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Editorial: Huntington-Marshall University connection valuable for community

From The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington:

The “town and gown” relationship between Huntington and Marshall University always has been important, and strong ties between the city and university will remain crucial for the community’s future well-being.

The two entities have a symbiotic relationship on the most basic level. Huntington, of course, provides the setting, infrastructure and the population base from which Marshall draws a good number of its students and staff. Marshall, in turn, helps fuel the local economy with jobs and infrastructure of its own, as well as providing a source of higher education for the local population and myriad activities that add to the quality of life.

But the relationship is beneficial in many other ways, including the sharing of expertise and resources and the means for collaboration on the challenges facing the community.

Recent examples abound, touching on a variety of issues big and small. Two occurred last week.

On Wednesday morning, three Marshall students majoring in statistics and applied mathematics shared their findings with city officials following a semester-long study on ways to maximize the Huntington Sanitation and Trash Division’s efficiency. After studying the garbage routes and the volumes of trash collected, they suggested that routes should be adjusted for population shifts in the city to level out the amounts collected on each. One goal, of course, is to save the city money. Public Works Director Jim Insco said the information was useful and could apply to other city endeavors.

In this case, the collaboration yielded good data for the city, plus supplied the participating students with real-world application of their school work. The same class last year analyzed how the Huntington Police Department could increase efficiencies of its patrol zones.

Also Wednesday, in the late afternoon, Mayor Steve Williams, other city officials and university representatives took part in one of Williams’ “Walk With the Mayor” tours, this one focused on areas just off campus where several strong-arm robberies of students have taken place recently. The goal was to talk about ways to make those areas more safe, whether through improved lighting or increased police patrols. Also discuss was increasing students’ awareness of tactics to help keep themselves safe. Marshall President Jerome Gilbert joined the mayor for the event.

Of course, the university and the city also have several other common concerns and goals.

Both are key partners in other initiatives aimed at addressing challenges and opportunities in the community. One example is carrying out parts of the development plan that emanated from the city’s quest to be named America’s Best Community. The university no doubt will be a key player in efforts to improve the Fairfield area as well as the industrial brownfield redevelopment sought for an area near its campus.

The two also are instrumental in local efforts to confront the opioid epidemic, as illustrated by the work of the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy and the university’s new addiction services programs currently being developed. No doubt, in many instances they will be working hand in hand in tackling that enormous challenge and trying to minimize the negative impacts.

There’s no question that both entities can assist each other in various ways, and by working together, benefit the entire community.

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