Hernando Mayor Tom Ferguson delivered his first "State of the City" address at the Hernando Chamber of Commerce annual banquet recently and said the good news is that the DeSoto County seat is definitely on the move.
"I have been in office 161 days," said Ferguson, who took office in July.
"This time of year allows for reflection on what we have accomplished as well as hope and excitement for all the things that are just around the corner in 2018."
Ferguson cited the city's new dog park, which opened on Oct. 20, as one of the new amenities that city residents can enjoy.
"About 40 percent of DeSoto County residents are dog owners, and we're proud to join progressive cities across the country that have these types of facilities."
Ferguson also cited the recent awarding of the 2017 Blue Cross/Blue Shield Healthy Hometown Award that enabled the City of Hernando to receive a $25,000 grant to fund the Renasant Park Trail.
"This project is something we're looking forward to watching through 2018," Ferguson said. "Construction will start in the next couple of months and the Trail should be finished by the end of the year."
Another grant, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Healthy Heroes Grant, which totaled $46,000, enabled the city to provide a state-of-the art fitness center for city employees and officers.
"This grant promotes health and fitness in elementary schools as well as building rapport with our officers," Ferguson said, adding that officers routinely visit schools in order to promote health and fitness.
Another grant, the National Aging Disability Transportation Grant, has been focusing on senior transportation in Hernando "for social, physical, and mental health to seniors" to improve their quality of life and enable them to live longer, more productive lives.
The grant has enabled more seniors to attend group meetings like the Young At Heart senior group at the Gale Center.
Other progressive steps to improve the quality of life include the Double SNAP initiative which has given SNAP recipients more access to fruits and vegetables and boosts sales to farmers and entrepreneurs.
"I'm told there are vendors as young as 12 and as old as 94," Ferguson said.
Ferguson said city officials are continuing efforts to improve the environment and rehabilitate properties under the city's EPA Brownfield Assessment Grant. Property owners can have a free assessment to determine what they need to do to help lease or sell property where "brownfields" or environmentally-challenged properties are located.
Ferguson said the city's Excel by Five program has increased awareness of early literacy to prepare preschoolers for kindergarten.
"These preschoolers and kindergarteners will have an edge when working toward their third-grade reading assessments and this will jumpstart long-term literacy in higher education," Ferguson said.
Ferguson said new housing starts are also on the increase.
"Looking back from October of 2015 to September of 2016, we had a total of 80 new permits pulled for single-family homes," said Ferguson. "During that same time period from last year to this year, that number has increased to 171. And already since October of this year, 14 new single-family residential permits have been pulled."
Ferguson said new phases of Montclair, Forest Meadows and Magnolia Commons have been recorded. New development in Stone Creek subdivision and a townhouse subdivision near the intersection of East Valley Street and Mount Pleasant Road has also been recorded.
New commercial retail stores like the AT&T Retail Store, renovations at the old Pizza Hut building, new planned subdivisions off Memphis Street and U.S. Hwy. 51, as well as the planned new McIngvale Road Realignment have been proposed, designed, built or are on the radar, along with the planned new Linear Park Bike and Pedestrian Path.
"We have many great plans for the future of Hernando and our citizens," Ferguson said. "I want to continue as mayor making our city great, and with your help and patience we will be able to do so."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.