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Development dominates meeting

Staff writer

Economic development efforts dominated discussion at Peabody’s city council meeting Monday, for an hour and a half as citizens strove to pave a better future for their city.

Leslie LaFoy, local resident and owner of Venture Sales and Engineering on Main St. suggested starting a temporary committee to figure out Peabody’s future objectives as a community.

“Our concern looking at the community as a whole is that everything is degrading,” she said. “We moved here 13 years ago, and everything is crumbling in our community.”

Mayor Tom Spencer suggested creating an economic development committee of two business owners, two members from other committees, and one city councilman. A second councilman could serve as chairman, but not get a vote, he said.

“One of the first things we have to do is streetscape 9th and Walnut Sts.,” Spencer said. “Nothing over the top, it can be as simple as straightening the street signs.”

To ensure those in the committee are interested and invested, there should be a vetting process, resident N.M. Patton said.

“Have the people apply like you apply for a job,” he said. “That way you get the people who are really interested.”

A possibility for updating old water lines is to hire returning college students for summer work, he said. Using local, young labor may help keep costs down, and keep Peabody graduates coming back after high school, Spencer said.

“It’s easier to get a kid to stay here if he has a summer job in Peabody,” Spencer said. “He stays with Mom and Dad, and has money in his pocket to help pay for school.”

Peabody’s decaying appearance makes it difficult to attract people to move in, LaFoy said.

“I know that code enforcement is out there, we need to exercise it,” she said. “Get your trash of the street and out of the front yard.”

People interested in starting local businesses are not sure where to go because there’s no standard, said Rodger Charles, librarian for Peabody Township Library.

“I’m getting phone calls all the time about from out of town,” he said. “They’re asking, ‘who do I call, where do I go?’ ”

Baker Lofts, LLC owns several buildings downtown that are available to business owners for free, but the corporation is unaffiliated with the city. Baker Lofts received a grant for the buildings, which prohibits selling or profiting off the buildings until 2021.

Maintaining the city website is another matter that would be easier if someone could decide what to put online, councilman Jay Gfeller said.

“It would be great to have members of the council involved in that process,” he said. “They’re the ones consuming the website and know information they’re looking for.”

While the city pays to have someone update the site as needed, Gfeller accepted fault as a councilman for not providing the data.

“It’s been a failure on the city council to come up with the stuff that needs to be updated,” he said. “It’s our breakdown that has made it not made it up to date, not anyone else’s.”

A campaign urging residents to shop locally would be a major benefit for businesses, said Kathy Gilley, owner of Peabody Market.

“It’s not just my business, but the hardware store, the salons, every one of us could use that push,” she said. “I think people get complacent. People were scared the store was going to close, but I think the complacency is back.”

A request to vacate properties north of US-50 from city limits was denied 3-1, despite a recommended approval from Peabody planning and zoning.

The properties of Mark Diecker, and Martin Nellans, only receive water and taxes from Peabody, Diecker said.

“As far as we can tell, it was annexed into the city around 1972, but they haven’t done any developing in that time,” said Kenny Rogers of the planning and zoning board.

Councilman Beth Peter was the lone vote in favor of vacating the property, and councilman Travis Wilson absent from the meeting.

While she understood the desire not to be taxed as city residents, Peabody would be limiting its growth by approving the request, councilman Lindsay Hutchinson said.

“My duty as a council member is to make decisions that will be good for 200 years, not just the next 40,” she said. “Talking about our kids coming back and raising families here, US-50 is a major corridor for the entire country, so that’s valuable for us.”

Last modified April 11, 2019

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