ED group eyes options

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 19, 2005

MURFREESBORO – Before Murfreesboro Economic Development Task Force can run with the ideas it has for revitalizing the downtown, it needs to develop itself into an entity that has feet.

After sharing information from a recently attended grant writing seminar hosted on the Elizabeth City State University campus by Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Economic Development Task Force leader Lynn Johnson said it was impossible to move forward without clearly defining who the group is.

&uot;We’ve assessed some of the wants, needs and resources in the area as well as identified potential properties for development, but if we don’t establish the legal form the group will take, whether a limited liability corporation, incorporation or 501C-3, we’re just spinning our wheels,&uot; she said.

The group discussed several options for bridging the gap between downtown businesses, town government and Chowan College students, citing a welcome dinner at the Murfree Center for freshman students and new staff and faculty members, placing students’ artwork on display/consignment in existing businesses, painting murals on some of the buildings downtown and allowing internships within local government and other areas of public service.

Recreation was also high on the list of priorities.

&uot;Young people, whether they attend Chowan College or not, need a place to go to have fun,&uot; said retired Murfreesboro resident and Diamond City Community Watch Program Coordinator Walter Thomas, citing the need for a recreation director.

He continued, &uot;I know the town does not have the money to hire someone to do this job right now, but perhaps we could tap in to the talents of the (Chowan) students and give them an opportunity to intern in that capacity.&uot;

Murfreesboro Town Administrator Molly Eubank stated it was likely the students would not be available during the summer as most of them return to their respective hometowns. However, Thomas offered a solution by volunteering to carry the load if the opportunity came to pass.

The economic development group also discussed the possibility of building new structures to house potential businesses since many of the existing properties are not accessible.

&uot;It seems we might have no other choice,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;When you’re handed lemons, sometimes you have to make lemonade.&uot;

Question was raised about whether the town would be able to support additional sewer hook-ups that would be associated with new construction. Eubank stated it would likely have several more available since some of the businesses that had been in operation at the time of the contract were no longer occupied.

Another topic of discussion was school spirit.

&uot;If someone was passing through the area, they’d never know there was a college here unless they went looking for it,&uot; Eubank said. &uot;There is no evidence the area is Chowan-friendly.&uot;

Local pharmacist Joe Minton said he would gladly sell items promoting the college, but did not want to compete with the college for profit.

&uot;Any business that takes Chowan College for granted is crazy. If something happened where we lost the college, it would be sorely missed,&uot; Minton said.

Eubank also mentioned an effort underway to make the town more &uot;elderly-friendly&uot; by placing stickers in the windows of existing businesses indicating an ability to effectively cater to their needs.

According to Eubank, the Hertford County Community Partnership for Older Adults, a task force of the Hertford County Office of Aging, is working towards developing a rating system for businesses that agree to participate.

Rev. Walter Elliot, Sr. and his wife Marion, who recently relocated to the area from Maryland and attended the meeting for the first time, suggested opening a walk-in clinic, similar to Urgent Care facilities in other parts of the state, to serve the needs of those who could not otherwise make it to their doctor’s office or the hospital due to conflicts in schedule or lack of transportation.

&uot;I think it’s something that is well-needed,&uot; Elliot said, noting that he had submitted letter to the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald as well to Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville regarding the request.

The Task Force is scheduled to meet again at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 12 in the Chowan Room with a focus on establishing the group’s legal status and forming a fund-raising committee. The public is invited to attend.

&uot;It comes down to passion,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;If you have it, then show it by doing something about it.&uot;