Oct. 8, 2002
For many people, Monday's announcement that Cooper Communities won't be coming to Meridian was like a bolt out of the blue. Over the past 10 months, we all had been led by Mayor John Robert Smith to believe that contractual details were being worked out and that actual construction of homes around Long Creek Reservoir could begin this year. Obviously, that isn't going to happen now.
While the cancellation of Cooper's proposed $35 million Meridian Village retirement community project is a blow, it is not the end of the world. There is a silver lining in this cloud. Instead of licking our wounds and cowering down in a hole from the shock, our community needs to see the Cooper project as a good idea that didn't work out. Now, we need to move on.
We have work to do on so many fronts that losing the Cooper project could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Consider:
Our community's leadership should redouble efforts to fully develop the I 20/59 Industrial Park as quickly as possible. That means water and sewer service and whatever else it takes to make the site more attractive to prospective new manufacturing companies. If construction of an interchange off Interstate 20/59 and connector roads can be accelerated, then so much the better.
Our community's leadership should redouble efforts to begin acquiring and prepping land at a site in Kewanee as a major new industrial complex. That alone could be a valuable investment in the future.
Some of the money that was to be spent on the Cooper interchange should now be put to other more immediate and pressing needs, such as a real city street repaving program, new police cars, street sweepers and other items on the city council's "wish list." These are items that were being chopped from the city's 2003 budget. Too many streets in Meridian are deteriorating from lack of attention and most haven't been repaved in decades. Maybe it's time to realize that clean, smooth streets and litter-free neighborhoods convey a positive message about how a community values itself.
Maybe it's time that we as an entire community working together took responsibility for our own destiny, marshaling the full resources of our town, city and county governments in the same direction at the same time.