Wiggins Residents Vote On Vision For City

Karen Wallsmith often sees a lot of familiar faces in the lunch crowd. She owns Serendipity Deli in downtown Wiggins, where you can always find a good meal and even antiques.

"They just kind of mix together," Karen Wallsmith said. "And people buy the table from under you when you're eating sometimes."

The building itself is an antique. It used to be the old Straub movie theatre, where a quarter would pay for your ticket and popcorn.

"This is what everybody my age remembers," Wallsmith said as she held up an old picture of the theatre. "I would love to go back to this look."

Wallsmith has a picture in her mind of how her small hometown should always look.

"I want to see some of the old ambiance of downtown, the brick street, and this old building," she said.

"Downtown Wiggins is one of my pet projects," said Wiggins Mayor Jerry Alexander.

Alexander has plenty of ideas for his city. Widening Highway 26, replacing the original water tower, and building a new City Hall and police station are tops on his list.

"We're in the middle of 2006," said Alexander. "It's time that we started doing better. Upgrading our city, getting rid of what I call lean-to buildings and portable buildings moving in here. Let's make Wiggins look like Wiggins ought to look like for the future."

That's why Alexander and other city leaders are asking the people of Wiggins to vote for their favorite ideas, as they craft a comprehensive plan for the city.

"It's the people's plan," said the mayor. "I don't want somebody to come back later on and say 'Mayor, why did you do this? Why did you do that?'"

The mayor says there's a greater need now for a comprehensive plan, because of the population explosion. Six years ago, about 3,000 people lived in Wiggins. Since then, that number has doubled, especially after Hurricane Katrina. He expects another population boom in coming years.

Just to give you an idea of how much growth is taking place in Wiggins. The mayor says at least 50 homes are currently under construction and the city has issued about 20 permits for new businesses this year.

"We want to keep the small town charm, but at the same time, we've got to grow also," said the mayor. "It's coming, whether we like it or not, and we've got to prepare for it."

Wallsmith understands change is coming. She just wants to keep the family atmosphere that makes Wiggins so special.

Wallsmith said, "They come to town and they just love that feeling of small town, little shops, and downtown. I hope that stays."

Wednesday was the last day to vote in the survey. The results will be included in the final draft of the comprehensive plan, then forwarded to the Planning Commission, the Mayor, and Board of Aldermen for adoption.

The city will have to apply for local, state and federal funding to pay for some of these projects.