Whigham residents are concerned for the future of city growth

Whigham residents are calling for additions to the town to promote growth.
Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 6:29 PM EST
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WHIGHAM, Ga. (WALB) - Residents of Whigham want growth for their small town.

Mayor Trey Gainous is new to the position. Lack of resources and sewage infrastructure are holding back what he can do.

“If you want to do something in downtown with him, call us we are here for you,” Gainous said.

Whigham has a small tax base, meaning the city only has five full-time employees. That limits what they can do. Their sewage system capacity is also limited.

Gainous organized two townhalls where residents could voice opinions. A prospective business owner interested in opening a bakery. Gainous told her that there are two lots that are city owned and city is going through legal to set up a bidding process for the lots.

A lot of private owned businesses have been left without action for years. Mayor Gainous wants to be fair to those businesses because the property is theirs.

Residents, though, are upset that the dilapidated buildings are an eye soar for the downtown area.

“I would like to see those buildings come back to life,” said Dwalla Harrell, owner of the Whigham Cafe. Her business is the only restaurant downtown.

She and others say beautification is a good first step.

“It would be nice to have the outsides painted. We have beautiful colors. There’s red, gold, there is blue. We can also put awnings,” Margaret Eubanks said.

Eubanks thinks stores like a bakery or even an ice cream shop downtown could be a draw for young and old. Mayor Gainous explained sewage is an underlying problem stopping these business owners.

“We are sort of in this gridlock state where, we need sewage, but we can’t really afford sewage on our own and businesses aren’t going to come in and invest a lot of money with the sewage situation,” Gainous said.

Residents tell me they would like to see a farmers’ market and food trucks. The city owns property alongside the road that they are open to give. Gainous said the privately owned Community Center that holds the Rattlesnake Roundup every year is also open to more events.

The reality for the town is that 76% of people are over the age of 18. They have to balance bringing in youth while focusing on their population of retirees. Residents tell me that an open air restaurant and retail stores would keep them from traveling to other cities. The city can sell alcohol, but it’s up to each business.

Jane Trulock likes the idea of a café with Wi-Fi.

“People working from home or local businesses that could just help the city as a whole,” Trulock said.

Gainous will be looking into creating a Downtown Development Authority to organize and enforce plans for downtown. He’s also looking to hire an expert to look into grant funding.

Their next city council meeting is February 14th. There, Gainous hopes to start making progress towards this goal.