West Point gets nowhere in comprehensive plan discussion

Published 1:33 pm Thursday, February 25, 2021

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West Point Councilwoman DeeDee Williams continued leading discussion on West Point’s comprehensive, 20-year-plan at Tuesday night’s council work session. 

Williams had argued at the Feb. 8 council meeting that the plan wasn’t representative of the entire city of West Point, noting that the three people on the steering committee “all kind of represent the same area of town” and saying that more voices from the community should be included. 

At that meeting, Williams made a motion that the council pass the plan — allowing it to get to the Department of Community Affairs by the Feb. 28 deadline — but to revisit the plan at the next work session. The motion passed.

That’s where the council began Monday night, though it appeared little was accomplished through the discussion.  

The comprehensive plan includes goals for economic expansion, creating transportation options, employment diversity, community facilities and also includes several broadband focuses. 

City Manager Ed Moon said the city could completely redo the plan or could focus on the short-term, 5-year portion of the plan. 

“I think you could do some significant changes or additions to the short-term work plan,” Moon said.

That discussion set off multiple questions, starting with Williams, who sought clarity on Moon’s statement.

“So, what we were told last meeting, that we could do this — we can’t do this,” Williams asked.

Moon clarified that the city could redo the plan entirely, as discussed, if that’s what the council wanted. 

“We absolutely can, according to my conversation with the regional commission is that you can start from scratch and rewrite the entire thing,” Moon said.

Williams clarified that she’s not asking for a complete rewrite of the entire document though. Her concern is that enough people weren’t included when creating the plan. 

“It’s not a good representation of everybody that I think should be involved,” Williams said.

“It’s not complete in my opinion because it didn’t represent a good cross section of the community.”

Councilman Gerald Ledbetter said it’s worth noting that the plan was developed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we need to cut our city, and particularly the steering committee, a whole lot of slack for doing their work in the midst of a pandemic, when they could not hold public hearing, even though they wanted to,” Ledbetter said.

The conversation went back and forth a few times, with Gloria Marshall and Thornton asking Williams what she believed was missing in the plan.

“OK, what I think I hear you all saying is that you don’t really care about inclusion, you don’t care about giving everyone a voice in this,” Williams said. 

“You are totally wrong,” Thornton said. “That’s not what we’re saying. Maybe you don’t understand.”

At that point, Councilman Joe Downs asked for a point of order and suggested the council move to the next item. 

Tramell said the council needed to decide if it wanted to redo the plan or look at the five-year portion of the plan.

“I need to hear from the council if we need to continue discussion on … the whole plan, the five-year plan or we’re good with the plan as it is. For my part, having worked with the committee on the thing, I feel like the committee did a pretty good job given the circumstances and taking into account everything. We have to understand what this plan is. It’s an overall look at where we want our city to go. It’s not getting down to that granular level. We want to do sidewalks throughout the city, not on a specific street. We want to have recreation for everybody, not a particular recreation program for some particular sport.”

Following that, Williams said she felt like it was a “bait and switch” because the motion she made at the last meeting was to make any revisions within the next 12 months.

“I still feel like we need to do more work on it, and I think we need more representation from the entire city. I’m not proposing that we throw the whole thing out and start over, but I am proposing more than accepting it as it is and chalking it up to the pandemic as to why we didn’t do a better job. If it means revisiting it down the road in three months, six months or whatever, all I can hope is by then is that some attitudes and minds may have changed.”

At that point, the meeting moved on. Williams asked about the outcome of the discussion, and Tramell told her there wasn’t one.

“There is no outcome,” Tramell said. “You or anyone else on the council can bring this up at any time.’