VILONIA — Three months after the city was devastated by an E-4 tornado resulting in the loss of property and lives, the public is invited to a grassroots meeting, Rebuild Vilonia 2014, set for 7 p.m., July 17, at the city hall.
Many businesses in the city, especially in the downtown area, were downed by the April 27, tornado leaving several vacant concrete slabs. A few have relocated. Some are in the decision stage regarding their future. The meeting is a first step, said a long-time resident Marty Knight, to discuss ideas and explore opportunities.
"This meeting is just getting folks together. We have a great opportunity to rebuild and we need to plan for it," said Knight, who works at Southwest Power Pool in Little Rock. Knight broached the idea for the public meeting with businessman Stanley Gordon Jr. as well as Mayor James Firestone. Both men, Knight said, are in favor.
"It is a chance to discuss and start finding potential resources," Knight added.
Knight said he works with architects and engineers and believes there are resources available in that area to help with the planning and design.
"Vilonia has never really had a Main Street," Knight said. "We have always just had a highway running through it. Now, with the bypass, we can have a Main Street. We have an opportunity to do some different things. "
Gordon also stressed the importance of planning esthetically for the future of the city.
"Hopefully, we will never get a chance to do this again," Gordon said, referring to being hit by another tornado. "But, we do have the chance to do it right now. It is important that we take advantage of the situation to make things better. We don’t want to say in five or six years down the road that we wish we had done this or we wish we had done that without trying to do things right."
It is anticipated this will be the first of many meetings. Anyone with interest is invited to attend.