Help me understand something…

UPDATE ON MY COMMUNITY CENTER RANT….
I have read some great comments since posting my thoughts on the community center. When I posted, I stated my opinions against the project – but I have the desire to understand why we would need a building that seems to me and many others like overkill at this time. A very good comment that helps to bring people like me on balance with this matter, thus helping to bring clarity is found on the Monticello Live page. Click here to go to Rick Hales’ comment in support of the new community center. He helps people like me, who are not business people to understand how something like this may be a helpful thing. After reading his and other comments, I’m now leaning from “dead set against it for now” to more of a cautious opinion of the facility.

I’m not sure of any answers that would bring jobs to the city right away. Infrastructure that would support such incoming industry and jobs is definitely needed, and maybe a community center is part of that needed infrastructure. Sorry if, in my naivity I seemed to be rebuking “elders” in community leadership on things I’m not as well educated on. This subject is of such interest to so many in a community like Monticello – it’s hard not to jump on a bandwagon of extreme doubt or just the opposite. It would be great to hear some ideas (I’m sure the MEDC would like to hear them as well) on what some of you reading this think would help bring in industry and much-needed jobs.

I do have an idea that I will forward to the MEDC on what could be a more economical means to providing a quality community center (unless it’s already been ruled out). Grove, Oklahoma has converted their local old Wal-Mart building into a classy-looking (doesn’t look like an old Wal-Mart) community center that serves the same purpose of the one that the MEDC is proposing. I don’t see why it couldn’t be done for half of what is being proposed.

So, I’m not all that negative. Maybe next big post, I’ll post something where we’ll all drink a Dad’s Place drink and sing Kum-By-Yah together!

Original Post:
I was on the new MonticelloLive website today (by the way, go there, comment on something, and say I sent you so I can have a chance at winning a nice IPod). I ran into an article that got me going on one of my soapboxes again. So if you don’t like soapboxers (if there’s such a term to describe someone who frequently gets on a soapbox), just click on a link to the right. Go to Google and do an image search on a fluffy little kitten or something (just turn the family filter on before you do).

The town I live in, be it as wonderful of a town as it is, has a commission called the Monticello Economic Development Commission (MEDC). The concept of MEDC, as I understand it, is a commission that will provide an inviting atmosphere for new business and industry to make the town more competitive. It’s a great idea having a commission that has the primary goal to help stir up the economy of the city. I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with the decisions being made by these otherwise incredible business people. The names of those who sit on the commission that I’ve heard have very successful businesses, and as far as I know they are sharp, forward thinking people. However, when they built the new Industrial Park and the MEDC Spec building (who knows what that’s for?) on Hwy 35 East, then designated an area 3 or 4 miles WEST of town on 278; and when I read today about the proposal to build a $6 million, 3,000-seat community center – I’m saying, “For What?!!!”

Somebody needs to do some talking before I agree to shell out another penny of sales tax to pay for what seems to be bad planning. Not being a very long-term resident of Monticello, I still like to be involved and supportive of the various facets of what’s going on here. Yet, when the MEDC proposes to build a facility for $6 million before presenting a real need for it, there’s something wrong. It would be a nice place for concerts, conferences, and other big events, but will it really be worth having? Or, would funneling that $6 million into some marketing and real planning to make Monticello an inviting place for industry that will in turn bring in well-paying jobs (not these $7/hr jobs that seem to impoverish the town already) be the right thing to do? I made a point in my comment on the MonticelloLive story about this already. A 3,000-seat conference center is not going to draw any permanent growth. It may bring in visitors, but not industry, jobs, and residents.

I’m for a nice community center like the one they’re proposing, but only when there will be enough people with jobs who can afford to support the use of it.

Being in church ministry (yeah, I have to bring that up again), I’ve seen churches that will have a 150-seat auditorium (albeit outdated), 100 attendees (and not showing a trend of growth), and can barely pay their poor pastor decide to build a brand new 500 seat auditorium (hypothetical numbers so nobody thinks I’m picking on their particular building projects, but you get the idea). For what?!! The one they have isn’t even full! Yet, instead of directing the money to bring their pastor out of poverty, doing some real outreach to hurting people (what a concept!), or building on to accomodate things that are of greater immediate need, they build something new an pretty hoping it will draw people (usually more people from other churches) into their church.

New buildings, whether they be community centers or church buildings are nice. But please, commission directors, city council members, church boards, building committees – Think about the real needs of your community/organization first. Let’s keep our priorities straight and get down to what is more important.

Now, I gotta run – I need to go shop for a bigger, faster super-gaming computer to surf the web and access my blog with!

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6 thoughts on “Help me understand something…

  1. Mark W. says:

    Actually, the building probably would receive a lot of immediate use. Being an insider (at UAM), I know that as of now a lot of community groups are using the meager facilities on the UAM campus for meetings. There is so much activity in the Student Center for these groups that UAM just hired a full time secretary to schedule campus facilites (the job used to fall on the Chancellor’s secretary). Not to kick the soapbox from beneath you, but perhaps the members of the commision are aware of this growth and believe it is already time for a bigger pair of pants.

  2. Jim says:

    You know T.J. in all honesty, I’ve thought about this long and hard, and I must say that I’m in total agreement with you. If there is that much of a need for this type of facility, there is certainly not a lot of hype going on about it, and there is definitely a lack of publicity from the groups that use the UAM facilities. The only events that come to mind in this area where large masses of people gather are either at the Monticello Billies home football games (when they’re winning) and on a smaller scale, the UAM football games. I just don’t get it. Out community is in desperate need of industry…jobs that would bring higher wages…increased wages at our existing industries. When our area is noticiably declining, and distinctly different than other parts of our state, I believe all effort should be put forth to raise our economy and bring growth to our city so there actually would be a need for a facility like this.

  3. Jeff Noble says:

    I’d have to say that I disagree with you on this point. The MEDC is working VERY hard in other areas to bring in industries and businesses. The article about the community center is only one facet of a much larger strategy.

    A community center is essential to a town like ours that has NO alternatives. The college has no facility for large groups of this nature, and that prevents southeast Arkansas from hosting corporate events, popular entertainment groups, and conventions. The only place around here that can host events of that size is in Pine Bluff.

    It will go a long to bringing in businesses, revenue, and promotion for our community and region. I like the direction the city is headed with these plans and applaud them for their forward thinking.

    For those of you inclined to deride the idea before investigating further, I urge you to get informed, attend a public MEDC meeting (first Wednesday at UAM) and ask questions and get excited about the hard work these folks are doing behind the scenes.

    They didn’t get started until 1997 – far behind the proactivity of larger communities, so they’ve had to play catch up in many ways. However, their current planning and leadership is gaining momentum, and there are great days ahead.

  4. Mark W. says:

    Jeff wrote, “attend a public MEDC meeting (first Wednesday at UAM)…”

    That’s hilarious! The meeting would be scheduled at UAM, wouldn’t it? Fun-ny!

  5. TJ says:

    Great comments everybody. This is helping to enlighten me on the possiblity of community space being needed.

    Please know, I think the people in the MEDC are some of the most brilliant buisiness people in town. I’m sure look at more than just single projects. I’m sure there is not a “one-button” solution to growing the city, and maybe a community center is a facet of bringing the town out of where it is. But while I, too, applaud the MEDC for their efforts and forward thinking, I’d just like to see how the new community center plays out as a high priority in the grand scheme of things. Maybe attending an MEDC meeting will help in the ability to see the larger picture.

    Here’s my question, and maybe attending a meeting and asking the commission myself is more appropriate: While it would help the community to have a place to hold conferences and events without invading the university, is this the highest priority element for promoting economic growth in Monticello?

    Anybody?

  6. Jeff Noble says:

    TJ,
    I really enjoy how you are willing to “update” your posts to reflect your current state of mind. It shows great willingness to think and to allow other’s thoughts to influence and facilitate your own.

    Thanks for helping us all to question things.

    I, too, think the old Wal-Mart center should be utilized in such a way. Our church, at one time, earnestly pursued WC Whaley with the intentions of creating a community center – though not as on as grand a scale.

    I think there could be some “wiggle room” for all of us if more of us would contribute our thoughts in a forum (MEDC meeting) where folks might hear.

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