Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said today’s times are not the best; but he believes the citizenry expects its leaders to forge ahead.
Fletcher’s comments were made in January when he gave his State of the City Address to the members of Jacksonville City Council.
"Believing the public wants results, not excuses, we have trudged ahead plowing the fields with persistence and making the city and its potential known on the national level," said Fletcher. "These efforts will soon pay off and as they do our tax base will increase, thus making Jacksonville a stronger city."
Fletcher said the evidence of this should start to be seen this spring and early summer.
"In the area of education after 30-plus years, six feasibility studies, endless town hall meetings, discussions, frustrations from the condition of facilities, lack of vision, control and professionalism of school boards ignoring the needs of our city and its children.
"We are on the threshold of an election that will begin the process of righting the wrongs by the people voting to create an independent Jacksonville/North Pulaski school district by this fall," Fletcher said. "This will mean many things some of which will place our new district into a new wealth index thus allowing our new district to receive substantial money from the state to help construct new facilities." On the economic front, Fletcher said he sees some progress in trying to get more retailers to locate here.
"The past years of the city’s efforts and involvement with retail attraction and personal participation with Rickey Hayes in bringing people and business from around the country into a more focused effort to get the national retailers and restaurants interested in Jacksonville has gotten busier this past year," Fletcher said. "As anyone with real estate experience knows due to the high cost of investment and compounded by lack of raw developable commercial property the wheels turn slow but the good news is, there is serious interest in Jacksonville and the market it has. We look forward in the very near future to several announcements.
"As the city’s population becomes more aged locally, as well on the national scene, health care becomes more of an issue and Jacksonville will keep its attention on this facet in both its amenities and economic boost that a community reels in, Fletcher said.
"I have maintained since I came into office four years ago that our state and specifically Jacksonville needs to work hard to attract retirees into the community," Fletcher said.
Many people are going to be retiring during the next two decades, he said.
"With many of them, they bring an already established income therefore immediately creating a positive economic boost to local businesses and economy. Their contribution to the community is their real estate taxes support a school system that they themselves don’t burden down through usage, most at this particular age group are generally healthy and want to be engaged in the community that they live in such as volunteerism," he said.
Fletcher added, "These are citizens that don’t have to rely upon additional jobs and industry as a matter of fact collectively they help to create those opportunities."
Fletcher said 2013 showed difficulties with the city’s local hospital, North Metro Medical Center, but it is still a source of health care and the community needs to rally around this facility and support still some of the greatest health care providers such as the doctors, nurses and administrators.
"The personal care and time they give each patient is unmatched by many of much larger facilities. This hospital has been faithful to this community for over 50 years and was there for thousands of people in times of great need and made the difference. I call upon our city to be there for her as she works to make the transitions to survive in a very difficult field in today’s environment, as her success is really all of ours. Medicine and health care is rapidly changing and our city needs to work on where health care is headed and where we need to be 20 years down the road and get out in front greeting it when it arrives and that is what we are working on."