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Delta Bridge excites Clarksdale officials

It’s the consensus of local leaders interviewed about the Delta Bridge Project that it could succeed if citizens of Clarksdale and Coahoma County work together to accomplish its goals.

Clarksdale Commissioner Timothy “Bo” Plunk told the Clarksdale Exchange Club last week that he is all for seeing the Delta Bridge Project achieve its goals for  education, housing, health care, leadership and  economic development.

“If the people of Clarksdale and Coahoma County don’t get behind it the project won’t succeed,” Plunk said. “The Waltons can provide the money and incentive but the people have to step up to make it work.”

Plunk, who is in his first term as commissioner, has been involved with military funerals in Mississippi for several years. The public works director at Camp Shelby, Plunk has been promoted from master sergeant to sergeant major.

Johnny McGlown, chairman of the Coahoma Community College Board of Trustees, said he hoped that the Delta Bridge Project proves to be “a good seed, a powerful seed, one that sprouts and that we see some benefits.”

McGlown said to achieve the project’s goals, “We need to prioritize our needs now that we have the money from the Walton Foundation.”

McGlown said he was “fascinated with what Tupelo did (some years ago) when it built its new high school. It looks like a university campus.”

Wayne Winter, chairman of the Coahoma County Tourism Commission, said that in order for the Delta Bridge Project to succeed, “We need to emphasize the success that Helena and Phillips County (Ark.) achieved. It took years to get it done and there’s more yet to be done there.”

Winter said too many people in Clarksdale and Coahoma County “expect someone else to get it done. The success of the Delta Bridge Project will depend on all of us.”

Jimmy Walker, founder/board chairman of Saf-T-Cart and chairman of the Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation Committee that pushed for Clarksdale’s inclusion in the I-69 route, said the Delta Bridge Project  “made it possible for the funding for the Sunflower River weir.”

Walker said the project would be a good step toward “economic development in Clarksdale.”

Walker served as the tourism commission chairman for several years taking a long-range look at the needs of the community.

Terry Smith, a professional land surveyor who has worked with Clarksdale, Coahoma County and other entities in the Delta, pointed to the Delta Bridge Project’s achievements in Helena, stating that “It could help our businesses and this community.”

Smith said the Walton Foundation “creates the incentive for growth.”

Arnold Himelstein, a certified public accountant with Ellis & Hirsberg, said, “This can happen but it all depends on the people of Clarksdale and Coahoma County.”

When asked for his thoughts, Coahoma County Supervisor Pearson said: “This is a great opportunity for Coahoma County. They have handed us the ball and it’s up to us to run with it.”

“Amen,” said fellow Supervisor Chris Overton.      

Paul Martin, manager of the Kroger store in Clarksdale who has worked with Kroger in Mississippi and Arkansas for 35 years, said the Delta Bridge Project would be “great for Clarksdale if this works out. It would mean more industry, more jobs.”

Martin, a Clarksdale native, said he has witnessed the rise and decline in the Delta. Martin said a  resurgence in the economy could happen “if this plan works out.”

Randy Arnett, owner of Randy Arnett’s Jewelers, said the Clarksdale downtown business sector welcomed the Delta Bridge Project.

“We will what we can to cooperate,” Arnett said, who has owned the business for 23 years and has lived in Clarksdale for 35 years.

Roosevelt Wallace, a commercial artist and owner of Wallace’s Art and Sign Shop, said he was “looking forward to this project. It will open up new horizons.”

The Delta Bridge Project was officially kicked off Oct. 12 at the Pinnacle on the campus of Coahoma Community College.

Funded by the Walton Foundation, Southern Bancorp’s Capital Partners spearheaded the project in Phillips County, Ark. for the past six years. Joe Black, the SBCP’s president, selected Lois McMurchy, Southern Bancorp’s senior community development officer,  to manage the project.

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