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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Finding Bedford County's vision

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A community foundation in Martinsville, Va. -- a struggling "factory town," according to the Associated Press, with a falling population of 15,400 -- has pledged $200 million to start a four-year college.

The people of Martinsville -- best known as the home of a major NASCAR race -- are driving a vision of the future.

Meanwhile, Shelbyville -- a "factory town" with a population fast approaching 20,000 -- and all of Bedford County could use some vision. Our proposed "four-year college" -- announced two years ago by a neo-Confederate group with questionable motives -- seems to have bit the dust.

We may not have a community foundation with $200 million to spare, but we should have a vision.

Do we have one?

Our growth's likely to escalate in coming years as the northern part of the county morphs, like it or not, into 'Boro South.

That growth brings many advantages.

We need growth. We can harness that growth, embrace it and absorb it into our unique Bedford County culture, or let it swallow us up.

Vision -- rather than arguing about often-trivial matters -- can make a major difference.

Meetings of our planning commissions, city and town councils and county commission often consist of much talk and disagreement but little action. Sometimes they degenerate into name-calling.

Developing that vision will take planning and cohesiveness. Such as:

*Find a cure for the hospital. If there's something "wrong" with Bedford County Medical Center being owned by a large national chain, then why do most local residents go to out-of-town hospitals owned by large national chains? Think about it.

Another thought to consider -- and this must be brought out in the open for progress to occur, no matter the fate of the hospital -- is why a few local doctors seem to have lost the confidence of the public. Lack of competence? Lack of caring?

Covering up, ignoring or insisting "don't talk about it" just escalates the problem. Bedford County deserves a better response than silence or attempts to discredit those with serious, valid concerns.

*Take a more sophisticated approach to zoning. Shelbyville's plan -- zoning North Main Street all-business and eventually funneling traffic down a widened, but still two-lane, Fairfield Pike -- is somewhat of a start.

But it simply funnels more traffic down an already heavily-traveled street. A deeper look is needed at traffic patterns. Meanwhile, you have time to shave, drink a cup of coffee and brush your teeth while waiting at the North Main-Colloredo traffic light -- or do the smart thing and take a side street.

Has anyone considered requiring small but functional neighborhood parks in new developments?

Should proposed new developments near towns be annexed in advance so infrastructure costs can be partially recouped through taxes? After all, people who live near towns use many of their services.

One thing to be considered for all areas of the county: Many of us aren't going to be around in 50 years. Is it right to force the desires of today's generations on tomorrow's population?

*Revive Madison Street. Hopefully the eventual four-lane highway to Tullahoma will revive eastern Shelbyville.

Madison Street, which thrived until just a few years ago, has too many empty buildings.

Looks kind of lonely at times out there, doesn't it?

Residents of eastern Shelbyville, and southern parts as well, shouldn't have to drive miles to a grocery store. Meanwhile, without business development there, Tullahoma beckons...

*Make homeowners and landlords take care of their property. We're not talking "property police" here, just reasonable laws for extreme cases. Shelbyville's adoption of stronger codes is a step in the right direction.

As it is now, some new subdivisions are being developed in which, due to lack of upkeep by residents, most of the homes appear 10 years old after a year. Problems like those can bite in the future.

*Better schools. Somehow, some way, find the money to build new schools which, in appearance and function, are more than just plain, basic "boxes" already filled to capacity on opening day. Image counts.

And quit complaining about teachers' salaries. Teachers deserve to be paid on the same level as higher-up business executives who, without education, wouldn't have those jobs. Molding a mind is far more important than pushing a product.

*Involve everyone. You shouldn't have to be a business manager, banker, have a Celebration connection or be an elected or appointed official to have an opinion that's not only heard, but respected -- and seriously considered. Too many people here are ignored when opinions are sought.

*Talk to us. People need an independent forum to speak out. That's why the T-G's here.

We're here to shake up the status quo, when necessary, and to serve as the people's voice. That includes all, not just the well-connected and well-employed.

But we need YOUR voice to make sure we succeed. Everyone counts.

David Melson is a Times-Gazette copy editor/staff writer.

David Melson
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