(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of two articles covering the Sustainable Williamson open house conducted Thursday, Nov. 8.)
WILLIAMSON — A public open house for Sustainable Williamson was conducted Thursday evening, featuring presentations from local business owners and general discussions on how to better the area and its surroundings.
More than 30 people attended the event held at the Williamson Municipal Swimming Pool and Community Center, all with the common goal of coming up with ways to sustain and improve the City of Williamson.
The open house led off with a series of presentations from business owners and group organizers from around the area, such as Vicki Hatfield, with the Mingo County Diabetes Coalition; Josh Murphy, with the STOP (Strong Through Our Plan) Coalition; Adam Warren, owner of Hatfield-McCoy Guided Tours; and Helen Ann Stanley, with the Farmers Market, to name a few.
A trio of men from the Renaissance Planning Group coordinated the event: Allan Steinbeck, Mike Callahan and Jason Espie, along with Ed Fendley, with the Environmental Protection Agency. It was their job to interface with the community and enable citizens to brainstorm and develop their ideas. According to virtually everyone, it was a success.
“It was a good turnout with a mix of business owners, out-of-towners, civic leaders and elected officials coming together,” Steinbeck, the lead facilitator at the open house, told the Daily News. “We’re trying to figure out how to not just come up with plans, but with strategies for improving the community. The ultimate goal is to get funds to get stuff done.”
The fruits of their labor were adorned on posters lining the walls of the community center, detailing the city’s strengths and weaknesses, a product from a workshop session held earlier in the day. Members from the community were divided into three groups who all came up with their own ideas on what the city’s strengths and weaknesses were, what areas could be improved upon and what assets the city had.
Such strengths included: tourism and culture potential; a core group of people with a vision; the public service infrastructure; and recreation potential. Some weaknesses were: diversifying the economy; poor health; lack of quality housing; and lack of tourism and recreation plans.
Mayor Darrin McCormick told the Daily News that more than 30 community members attended the earlier workshop sessions where they were “actively engaged in improving their community.”
One section of the room in particular showed three maps of Williamson, each peppered with green stickers, which denoted areas that could benefit from improvement, and gold stars, which represented assets within the city.
Such potential improvement areas were: West end revitalization, adding new homes and a grocery store; filling vacant storefronts downtown; fixing up housing; a welcome mural on the water tower; a mural on the Route 52 wall; potential development for the airport; a connection between West End and downtown; and pedestrian crossings at railroad tracks.
Some assets that members from the community listed were: Williamson Memorial Hospital; recreation complex; Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College; U.S. 119; water treatment plant; the Williamson Field House; the community garden in East End; the Coal House; Riverside Elementary; and the Williamson Municipal Pool, among others.
“People here are very enthusiastic about their community,” Steinbeck said. “It’s nice to see that. It’s a tightly-knit group mostly all on the same page on how to address pressing needs within the community.”
“This is a strategic community plan made by the community,” McCormick said. “This process is how it should be done. It was a great success. A lot of progress was made.”