LaFayette offered chance to participate in equitable initiative

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, January 12, 2022

At the LaFayette City Council meeting on Monday, Dr. Arturo Menefee, director of leadership development for the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, provided an overview of a potential Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative project in LaFayette.

“It’s essentially a program that wants to assist communities in terms of addressing COVID-19 issues,” Menefee said. “And so, in doing so, our target audiences that we want to focus on [are] populations that are at high risk or what we would consider underserved, including racial and ethnic minorities as well as in rural communities.”

Menefee said funding partners for the Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative are the Centers for Disease Control and the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“And my office, the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, we are leading this effort throughout the state,” he said. “Our goal is to identify 15 communities. LaFayette, of course, is one of those.”

Menefee said that the project in LaFayette would involve a coordinator leading the effort, and an advisory group would assist the coordinator.

“And we also want to focus on the youth,” he said. “We want to reach out to the youth and to establish a youth community council that will also be heavily involved.”

Menefee said the initiative requires funds to develop a healing zone, which is a natural outdoor space which some might consider a park. He said the initiative could enhance a park that already exists or create a new space.

Councilmember Terry Mangram asked how long the program would last. Menefee responded that it is supposed to end in May 2023. However, because his team received funds from the Alabama Department of Public Health later than what they had expected, the project may last longer originally planned.

“If you all do decide to participate, and we certainly welcome that, there is a tight time limit,” Menefee said. “Right now, we’re working about 18 months or so. And so, the sooner we can get started, the better.”

“I think this would be a great partnership,” Councilman Michael Ellis said. “And I think with COVID numbers going up like they are, I welcome it. I’m on board for it.”

Menefee said there would be no costs to the city for the project. He said the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development would like to hold some capacity-building workshops, some online and some in person. He welcomed participation from city leadership.