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Oakland Reviews Citizens' Wish List

OAKLAND, Tenn. -- Priorities for Oakland's future were revealed Monday night, and the vote totals from an earlier community meeting organized by the Tennessee Valley Authority economic development team revealed few surprises.

Planned growth, better schools, retaining green space and a full-time ambulance and fire department topped the list, along with a desire for better health care facilities and a community center.

"We're always open to suggestions, which is why we hold public meetings like this," Mayor Bill Mullins said Tuesday. "Ninety percent of the people, and probably closer to 99 percent in this town, are as happy as they can be."

Oakland is one of Tennessee's fastest-growing cities. Census figures for July 2006 show the city with 3,306 people, an increase of 159 percent from 2000. Like many of the new arrivals to Fayette County, some Oakland residents are impatient to see changes in infrastructure and services arrive at an equally quick rate.

"These kinds of things don't happen overnight," the mayor said.

The community meeting with TVA specialists was sponsored by the Oakland Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"I think there is an atmosphere of questioning and demanding services, when we're just still small," executive director Robin Terry said Tuesday.

"You can't all of a sudden, just because you're growing rapidly, say we're going to have a huge shopping center here or a hospital here," Terry added. "Patience is required when you're dealing with something like this."

Terry noted that progress is being made in several areas, including health care. There are two clinics in Oakland, and both have added some night hours in order to meet local demands.

Also at the meeting was Chris Pate, an economic development specialist with the state, who talked about the draft, 25-year growth plan he is preparing for Oakland. While the embryonic proposal was short on specifics, his presence was an indication that Oakland is trying to meet the expectations of residents who are concerned about long-term development.

"A lot of times we have communities we work with, but nothing ever goes forward," Sheila Brooks, a community development specialist with TVA, said of the 25-year plan. "It's nice to see a community do that."

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