By Brian Livingston
Since taking office in July, Mayor Percy Bland has had several promises he has wanted to keep to Meridian residents.
Wednesday, during a press conference in the auditorium of the Meridian City Hall, Bland gave a report of the strides his administration has made and to inform the citizens of Meridian what is on his agenda in the coming months.
"What we are trying to achieve is to make Meridian a model city," Bland said. "A place that isn't second to anyone else in the state. A place where people will want to come and live, work, and raise their families."
Bland said he was able to get a balanced budget passed without the need of raising taxes.
"This was important so that the citizens of Meridian were not put under the burden of more taxes," Bland said.
In the case of those who work for the City of Meridian, Bland said a $9 per hour minimum was adopted for all employees. Bland noted this minimum pay scale was important in the fact the national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
Bland said in terms of economic growth in Meridian, important hotel construction projects were already underway which means bringing more job opportunities to local residents. He said the added search for more businesses to locate to Meridian, such as those in the health and medical areas, will hopefully mean more jobs in the coming months.
"We have begun a health care initiative with partnerships with Anderson Regional Medical Center and Rush Foundation Hospital that we hope will result in a marked growth in these areas," Bland said. "We are trying to get the vendors for these hospitals to relocate here and that would signal a boom for us."
Bland said the marketing and discussions surrounding the Threefoot Building, a historic landmark that has for decades been the centerpiece of downtown Meridian, have been ongoing. He said a nonprofit organization has been working around the building for several weeks and he hopes new developments in this property will be on the horizon.
Bland noted that Dumont Plaza in the heart of the downtown area has Wi-Fi capability and he wants other areas, namely the Highland Park and Magnolia Park areas to have the same service. He said he is currently working toward that goal now.
For about a year now, pubic transportation for citizens in Meridian has been nonexistent. Bland said that will change in the coming months.
"In order for many of the people to get to work, to make doctors appointments, and other needs, a public transportation system needs to be in place," Bland said. "Jobs and educational needs are vital to the continue growth of Meridian but some people need transportation to get to and from their destinations. We need to provide that transportation."
Bland said Meridian has done its part by passing a resolution to provide $1 million for the construction of the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center that is slated to call Meridian home in 2017. Bland said given the history of artists and entertainers in the Magnolia State, and the fact the center will be located here in Meridian, will give the city another jewel to add to the growing number of attractions such as the Riley Center.
"We are investing in the state and highlighting the talent that has always been a part of Mississippi," Bland said. "Now, with the future of the center coming to Meridian, we will be the caretakers of that legacy. The center will be a huge draw for people who love arts and entertainment for years to come and in turn they will discover Meridian's rich heritage as well."
Bland said these and other initiatives in the works will go along his overall plan of rebranding Meridian as a 21st Century City. He said he has worked for 100 days to set in motion the programs and projects that will, in his mind, set Meridian apart from other cities in the state.
"We are striving to much more than we have been," Bland said. "We are working with our county partners, partners in industry, to improve our infrastructure so that we can be prepared for what it coming our way."
By Brian Livingston
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