Minden Press-Herald

Oct 02nd

Planning group is lacking leverage

Some less-than-kind comments about Minden have sparked controversy throughout the parish, and left some people confused about the function of the Main-to-Main Planning Committee.

At the July Main-to-Main meeting, committee members wanted to change the I-20 exit that visitors take to start the Main-to-Main trail in the south end of the parish. Cindy Richardson of Sarepta said the current exit (Exit 47) leads visitors through a "trashy" part of Minden before getting them to the Main-to-Main event.

"There was a brief (and I mean brief) discussion on the Exit off I-20," Richardson wrote in the August 1 edition of the Sarepta Community Star. "(Pattie) Odom decided it was her way and no one could change that since she had 1,000 cards printed with only the Minden exit showing that takes tourist through a very trashy part of Minden. There was supposed to be a vote on which exit to post, but since she took the initiative to have it her way, there was no vote."

Odom, director of Minden Main Street/Downtown Development, said the "committee" had no real authority to vote on any agenda item because grant monies awarded to Main-to-Main are for cities with Main Streets.

The only two cities on the Main-to-Main trail with a Main Street are Springhill and Minden. The rest of the parish participates in the event, but any executive decisions are left to Odom and Jan Corrales of Springhill Main Street. The committee exists only for input, ideas, volunteer projects and representation of individual cities in the parish, she said.

"I was also very concerned that the approach to Minden's Main Street from the Minden/Sibley exit, was characterized as 'a trashy area of town' by Cindy Richardson of Sarepta," said Mary Mckinney of The Yellow Pine Inn. "As a member of the Tourist Commission, I sincerely take exception to her statement. The area in question is home to the businesses that contribute funds to the Main-to-Main program. The hotels/motels located at this exit contribute the bulk of tourism funds, and the other lodging facilities and RV parks in south Webster Parish also pay a four percent tourism tax to promote tourism in the parish.

"Since the Webster Parish Tourism Commission represents all of Webster Parish and Main-to-Main obtains funds for their event from the commission, I believe the entire parish should be represented," she concluded.

At the August Webster Parish Police Jury meeting, several jurors also voiced opinions about Richardson's comments.

"People were hostile and writing letters about that comment," said Steve Ramsey, District 11 juror. "This is supposed to be from parish line to parish line. I personally feel that lady (Richardson) has no business serving on that committee. I know we don't have the authority to remove her, but for her to say something like that and to be representing Webster Parish, that's not good. I don't think she ought to represent Webster Parish."

During the meeting, WPPJ President Charlie Walker cleared up confusion about the jury's role with Main-to-Main.

According to Walker, the jury has authority to remove tourism commissioners, but does not have direct authority over any Main-to-Main events.

"My only concern is that this should be brought up and people should know what's happening," Walker said. "When they say this is a trashy place, that's a slap in the face. What people don't know is that the population of Minden is a third of the population of Webster Parish. What this comment says to Minden is 'We don't want you' and that's not how we should be. We need to look at what's good for the whole parish and Main-to-Main is great for the whole parish."

The police jurors felt confident that Odom and Corrales could work out any misunderstandings, and the two Main Street directors are working with one another to get Main to Main back on track.

"Minden and Springhill Main Streets have coordinated and have had the ultimate responsibility organizing the Main-to-Main project since its beginning 14 years ago with cooperation and participation from citizens and communities throughout the parish," said Odom. "Main-to-Main has been a positive and wonderful project for this parish, and we are optimistic that the great volunteers on the committee will continue to work toward the final goal of promoting all of Webster Parish in a positive manner."

The next Main-to-Main meeting will be held August 25 at Cotton Valley City Hall.






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