MEIGS — The downtown area of Meigs offers a stark contrast between the decay of most of its buildings and the little points of hope and determination cropping up here and there.
Boarded-up buildings with no roofs and torn awnings are separated only by a thin alleyway from the new Hometown Treasure Bank Cafe, which displays colorful flowerpots and a crisp new awning.
The little town is struggling, but fighting. In addition to the new restaurant, there is a new feed store coming soon. Around town, most of the homes are in fair shape and lawns are cut, even in the poorer parts of town. Meigs seems to be trying.
With a per capita income of just $8,013, Meigs is just plain poor. It struggles despite a demographic makeup very similar to Thomas County’s little boom town, Boston, in age, race and education. However, Meigs’ poverty rate is nearly double Boston’s.
Crime in Meigs is down. In fact, according to City-Data.com, a data base that provides demographic information from multiple sources including the U.S. Census Bureau, the crime rate in Meigs is much lower than the crime rate in Boston. Meigs has hired a new full-time police chief, Gary Price, and two part-time police officers.
City Manager Sidney Perry said Price “has brought a lot to the town. He is holding people accountable and cracking down on those who aren’t. We still have some drug and theft cases, but the crime rate is really down.”
Perry, who has been city manager for six months, is having an impact, too. Earlene Proctor, a 68-year resident of Meigs who attends every Meigs City council meeting, said, “He is really working hard and is very knowledgeable.”
Perry said, “It is a struggle to keep a town like this alive when there is no industry here. It is a struggle to bring new business to a town of just over 1,000 people. The bean counters at businesses say it’s not efficient to come in.”
He continued, “My number one goal is to get a grocery store in town so people can shop here instead of having to drive to Thomasville or Pelham. And I really want some kind of business here to bring jobs.”
“But Meigs has a lack of skilled labor,” said Proctor, “When they don’t have an education, there is a limit to what they can do.”
Proctor added, “It is just sad Meigs has come to this state.”
She said the decline of Meigs started in the 1960s when schools in south Georgia were consolidated and Meigs’ schools closed.
“The schools were the heart of the town,” she said. “When the schools were here, people shopped and did business here. When they closed, people started doing their business where their children went to school.”
She also said family farms started disappearing around the same time the schools left.
“There just wasn’t much here for young people anymore,” she said.
Proctor said she loves Meigs and cares about what’s going on. She said the city council is challenged just to run a proper meeting and that Meigs needs better leadership.
Perry said he appreciates the support he receives from the council.
“They try to provide for the citizens,” he said. “We’re making progress.”
Ed Love, a volunteer ambassador for Meigs’ Community Outreach, is helping the poor in this community by offering prescription drug programs and helping the elderly keep more of their Social Security and Medicare benefits. He also works with them to help them avoid scams and unnecessary bills. He said the town is also starting a private feeding program, which will bring low-cost meals to citizens beginning in July.
Maria Mock works in the local post office and knows most Meigs residents..
“There are all kinds of people in Meigs,” she said. “Many of them have been here for 30 years or more and have inherited their post office boxes from their grandparents or parents. They are really nice people.”
“I love Meigs,” she said while looking at the decaying downtown area.