Last Modified: Sunday, November 11, 2012 6:37 PM
WELSH — What local residents see as the most important issues and how they need to be addressed will be the focus of a community meeting Tuesday.
Welsh Citizens Concerned for Public Safety, along with District Attorney Michael Cassidy, will hold the meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Welsh Community Center.
“The purpose of the meeting is to give everyone in the community the opportunity to share their vision for where the town should be going and how to get there,” said Bill Furlow, a consultant with Furlow Communications.
The group hired the out-of-state consultant earlier this year to work with residents and community leaders to create short- and long-term solutions to problems with crime, trust and race in the community. Furlow will serve as facilitator for the meeting.
As part of his work, Furlow spent two days in Welsh interviewing about 20 people who represented a cross section of the community.
The next step will be to let others voice their opinions, share their views and decide what direction to take next, he said. Most of the concerns expressed so far have been about drug problems and concerns for the young people in Welsh, Furlow said.
“They feel there is a problem and that it has reached a level that it cannot continue,” he said. “It’s the one thing the people all seem to agree on.”
There is no sense of discord in Welsh, Furlow said.
“There may not be the level of unity that could be obtained,” he said. “But people in Welsh love the town and like living in the town — excluding those causing the problems.”
Gun violence has left three men dead in less than a year and has injured several others. There have also been reports of increases in thefts and other crimes.
“These are serious problems when you have young people falling by the wayside because they are being sucked into a world of ready cash and seeming wealth and not understanding that this is not a sustainable lifestyle and people who are really happy in life are those who work hard,” Furlow said.
“That is the concern a great many people have. There’s a lot of concern about what’s happening to the young people of Welsh.”
Furlow hopes to continue that dialogue at the public meeting.
“I hope a lot of people will attend because this is the opportunity to share what they think should happen next,” he said. “I think there is an across-the-board desire in Welsh to grab hold of the community and improve things, but that goes beyond just crime problems.
“I think Welsh has an opportunity to bring about unity in a way that might not have occurred if it hadn’t been for the existence of the crime issues.”
It is difficult for people to identify, research, discuss issues and develop ways to make progress without having an uninvolved objective person to help them along, he said.
“The fact that the community needs help is not a reflection on that commitment,” he said.
Furlow did a similar project in Jennings in 2009 after a series of high-profile crimes.
Comparing the two communities, Furlow said they are “definitely different.”
“Jennings had people upset with various aspects of local government,” he said. “I don’t see that in Welsh. I believe there is less friction in Welsh and more commonality of thought.”