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Small Town Mississippi




Submitted by George A Hudson Jr.

Being from a small thriving town that is close in proximity to larger towns has its advantages and disadvantages. If you really need something that you just can’t find you only have a 30 to 40 minute drive up the highway and you can probably find what you want. If your work is located in one of the larger towns, which is true for most of us, you only have a short commute to work, but nothing is like coming home to a place that most of us have grown very fond of, which is the main reason that we live where we do.  In small towns most citizens know each other and stick together through good times and bad.

Every small town is rich in history. Some date way back to before the Civil War. Some sprang up along the trade routes like the mighty Mississippi River. Each town would eventually grow to prosper for a while until something came along or the river changed course.  When that happened people moved on.  Some towns wound up consolidating resources, just like City of Port Gibson.

Port Gibson is surrounded by small towns within a ten mile radius that have dried up as the times changed. There is Rodney and Grand Gulf that were thriving back in the days of river transport. As the times changed and there were alternate travel and trade routes, these two towns eventually ran dry. Port Gibson became the county seat and most businesses in the area either re-located or began in the new, more central location.

There was a time that you could get anything that you would ever need in Port Gibson. There were numerous hardware, clothing and grocery stores.  There were specialty stores for people to shop in. There was a movie theater & a drive-in theater. There were pharmacies where you could drop off your prescription and, while you waited for it to be filled, you could have a cup of coffee or a soda from the fountain.  I could go on and on about the days gone by when it mattered that you didn’t have to go out of town to find what you needed, but most of you know all of this anyway.

Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s Port Gibson landed on a gold mine. We had the opportunity that most small towns do not have.   A nuclear power plant was going to be built in our county.  This brought in many jobs for the citizens as well as bringing many new people to the town.  This in turn was good for the business industry in Port Gibson, as well as the merchants that were already established here.  The businesses were thriving.

The City of Port Gibson and Claiborne County were thriving, too. There was more tax money available than either the city or the county could spend.  There were lots of jobs created in both the city and the county.  Local people had the opportunity to pursue a career that was closer to home.  I do not know exactly what happened, nor do I claim to be an expert on how to keep a town alive, but the tax revenue generated from this plant wound up being distributed among some surrounding counties along with Claiborne County.  Port Gibson’s tax base dropped significantly.

As anyone should know, when the tax base drops the less money local government has to spend.  Land, school, and sales taxes will increase just to keep up with the spending that is already in place.

More jobs mean more people. More people mean more taxes for the county and city. It all seems relatively simple doesn’t it?   It is… if you just look at the big picture… but in order to have the big picture in focus, everything else has to be there… from the ground up.

In order to have a thriving town or city, it is a must to have the things that the people need in order to succeed.  You have to start with the basics. First, it is necessary to have a good school system in place in order to keep your families at home and to entice others to your community.  You have to pull together, as a community, and make your local school system one that people want to send their kids to, instead of one that you just send your kids to because it’s the only one available.People cannot wait around for the system to fix itself so they can send their kids to school here. This type of thing has to be done immediately or people will continue to send their kids away to private schools (if they can afford it) or they’ll just move away to a place where they feel their kids can be guaranteed a safe and quality education. Doing this will give the community all the opportunity it needs to not only grow, but prosper. If the parents here in Port Gibson and Claiborne County feel that they have a great school system, they won’t feel as if they have to move away to ensure their child’s (or children’s) future.A town should always compare itself to other successful cities or towns. Such a comparison should be used as a guide in setting goals for the community. What works for some towns may not always work for others, but the basics will always be the same, and success is built on the basics.I know that most of you who read this already know where I am going with the subject of this article, but to those of you who don’t, this is based upon what is happening to a once-thriving small town in Mississippi. What is left in Port Gibson today is our rich history, beautiful homes, and a community of people who really want what is best for everyone.We have to put all our personal differences aside and ensure that Port Gibson doesn’t become a place that people just read about or go “off the beaten path to see. We can make a difference on what happens to our town.Do we want Walt Grayson to Look Around Mississippi and see Port Gibson as a place of the past?Where, once, a thriving community existed, now only boasts a few antebellum homes, a few residents who have to travel 30 miles or more for the things they need to survive, and our glorious churches – churches that don’t even have enough members to survive.

As it stands now, U.S. Highway 61 passes right through the heart of Port Gibson. Downtown is only two blocks to the west and City Hall is a single block to the east.

If we allow the Mississippi Department of Transportation to begin testing for a alternate route to bypass Church Street which is what we call the section of Highway 61 that passes through Port Gibson, we are allowing them to help us completely destroy our town.Will the remaining businesses be able to keep their doors open with all outside traffic being routed around the town?

Lots of businesses will close their doors forever. There is no doubt that some business people will keep their doors open, but those that do will definitely see revenues drop in the process.

If business revenue drops 15% to 20%, that also means that the taxes that those businesses pay will drop. A drop-off in business means that the business owner will not be able to employ as many people.We have to use our heads where things like this are concerned. If you think that this just won’t happen to Port Gibson, just take a look at every other town that has been bypassed. Those that were able to find success were either larger communities or communities that were already spread out anyway. The smaller towns like Port Gibson have almost dried up past the point of no return. If our town is bypassed to the east there will be significant money spent by the highway department just to be able to get the highway out of the flood zone.

Are they going to build everything else up along this route and offer to move the affected businesses? I don’t think so.

MDOT can use this tax money on making the existing highway much safer, more eye appealing, and, in the process of spending less money than a bypass would require, maybe even funnel some of this money to the local government to hire more police or deputies in order to make the highway a much safer place.It has been brought to my attention that there was a meeting held in Jackson just a couple of months ago that was attended by some of our local citizens as well as some of our local government officials. During this meeting, Interim Director Melinda McGrath, the lady who has taken Butch Brown’s place, stated that the Church Street route is now abandoned and will no longer be an issue. This means to me that they have already decided to waste our tax dollars and pursue an alternate route around Port Gibson.

If this is the case, I have one simple question: Why were the citizens of Port Gibson not notified of this?

I haven’t recalled hearing or reading anything on this matter. Did Dick Hall approve this? If so, then they have just made up their minds to kill the City of Port Gibson. Maybe we need to elect someone into the office who will keep an open mind, who doesn’t throw good money away and wants to protect the small cities and towns of Mississippi.If you read this and want to be sure that Port Gibson, Mississippi is not just pushed aside, please let it be known. Check with the local businesses and put your name on the petition that opposes the rerouting of traffic away from Port Gibson so we can send it to the Mississippi Department of Transportation before it’s too late.

Join together and fight to save our town, not just one street with some trees on the side of it.Thanks again from one really concerned businessman.

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