Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

TOP STORY >> Fletcher sees progress in his first year

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher is at the mid-point of his first term as head of the city. Fletcher reflected on the past nine months as mayor and discussed the future at the Jacksonville Rotary Club meeting on Monday.

Fletcher, who is running for re-election in November, took a look back since being elected mayor last year to fill Mayor Tommy Swaim’s unexpired term.

Fletcher spoke about working to get the state fair in southeast Jacksonville. He said it would be one of the biggest economic boosts to the area.

Jacksonville can expect a possible economic boost in the upcoming months, he said.

The Memphis Flea Market is coming April 10 and 11 to the vacant Walmart building. The flea market will have 400 booths for shoppers to visit. The event has not been in the area in five years.

To accommodate overflow parking, the city will have a shuttle service from the Jacksonville High School football field to the flea market.

The city purchased two 30-plus passenger vans for $3,000 a piece from federal government surplus. The vans will be used during other events to help with parking, including the Wing Ding Festival.

The farmers market near the community center will be open May 1. Bricks are being laid for the 2,100-square-foot facility.

Fletcher said, “It is going to be nice, and we can add to it.”

He said one of his goals was to clean up Jacksonville and to make it safer.

The city has passed the nuisance and abatement ordinance, creating a homeowners association in the Sunnyside Hills addition, and the Jacksonville Police Department has created special-operations group to focus on areas that the city is having problems.

Fletcher said he would like to expand Galloway Park.

With an eye to future business growth of the city, Fletcher discussed economic development.

“We have no raw land for shopping centers,” the mayor said.

Restaurants and businesses want to move into new buildings not old ones, he said.

On the theme of new construction, Fletcher said the city needs a new police department, which would be built on Marshall Road.

“We give police officers the best equipment, but we need a facility to back it up,” Fletcher said.

He was proud of the landlord association, which aims to attract better tenants to Jacksonville. “People are working together, networking and keeping the city informed,” he said.

After the Rotary meeting, Fletcher spoke about the Pulaski County Special School District desegregation hearings.

The mayor told The Leader, “I think we have done as much as humanly possible.”

“If you could take the money out of the case, it would die. The average person thinks the desegregation case has turned into a money issue rather than an education issue,” Fletcher said.

He continued, “We need to get back to neighborhood schools and local control, where parents feel they have ownership in their children’s education. The system is holding the kids back.”