By STEVEN NALLEY
Sturgis faced economic challenges in 2012 exacerbated by the Sturgis motorcycle rallyâ€™s second year of cancellation, but Sturgis Mayor Walter Turner says the rally will be back on the table in early 2013.
Within the past two months, Turner said, the Sturgis South Bike Rally Board sent a proposal to the Sturgis Board of Aldermen asking if the board would look at a proposal for a rally in 2013. He said the board voted in favor of looking at a new rally proposal.
â€śNow, whether (the rally board will bring) it to the January board meeting or not, I donâ€™t know yet,â€ť Turner said. â€śThey had to get their (rally) board back together.â€ť
Turner said the cityâ€™s aldermen meeting will be Jan. 8. He said the aldermen normally convene on the first Tuesday of each month, which coincides with New Yearâ€™s Day in this case, leading the city to postpone the meeting.
The Sturgis aldermen rejected several revisions of a contract with the bike rally board throughout winter and spring of 2012 before rejecting a final revision in April despite financial assistance from the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority. After that April meeting, rally board president Donny Hanson said it would be up to the city to restart discussion of a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, and he said the rally board was considering options in other locales.
â€śIf the rally is to be held in the future in the town of Sturgis, the town of Sturgis is going to have to approach the rally board,â€ť Hanson said in April. â€śWeâ€™re willing to listen to what anyone else has to offer.â€ť
Another key municipal matter in Sturgis was a special election in October to replace alderman Quinnia Yates, who resigned from the board for health-related reasons. Residents elected James Eric Jackson to take Yatesâ€™ place, and Turner said he has served the board well so far.
â€śHe had been an alderman before,â€ť Turner said, â€śand he just fit right in and went right to work.â€ť
Turner said the rally and the economic opportunities lost with it are only part of a larger economic picture. Sturgis faced many setbacks in 2012, he said, but it has also seen some opportunities.
â€śIâ€™d say itâ€™s been a so-so year, but a little on the down side,â€ť Turner said. â€śWeâ€™ve lost a couple of businesses in the past two or three years, and I was getting concerned about it, but we had a couple come back in just lately. I canâ€™t say a couple coming in is a tremendous improvement, but it is an improvement. Sales tax has been declining because of the earlier business losses, but I think itâ€™s going to come back.â€ť
Turner said population has also held steady, with new residents consistently moving in when others move out. He said he has spoken with some representatives who are interested in bringing new businesses to Sturgis.
â€śTheyâ€™re just waiting to see whatâ€™s going to happen in the future based on the national economy, I think,â€ť Turner said. â€śItâ€™s not just because of Sturgis. Theyâ€™re unsure about the state and national concerns as much as (they are about) Sturgis.â€ť
The aldermen did discuss plans to build a new community center at Dianne Jackson Memorial Park, Turner said, but they changed their minds later in the year, choosing not to earmark the money for the center. Instead, he said, the city is considering renovating Sturgis Presbyterian Church into a community center.
â€śWe got that building designated as a Mississippi historical landmark, so that opens other grant opportunities,â€ť Turner said. â€śThose funds should be available in June. Weâ€™re going to (pursue) that and see if we can get the building running again as a community center.â€ť
Finally, Turner said he was proud of West Oktibbeha County Elementary School for becoming the highest-performing school in the county with a Quality Distribution Index (QDI) score of 176.
â€śEven though the state took over the schools, our elementary school was one of the top schools, even in the state,â€ť Turner said. â€śWe were proud of that.â€ť