam Subdivision, located off Highway 19 near Okatibbee Lake. The Meridian Star asked residents of that subdivision why they lived there, and their answers were illustrative.
For Meridian Police Department Sgt. David Moffett, the answer was simple: New homes for middle-class families with the likely prospect of increasing property values, something Moffett wasn't so sure about inside the city.
For the Moffetts, many homes were nice, but a little too pricey. Moffett said the city seemed to lack more recently-built middle-class subdivisions.
Prices of homes in the Okatibbee Dam Subdivision average between $110,000 and $120,000. Moffet said he and his wife found some homes they were really fond of in the city, but the prices were about $140,000.
Antiques Roadshow'
Carol Fideler, 32, found similar problems when she, her husband and two children moved from Neshoba County and came looking for a home inside the city.
Fideler said she and her husband appreciate antiques as much as anyone, but shopping for homes in the city of Meridian often seemed like their own version of Antiques Roadshow.
Large lots
For Andra Sciple the move for her husband and two children into Okatibbee Dam Subdivision was more about comfort than anything else
With large lots and large spaces between homes in the subdivision, Sciple said the move was natural. She and her husband did not look in the city for homes.
Better educational opportunities also formed the basis for Bruce Marsack's move to the subdivision. The instructor pilot at NAS Meridian moved to the subdivision in March and the West Lauderdale School District played a large role in that decision.
Marsack and his wife have two daughters, ages seven and nine.
Marsack said the availability of homes on the market for his quick transfer to NAS Meridian also made a difference. He said he wanted a newer home and wanted to find it quick when he came on "House Hunting Leave" in February.
According to Fideler, the school district also made somewhat of an impact on her family's decision too.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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