The people in the town represent to themselves the idea of a more modern town. And they function as a contrast to Miss Emily representing the old ways and the old town.
My impression of the town's people is that they are nosey and hold themselves somewhat superior to Miss Emily while at the same time are in awe of her. You can see the superior attitude as represented by the new townsmen trying to collect tax from her. It is clear that they feel as if they represent a type of organisation and government that has become less reliant on relationships and more built on some semblance of equality - at least as far as paying taxes go.
However, there is still an amount of awe in the sort of respect the town's people have for Miss Emily and they way in which they treat her. They claim her as a part of them referring to her much in the way you would of an old aunt who lingers on. She is a living legend in the town.