Coalition holds public forum to discuss various needs, topics in Atmore area
By By James Crawford
The Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County met on Saturday morning at the Atmore Community Hospital to hold a community focus group discussion for the Delta Regional Authority, the third such meeting. The discussion was held to fulfill the public hearing requirements of a needs impact study for Escambia County.
The Delta Regional Authority consists of 20 counties in Alabama, including Escambia County and bordering counties Conecuh and Monroe. The authority is commissioned to review each county and community in the Delta to determine if it qualifies as an economically distressed county or has isolated areas of distress.
The authority is empowered by the federal and state government to provide the following duties: develop a regional development plan, set priorities and assist with securing grants for the area, assess the region's needs and assets, work with state and local agencies to develop model legislation, and assist state governments with the economic development programs.
To accomplish those goals and duties, the authority has the ability to hold public hearings, such as the one held Saturday, to receive sworn testimony in certain cases as it pertains to the condition of the county, request information from subdivisions of government, request and maintain the loan of personnel from federal and state governments to help in needy counties and other authorities.
Saturday's meeting, and the two before it, was led by consultants Keenan Greenell and Arturo Menefee from Auburn who will be returning to hold individual sessions with several of the focus group attendees to gather additional testimony on the needs of Escambia County.
Greenell asked attendees to speak frankly about Escambia County and tell what they liked or disliked about the government or the citizens here. The comments illustrated the need for improvement.
"What excites me is to see groups like this who are beginning to see the potential we have here in Escambia," said Poarch Creek Tribal Chief Eddie Tullis. "We're starting to realize that it's up to us to advance this community."
Jefferson Davis Community College President Susan McBride added to that sentiment of community awareness. "When the community has a problem. It comes together to fight."
Economic development was the most popular topic of the discussion.
Most group members reflected the general consensus that the need for jobs is paramount to the continued growth of Atmore and the success of this city. But not necessarily the jobs that come with large plants. Instead, the need for secondary skills and essential jobs were discussed as well.
One of the more intense discussions came with the topic of teens. The group expressed the need for more programs for the youth of Atmore both after school and during the summer months.
"We need to look outside our own little world. We must create opportunities to educate the community and we must have each child involved with something," said Tullis. "We need parents to get involved, to teach their children. Most of our daughters can't even cook now," said Tullis.
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