The new year has arrived and 2016 is in the books. So what does 2017 hold for Humboldt and the surrounding areas?
With Donald Trump taking office soon, some are optimistic on the direction of the country will take, while others are not quite sold on his plan. But how much will that affect Humboldt? Here’s a brief outlook for Humboldt in 2017.
City of Humboldt
Humboldt Mayor Marvin Sikes has a bright vision for 2017. Ever since Sikes took office three years ago, he’s kept his promise of cleaning up the city. Abandoned houses, condemned houses and those unsuitable for living have been torn down and more cleanup is set to continue in 2017.
“Phase II of the downtown renovation project will begin in the next few weeks, seeking bids and contracts,” Mayor Sikes said. New sidewalks and lighting are part of the revitalization on 14th Ave. from Main St. to Osborne.
More work is planned at Humboldt Municipal Airport. A new T-hanger was constructed in 2016 with tenants in place even before it was complete. Improvement on the taxiway and runway lighting are on the list this year, as is renovating the main building to give it a fresh look. “One of the old hangers will also get some much needed repairs,” Sikes added.
Humboldt saw new retail development in 2016 and Mayor Sikes expects that trend to continue. A nursery/landscaping business and a laundromat opened as did a café on Main Street and other businesses around town.
Construction projects underway will add more business in 2017 including the Coleman construction project near the intersection of East End Drive and Hwy 45 Bypass, and a walk-in clinic in front of Walmart.
The intersection of Chere Carol and Main Street will be redesigned to be safer and more attractive, Sikes said as another city project. Funding through a state grant will help pay for this project.
Sikes said Humboldt citizens will see cleanup done on 22nd Ave. and East End Drive, similar to work done on Central Avenue. He plans to remove abandoned signs and signposts, and hopefully entice property owners make their building to be more attractive.
One thing Sikes is proud of is getting delinquent taxes up to date. In the past, delinquent taxes had a backlog spanning several years. Sikes believes property taxes will be caught up this year.
Speaking of taxes, Mayor Sikes said he does not foresee a tax increase this coming fiscal year. He calls his approach a conservative one, yet being able to upgrade city equipment. Sikes hopes to include more city equipment with mowers, a small trackhoe and other equipment if the budget allows.
Humboldt will hold city elections in 2017 for mayor, all five aldermen positions, and three of the five school board seats.
Chamber of Commerce
For 2017, the Chamber is going to be about continuing to build on the initiatives started over the last couple of years. Chamber executive director, Lee Williams, said the 80th Annual West Tennessee Strawberry Festival is starting to take shape and is promising to be yet another incredible week of events for Humboldt. The chamber is seeing some new sponsorships this year, which tells them people like what they’re seeing and want to be a part of the area’s premier festival.
Last year the chamber embarked on a branding project for the city of Humboldt and Humboldt Chamber. This year you should see it really start to see it “grow legs”, as Williams explained.
“Last year the Chamber led the effort to get Humboldt in the Tennessee Downtowns program, and in 2017 we’ll see a project take shape that will utilize the $15,000 grant associated with that program to benefit our downtown,” Williams said.
In early 2016, the chamber expanded by adding a conference space next door to the mayor’s office on Main Street. “We’ve outgrown our current space, so we’ll keep offices inside the West Tennessee Regional Art Center building at 1200 Main and open a new conference space and festival headquarters across the street at 1209-C Main,” said Williams.
The chamber continues to work in partnership with the city, county, Humboldt Utilities, and others to make available industrial sites as attractive as possible to prospects. “The Gibson County Industrial Park gets considerable interest from prospects looking in West Tennessee, and we expect even more in the coming year as we further develop the infrastructure. With a new entrance and utilities really adds value to the park and will elevate this site from a great site to one of the top sites in West Tennessee,” Williams said.
In January of 2016, the chamber sponsored the first Mayor’s Business Breakfast, the mayor’s state of the city address. It was a huge success. The second annual Mayor’s Business Breakfast is slated for Thursday, January 26 at 7:30 a.m.
The annual membership banquet will be held in late summer/early fall and round out the year with the annual Christmas Tree Lighting.
Humboldt City Schools
Humboldt City Schools has high expectations for 2017, says superintendent, Dr. Versie Hamlett. With the new HCS Strategic Plan as a guideline, HCS will continue to focus on increasing reading and math scores, increasing parental and community involvement, sustaining a positive culture and climate throughout the district, upgrading facilities, and building positive relationships. Teachers are providing students with more rigorous and engaging learning as they prepare for the new Tennessee assessment, TN Ready. From pre-k to 12, teachers are attending training to learn new methods to impact student achievement and learning with an intensive focus on curriculum standards, ACT and the graduation rate.
“We are excited about the work towards the implementation of our 1:1 technology initiative, which is scheduled to begin in August 2017 with our sixth and seventh grade students,” Dr. Hamlett said. “There will be extensive teacher professional development, student training, parent workshops, and community sessions so that all stakeholders are prepared and ready for new learning through technology.”
Dr. Hamlett and school staff are excited with the community and parent involvement, especially the ARISE2Read Humboldt program that has close to 100 volunteers that meet weekly with second grade students as they coach them in reading.
“Our building renovations are well under way as we continue to provide students and teachers with spaces that promote student learning,” she added. “Children are our first priority as we strive to provide a world-class education for every student.”
Humboldt Utilities had a banner year in 2016. Since 2012, they have received the Kentucky/Tennessee Water Environment Association Operational Excellence Award each year and are poised to earn it again for 2016, according to general manager, Alex Smith. Smith said other utility companies have earned the award but no other utility in West Tennessee has received it four years in a row.
For 2017, Smith said there are some continuing projects, two going on at Gibson County Industrial Park, right outside Humboldt. One entails installing a 12-inch water main to the park. The other will be moving the main power line from the center of the park to make it more feasible for construction and attractive to potential industry. Smith said both projects combine close to $900,000 of which 90-percent is funded through state grants and the remaining 10-percent from Gibson County.
Also for 2017, a new $8 million project will get underway for the wastewater treatment plant. Smith said engineering for the plant is underway and will take a few months to complete. He hopes construction will begin later this year.
Humboldt Police Department
Humboldt Police Chief Rob Ellis said 2016 was a good year for the department. Two of the high points included adding a K-9 drug dog to the force, plus created a new position, school resource officer. Clifton Davis is stationed at Humboldt Jr. & Sr. High School. Chief Ellis, Assistant Chief Reynard Buchanan and the entire department have received very good feedback from the school resource program. 2016 was the second year for officers having body cams. Ellis said the department has luckily not had to use video in court except for a few occasion, but the cameras are there when needed.
“In 2017, we are looking to purchase electronic restraint devices called Phazzer,” Ellis said. “These are very similar to a Taser. It’s another tool for us to us and not have to use deadly force.”
This year the department will add an investigator to the Criminal Investigation Division.
Ellis is proud of the good work done by the gang unit. He said they specialize in keeping up with gang activity and work closely with other police departments’ gang units sharing intelligence. “I truly believe if our gang unit was not pro-active, there could have been homicides or violent crimes committed,” Chief Ellis said.
Ellis said the SWAT team has new members that have specialized training. They have to complete 60 to 80 hours of training and once they are on the team, they put in regular training hours throughout the year. Sgt. Heath Smith heads up the active shooter training sessions. Smith and the SWAT team have trained at Humboldt schools, banks and industries.
Ellis praised his officers for doing good work. He said they have a good mix of both younger and experienced officers.
With the national media’s magnification of police activity gone bad, Chief Ellis said he and the department have been overwhelmed by the support of the public. “Local folks have been good to us!”
Humboldt Senior Center
Archie Cox, director of the Humboldt Senior Center said 2016 was a wonderful year for the visitors who enjoy coming to the center each week. The center has been filled with love, laugher and life, and complete unity one with another. “We are blessed to have had so many donors that gave so graciously of their time and services,” said Cox. “We truly thank each and every one.”
For 2017, Humboldt Senior Center employees are expecting even greater things. They plan to be more involved in the Humboldt community so that they can spread the love and unity that they experience in the center daily.
As always, the center offers fun and games, various projects, field trips and fantastic trips.
Downtown Business Association
The Humboldt Downtown Business Association, under the leadership of Michael Longmire and Tommy Goodrum in 2016, hopes to select a new president later this month.
HDBA’s biggest event each year is Fall Fest. Over the past few years, Fall Fest has grown bigger and bigger. This year’s Fall Fest is slated for October 14. Association officials are looking into a new layout this year in an effort to gain more booth space, Goodrum said.
The association will participate in the Strawberry Festival again this year.
Planning is underway for a new project downtown. Goodrum said details will be announced at a later date.
HDBA meets the second Thursday of each month at 8 a.m. at BancorpSouth.
Rotary Club of Humboldt
The Humboldt Rotary looks forward to continue its tradition of fellowship and service in 2017.
“The annual pancake breakfast is fast approaching in February and is always popular,” said club president, Jeff Lansdale. “It is Humboldt Rotary’s largest fundraiser and supports all service projects undertaken by the club.”
The club hopes to continue the tradition of hosting our congressman in January 2017 and talks are taking place to get newly elected David Kustoff to Humboldt.
The Rotary Club is also planning a boots on the ground community improvement project for our home town and has gathered ideas from the mayor’s office on how we might help downtown Humboldt. Final decisions are yet to be made but the downtown flower boxes are leading contenders for revitalization by Humboldt Rotarians.
The club is looking forward to continual support of Humboldt High School students in several ways including the annual college scholarships awarded to Humboldt High School seniors.
Humboldt Exchange Club
The Humboldt Exchange Club will continue to hold several activities and events throughout 2017 to support the six National Exchange Club observances promoting Americanism, community service, youth activities and the prevention of child abuse in the community.
A preview of Exchange’s 2017 activities and events include the student of the month/year award and scholarship and the A.C.E. (Accepting the Challenge of Excellence) Student of the Year, Gibson County ECCP Center annual gala, annual car show, and “One Nation Under God” 3rd annual Veteran’s Day program along with a “Field of Flags”.
“The club will continue to support the library’s Summer Reading program, Hunters Sharing the Harvest, HHS Academic Booster Club, Humboldt Viking Booster Club, Little League team, Bike Lock/Bike to School Day, Weekend Backpack program, and various Relay for Life activities,” said club president, Debbie Goodrum. “Lastly, the club continues to be a proud member of the chamber and supports the Strawberry Festival and Christmas in the Park. We look forward to working with all our community partners in 2017!”
The Humboldt has been helping local people with their eyesight for many years. Club president, Terry Rogier said that will continue this year with fundraisers and eye screenings.
Two of the biggest fundraisers, according to secretary Thomas Raines are a couple of tournaments. Raines said the club is bringing back their bowling tournament in March. The Dave Martin Memorial Golf Tournament is always a hit in Humboldt with several teams participating.
For years, the Humboldt club has performed eye screenings on Humboldt students. In 2016, they screened every student in Humboldt City Schools. The club also awards scholarships to Humboldt High School seniors and to the Humboldt Higher Education Center.
The Lions Sight Service Committee meets the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays, 1-2 p.m. at the Senior Citizens Center. During the meetings, they take applications and choose two or three people per month who at sent to a Humboldt optometrist for a free exam and eyeglasses. The club gives preference children when selection the recipients.
Real Estate sales are looking up, according to local realtor, Jessica Alsobrook. The National Association of Realtors reports that existing home sales hit a post-recession high in November with sales edging to the highest level since February 2007. The Northeast led the way, with the South also up significantly.
In Gibson County, there were 118 four bedroom homes sold in 2015 with an average sales price of $159,909, averaging 103 days on market. For a four bedroom home, in 2016, the number of houses sold was 134 with an average price of $187,285, averaging 92 days on market. So on the home front, things looked up a bit, according to Alsobrook’s data.
“Now let’s look at other types of Gibson County real estate sales,” she continued. “The number of lots sold in 2016 was down from those sold in 2015, with 46.15-percent being sold in 2015, while dropping to 37.01-percent in 2016. Commercial sales dropped too from 35.29-percent in 2015 to 22.58-percent in 2016.”
If you are looking to buy a home, Alsobrook suggests contacting your local lender, whether it be a bank or mortgage company, and see where you stand financially. If your credit score is low, the lender can assist you with tips on improving it. They may even suggest getting a credit card, put a $25 purchase on it and pay it off. In other words, start your credit history.
“There are several real estate companies in Gibson County who are knowledgeable about properties for sale, but before you start looking at properties, get your finances in order, Alsobrook said. “The sooner the better, for the house you look at today, may be gone tomorrow.”
The new year has arrived and 2016 is in the books. So what does 2017 hold for Humboldt and the surrounding areas?