WATER VALLEY – They came for the big show, but the main act didn’t make an appearance.
Walmart executives – or at least some individuals representing the retail giant – were initially scheduled to appear at the planning commission meeting Monday night, but asked to be removed from the agenda Monday afternoon.
That left the crowd of a couple of dozen people who came prepared to present their facts and figures with little to do while the planning commissioners handled routine business.
Commission Chairman Ken French called the meeting to order just after 7 p.m. and explained that there were only two items on the agenda. “The big item that probably most of the audience is here for is no longer on the agenda. They withdrew for some reason,” he explained. “I don’t know why. But, they are not here.”
“Is it ever going to be on the agenda,” asked an audience member.
“I have no idea,” French responded. “I asked the same question. Just a late cancellation and withdrawal request and that’s all I can tell you.”
As French moved on to one of the agenda items, a voice in the back of the room asked, “Do y’all give money back on the tickets?”
Wilbur Herring’s question broke up the crowd and caused French to comment, “I didn’t know we were taking up money for this or I would have promoted it a little more.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the show is over…before it got started.”
French moved on to the first agenda item, a request for a variance from Melissa Jacobs that would allow her to add on to her home in the 600 block of North Main Street.
He called her name and invited her to the front of the room.
“Now?” she asked, “in front of everyone,” which got a laugh from the crowd.
Commissioners were shown that the addition would not extend further toward the property line than her present house and they voted unanimously to grant the three-foot variance.
When French called for a vote he asked, “all in favor” and “all opposed” and then turned to the audience and asked, “anybody?”
“Sorry it’s not about Walmart,” she said with a laugh as she returned to her seat.
French said that a request by Jerry Jenkins’s had been dealt with earlier and asked if there was any other business. Being none, Commissioner Eddie Foster made a motion to dismiss.
After the meeting, French with the help of Building Inspector Billy Humphreys explained that Jenkins planned to build a small shopping complex near the apartments on Stephens Street north of the East Wood Street intersection.
The complex would have a convenience store and two other retail-type buildings with rental storage to the rear. Before the meeting got underway, they explained to Jenkins that he would have to go to city hall and fill out an application for rezoning and then bring it to the next meeting.
At that time, the commissioners will study the application and proposal and vote to recommend that it be allowed or not. Because it requires rezoning, the board of aldermen will eventually have to act on it after a public hearing.
The next meeting of the planning commission is scheduled for the third Monday of the month, May 19, if there is any business.
Letters To The Editor:
As I take pen in hand, I do it reluctantly. First let me make it clear, these are my musing and opinions and not this newspaper or any other organization. A lot of people may not know me, so I would like to take a few words to say who I am.
I was born on Delay Road in August 1939. I attended grammar school and some high school in Water Valley. My mother and father are buried in Oak Hill. My grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother and father are buried at Palestine, along with a brother and sister. My roots run deep. I worked for Computer Science Corpo-ration, a computer services company; Planning Research Corporation, the world’s largest management consulting firm (at the time); and retired from Ethyl Corporation in 2001, after 33 years. The reason for explaining this is to say this hayseed did not fall off the back of the turnip truck yesterday.
I moved back to Water Valley, my home town, to build a house, prove Thomas Wolfe wrong, enjoy myself, and die. I love this town, but refuse to bury my head in the sand and block jobs and progress because I disagree with some of a company’s practices. Walmart is coming to Water Valley. The only question is when and where. The city or on the bypass in the county. I vote for the city. I want that sales tax rebate.
What is a Walmart Express. It is a store that ranges in size from 12,000 square feet to 18,000. They have two purposes. First, to build in large cities, such as Chicago (five now), Washington (one now), and New York (undetermined, but estimated over 100 coming). Secondly, to build in small towns within 20 miles of a super Walmart and string them together for distribution purposes.
Sixty percent of what they sell is food. Usually there are two aisles of meat and produce. They carry the usual can goods, cereal, and eight to 10 coolers of milk, drinks, and beer. They carry the usual paper goods, sundry items, etc. They may, or may not, have a pharmacy. If so, they put it up front. They have a service desk up front to cash checks (three dollar service fee), buy a prepaid debit card (three dollar service and you can put up to $1,500 on it), and other services. Some sell gas. They employ 20 to 40 people. The closest economic point of comparison I could find was North Carolina, where they pay $13 to $14 per hour (according to North Carolina public radio.) No mention of benefits.
Most Water Vallians would applaud the gas, we complain enough. Com-pared to Fred’s, Walgreens, CVS, and other large pharmacies, Walmart has the highest overall drug cost. Four dollar prescriptions lure you in, then wham. Turnage competes now with Fred’s, did with Winn Dixie, and some with Walmart. In New River many of those who left my niece’s drugstore for Walmart came back because their overall cost were higher. We will have to see.
Those who will suffer the biggest impact will be the Dollar stores and the Pig. Cashsavers (owned by the same people) competes with Kroger and Walmart in Oxford every day. They are good business men and know how to compete. A little competition is always good for the people. Walmart Express does not sell art, make beer, sell the best shrimp po boys in North Mississippi, lumber, hardware, flowers (maybe some cut flowers), or gifts.
Water Valley has survived worst things than Wal-mart—The railroad moving the shops in the late 1920s, tornado, floods, railroad tracks removed, and ice storms, to name a few. We will survive Walmart. Water Valley was here long before I was born and will be here long after I, and those opposed, are gone and forgotten. Embrace change, manage it, and accept it as an opportunity to show what you are made of.
God Bless America and God Bless Water Valley.
Dear editor and concerned citizens of Water Valley
Damon Wayans, (Saturday Night Live, In Living Color) once asked the question, “If you ain’t plannin’ on breakin’ into my house, why are you worried about the new shotgun I just bought?” So, I’ll ask this: “If your prices aren’t inflated – grossly – then why are you worried about the new wholesale outlet moving into town?” Gas prices are typically $.20 to $.25 per gallon higher in the Valley than they are in Batesville, (22 miles away): said gas is delivered by the SAME TRUCK!, on the same day; by the same driver; from the same distributor – hummm! Not one person shops at Turnage Drug Store because it’s cheaper. People shop at Turnages because of Binnie, and Robert, their staff, and because they can charge it! You won’t get that kind of service at the Walmart Express.
People don’t shop at Larson’s because it’s cheaper, or even because it’s the only full service grocery store in town. They shop at Larson’s because of Don Larson, and Angela, and Sammie, and you can charge it!
You can’t get that kind of service from a Walmart Express. People don’t shop at B.T.C. because it’s cheaper. Ms. Van Beuren doesn’t even sell the same commodities as does Walmart. You can’t get such a superb lunch, or the best coffee in town by far, or the very best grass fed, real, whole milk, (that tastes like ice cream), from Walmart Express like you can from the B.T.C.
And as for Ms. Feussel’s sophomoric diatribe, Water Valley got her “tramp stamp,” as it were, a long time ago when she sacrificed her virtue and dignity on the altar of expedience to become like the rest of the world, (which by the way, God describes as His enemy – James 4:4), when she voted in beer sales and built that brewery.
The tax dollars that a Walmart Express will bring to our revenue starved community will far outweigh any detrimental effects. (Where have I heard that before? – see the “beer sales” comment above.) The Walmart Express will bring con$truction job$; job$ for the elderly a$ greeter$; $ale$ clerk$; $tocker$; ga$oline taxe$; commoditie$ taxe$, (get the picture?), and will bring in cu$tomer$ from the surrounding communities that will be spending their money in Water Valley and not going to Grenada, or Batesville, or Oxford to spend their money.
But, people have to have something to complain about, don’t they?, even in a perfect, albeit “depressive,” community like this one. (See Ms. Van Beuren’s article in Country Living.)
If you need something to complain about, or a windmill or two to tilt at, then Walmart is, after all, the biggest target around. Water Valley is the best place on earth to live and raise children. It is safe, convenient, with low crime and reasonable real estate prices – the list of pluses is astounding when compared to other communities around the country, even compared to other communities in Mississippi. No, the Walmart Express will not be the beginning of the end. It will be, in the end, just another store.
I grew up on Main Street in Water Valley. I currently live on Main Street in a small town in Alabama. While I am no longer a resident of Water Valley, I look forward to retiring there in the future, and have many fond memories of my childhood.
I have lived in Hartselle, Ala., a “bedroom community” near Huntsville, for eight years. Hartselle is the largest dry municipality in the state. Even though our population is benefitting from the BRAC (Base Closure and Realign-ment), and a brand new high school, our downtown is dying. Numerous storefronts sit empty in this once-thriving railroad town. I see so many similarities between Hartselle and Water Valley. One is fading fast, one is thriving.
We have a Walmart. In the eight years I have lived here, two independently-owned pharmacies have closed. Two independently-owned hardware stores have also closed. Numerous small gift shops, a Hallmark Store, and a paint store have all closed.
The business owners cite Walmart and Lowes as the main contributing factors in their decisions to cease operations. The area near Walmart has become a string of fast food chain restaurants, check-cashing businesses, and two new corporate-owned drug stores.
While it is probably not the best comparison, since the laws differ from state to state and town to town, I see the Water Valley where I was raised becoming an arts Mecca, more and more young people are choosing to live and raise families in this environment. There is a uniqueness inherent in the wide streets, the independent and family-owned businesses, and the very people who choose Water Valley as their home.
Meanwhile, I am watching a deterioration of the small town where I currently live… It is becoming just another town with big box stores and no personality. Our residents work mostly in Huntsville or surrounding towns. We have one art gallery, (mainly for lessons, no artist shows), there is not one venue in town for live music, we have only one family-owned pharmacy still in operation. It saddens me to watch the decline, especially when I have been so very impressed with the remarkable growth of Water Valley as a community. Ten years ago I would have never dreamed of moving back to Water Valley and now I can’t wait until it is possible to relocate. People leave Oxford on Friday and Saturday nights to attend events in Water Valley. Water Valley has become a destination.
Please, citizens of Water Valley, reconsider having Walmart build in your town. I look forward to returning to my childhood home and experiencing the new attractions and businesses there. Please resist the temptation of having your town turn into a string of strip malls and big box stores. Please retain your unique status as a celebrated small town.
Walmart may need Water Valley, but Water Valley does not need a Walmart.
Sincerely, former (and future) resident,
I’ve been procrastinating long enough… It is my turn… I am for Walmart! I am not against Main Street but I am for buying things for my family at a discounted price. I don’t have the money some people do in this community…I think that is the bottom line!
If Walmart does come to Water Valley, I look at it as a plus for Main Street. People are going to shop at Walmart no matter if it is here or somewhere else. If Walmart is in Water Valley people won’t be going out of town as often to shop. When people are shopping out of town, they are not shopping on main street anyway or buying their gas here (which is higher than other nearby towns).
It cost me approximately $15 to drive to Oxford just to shop in Oxford. That $15 that I can save and spend on something else in Water Valley. Yes I want to spend my money in Water Valley and, yes, I want the best bang for my dollar.
Jesse Morris, Water Valley