Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The voters of Bluefield and Princeton have spoken, and new leaders have been elected for both cities. We congratulate all of the winners, and wish them the best of luck in the difficult job ahead.
But between now and August 1, the new council-elect members will have a lot of homework to do. This holds particularly true in Bluefield where disgruntled voters opted for a clean sweep on the Bluefield Board of Directors — ousting three incumbents and electing five political newcomers to guide the city’s future.
The new board in Bluefield will be composed of two businessmen, Tom Cole and Chuck McGonagle; a retired educator, Barbara Thompson Smith; a long-time supporter of the arts, Ellen Light; and a lawyer, Mike Gibson. The new city council in Princeton will include political newcomers Jacqueline “Jackie” Rucker and Jim Harvey and returning incumbents Marshall Lytton and Tim Ealy.
The new city council members will be seated July 1 in Princeton and August 1 in Bluefield. They will be faced with important decisions from day one.
Among the most pressing matters, and decisions to be made, in Bluefield include:
• Continue with the Colonial Intermodal Center Project, or pursue another vision for the prime property at the site of the old Matz Hotel and Colonial Theater? Despite countless news articles on the project, many citizens still don’t seem to know what a Colonial Intermodal Center is. It’s actually a well-intended idea with the potential to bring foot traffic and business back into the downtown. But the city will still need millions more to develop it. The question is, can the city afford to wait for the federal government to come up with the additional millions needed to develop the project, as this could takes years.
• Finding a new grocery store for Bluefield: Citizens in the city haven’t been happy since Kroger closed last year. Of course convincing a new grocery chain to move into the city, and finding a suitable site for a grocery store, won’t be easy. But the new board members have to try.
• Create new jobs while also taking advantage of ATV tourism traffic: The volunteer Team Blue members, who are working to create a Depot District and business incubator site at Raleigh and Commerce streets, can certainly help. But the board must also aggressively pursue new economic development and growth across the city. Projects like the new dialysis center on Bluefield Avenue that was launched by board-member elect Tom Cole is a good example of what we need to do to create jobs, tax revenue and traffic into the city.
• Keep or scrap the highly controversial pit bull ban? Many voters and citizens on social media sites are urging the newly elected board members to scrap the ban. One thing is certain, the old 2008 ordinance wasn’t enforced. But once it was actually enforced, it seemed to be working.
Princeton’s new and returning council members face similar challenges, including:
• Finding matching funds to complete the Stafford Drive Flood Control Project: The Hugh I. Shott Foundation has donated $250,000 to start the project. The council must now find matching funds — and soon — to get the work underway.
• Revitalizing Mercer Street: The relocation of city hall to Mercer Street was a controversial move, but the decision has been made and funding has been identified. The new council members should now strive to find ways to address problems on Mercer Street and help with the ongoing revitalization efforts.
• Annexation — yes or no? It’s a question that has been asked for years. Does the city need to expand its borders in order to grow?
Clearly, the newly elected council members have a lot of work to do, and much homework to complete between now and being officially sworn in. We congratulate all on their victories, and wish them the best of luck with the job ahead.