Dr. Mathew Ulmer, Extension Specialist, Community Workforce, Leadership and Economic Development at Auburn University leads the monthly Town Hall "community conversations" meetings in Union Springs about improving Union Springs and Bullock County.

By Faye Gaston

The Town Hall meeting of "community conversations" for making improvements in Union Springs and Bullock County was held on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 at the Richard Stone Complex. Carla Elston, Bullock County Co-ordinator for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, was host.

Dr. Mathew Ulmer, Extension Specialist, Community Workforce, Leadership and Economic Development for the Extension System at Auburn University, led the discussion. He said these monthly meetings have been held since the first of the year, and it is now time to put actions into fulfilling the conclusions of discussions.

One plan for specific action was announced by Union Springs Mayor, Saint T. Thomas, Jr. . He will present a plan to the City Council to have all lights replaced that belong to the City of Union Springs. If the vote is to do this, a contract will be signed with Alabama Power.

One plan for specific action was announced by Dr. Christopher Blair, Superintendent of the Bullock County public school system. The plan calls for individuals or a group to adopt a school class, with a goal of all classes to be adopted. He explained that those students not involved in the sports program need extra curricular activities, something fun to do. He said that students in the foster care system come and go to school here and there are students with "special needs". He said that school drop-outs are not a problem here, but some students take five years instead of four to graduate high school.

Already, members of the local Art Guild are giving art lessons at the middle school. It was suggested that retired persons could volunteer to be "free tutors."

Of the twenty community leaders present, there were only two downtown business owners present. An essential action plan is to talk with the merchants to get them involved in the Town Hall discussions to improve downtown.

Many suggestions have been made at Town Hall meetings for downtown revitalization. Applications need to be made for Black Belt grants and funds are available. Businesses could stay open longer, with 10% discounts, when evening activities take place, such as plays at the Red Door Theatre. More activities downtown are encouraged, in addition to the annual Chunnenuggee Fair, the annual Black Belt Festival and the annual Antique Car Shows. Merchants can take the initiative to make downtown more beautiful. An inventory should be made of buildings downtown that are not being used. Downtown murals should be included in the state-wide initiative to inventory murals. The Town Hall group can gather input from citizens in individual conversations about what improvements they would like to see in downtown.

After refreshments were served, the Town Hall leaders divided into two groups for further discussion about specific actions for improving downtown Union Springs and the county-wide public school system. More plans will be made for solving the problem of trash/litter, and for more communication across the county.

The public is invited to the next Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, August 27, 2019 at 6 p.m. in the Richard Stone Complex. For more information phone Carla Elston at the local Extension office, 334-738-2580.

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