By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The tough economic times have made the last year a challenging one for the small town of Sturgis.
“It has been difficult, that’s for sure. We’re not going down hill terribly, but we’re not going up either,” Sturgis Mayor Walter Turner said. “We’re maintaining what we’ve got.”
In August, the Sturgis South Bike Rally Board voted to cancel the annual motorcycle rally after the Sturgis Board of Aldermen rejected a contract from the rally board citing insufficient funds it offered to the city in exchange for city services including security, sanitation and trash collection.
For the 2010 rally, the rally board’s contract paid the city $17,500 for those services, but this year the contract called for a payment of only $7,500. Turner previously said he thought the city could cut expenses enough that the board of aldermen could accept the offer, but it was ultimately rejected.
The rally brings in quite a bit of money to both businesses and private citizens, some of whom count on the visitors to help make it through the year financially.
“It was tough, but we understand the rally’s situation,” Turner said. “There are several people in town who rent out their property to campers and RVs, so it hurt individuals; then there’s the restaurants, the gas stations and conveniences stores that were always packed during the rally.”
The Sturgis Board of Aldermen and the rally board are already in talks for the 2012 rally.
“We’re working with them to hopefully have the rally next year,” Turner said. “We have given them the indication that they have our full support. We’ve had it for 13 years and we’re looking forward to getting it going again.”
While the cancellation of the rally weighed heavily on the town, the recent success of West Oktibbeha County Elementary has been something to celebrate. The school was officially named a successful school by the state according to test scores and the Quality Distribution Index scores.
“They have been improving ever year, and I’m really proud of (Principal Andrea Temple) over there at the school. They’ve really made a turn around at the school in the last three or four years,” Turner said.
The city was also able to complete several projects throughout the year, including a $100,000 water line improvement project along Craig Springs Road, resurfacing 1.6 miles of residential streets and adding 4 acres to Diane Jackson Memorial Park.
The mayor said he wasn’t sure what the future would hold for Sturgis, but he was encouraged that the town is continuing to grow. The 2010 census showed the town grew to 254 residents from 190 residents in 2000 — a growth of approximately 33 percent.
“It’s not a whole lot, but it shows that we’re still trying to hang in there and trying to grow. We’re offering things that some people still like: a small, country town that people like to live in,” Turner said. “We pride ourselves in that, but it’s important that we maintain that growth.”