2008 to bring big changes for all

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 6, 2008

Was it just me or did 2007 literally fly by? It seems like just yesterday that 2007 was getting under way.

Now, we’re barreling down the 2008 highway. Before we get too far, now is a good time to make a few predictions and hopes for the year ahead.

Times (still) are changing

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If 2007 was the year of change in county government, 2008 will likely see similar change, or at least attempts at change in city government with municipal elections in a couple of months.

Incumbent mayor Phillip West hasn’t publicly — at least not to my knowledge — confirmed plans to run again, but the general consensus on the street is that he will run again. Longtime Alderman Jake Middleton has announced plans to run and his “Jake 08” slogan has been spotted around town since balloon race weekend.

Others may also jump into the ring. The more people who jump in might make things all the merrier for West. As almost any incumbent, he’s almost certainly developed some enemies out there in the populace. The more non-West choices they have dilute that vote and likely help West, at least a bit.

Bluffs or beds?

Maybe something will finally be decided on the condo saga. It’s been a mess of a dispute since the beginning. As this has lingered on and on, the likelihood that developers will actually build condos — even if they ever receive full clearance — seems slim at best. The housing market is changing daily; the credit climate has changed significantly, too. The developers and the city are stuck in a bit of a standoff on what to do next. At present, we have a cleared lot and a bunch of legal resources — from both sides — dumped into the site with little to show for it.

Dreams to reality

The year ahead also seems pivotal for the much-ballyhooed plans for Rentech’s coal-to-liquids fuel facility in Adams County.

The company is looking for investors to turn their technological dreams into a reality. With an estimated cost of more than $1 billion, the plant needs someone with deep pockets and Adams County needs to get lucky on this one.

Having crude oil prices climbing above the $100 per barrel mark shifts the numbers in Rentech’s favor, meaning their process is cost effective — big time — at the $100 per barrel level.

This plant could have an enormous economic impact on the area, if it becomes a reality. Let’s keep our fingers crossed on this one.

Educational corner

After a tumultuous year last school year, Robert Lewis Middle School seems to be turning a corner. With new leadership at the helm of the school, things seem to have gotten off to a good start this school year. That’s echoed in the other schools in the Natchez-Adams School District, too.

Fixing all of the public school system’s woes isn’t going to be easy, but it’s not impossible, either. The district recently went through an accreditation process during which a list of several key improvement areas was created. It’s a road map, if you will, for getting the schools headed in the right direction.

While critics often point out the “bad” that occurs in the public schools here, there’s a heck of a lot of “good” that happens there every school day, too.

Ready for action

With the ouster of longtime Adams County Supervisor Sammy Cauthen, the board of supervisors has taken a turn in direction.

What had previously been the losing end of an almost constant 3-2 vote has changed. Looking ahead, with newcomer Mike Lazarus expected to join incumbents Henry Watts and S.E. “Spanky” Felter on most issues, we can expect more 3-2 votes, but of a different kind.

The previous underdogs are now in control of the board, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can make the fundamental changes in direction they promised during the election.

One thing is certain: Lots of things are in flux in the year ahead. Looks like it will be an interesting 12 months. Stay tuned.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.