New comprehensive plan will map city’s futureJune 20, 2018
By CANDY NEAL
JASPER — What should Jasper’s future include? What should the city look like? What features should it have?
Those ideas will soon be solicited as part of the work to update Jasper’s comprehensive plan.
“It has been the guiding book for everything we have here. It’s very important,” Mayor Terry Seitz said Tuesday during the first steering committee meeting to work on the plan. “What we are having to start today is that next journey. For Jasper, for us, this is really about our future.”
A group of 25 people make up the steering committee. Members include city officials and staff; members of various city boards; educators; and representatives of the health, agriculture and business communities.
Consultants from Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group, Thomas P. Miller & Associates, and Midwestern Engineers are working with the city to update the plan, which was last updated in 2011 and amended with the downtown/riverfront master plan in 2013.
“We are here as facilitators to get the big ideas from you,” said Amy Williams, principal of Taylor Siefker.
The group started its work by brainstorming what they saw as the city’s assets and challenges. Those were compiled to create six categories: workforce development/talent attraction, quality of place/quality of life, inclusiveness/social issues, connectivity, riverfront/downtown and cultural assets. They then worked in small groups to come up with ideas under each category and marked with stickers which ideas they saw to be most important.
Under cultural assets, for instance, they noted creating programs, marketing programs and events that are already happening, and utilizing the library building for outreach programs — like a Hispanic outreach center — and programs that would appeal to diverse crowds. Under workforce development/talent attraction, they noted marketing the diverse jobs available at existing companies, education and industry partnerships to enhance career pathways, creating internship and apprenticeships and rebranding “German” to represent high design, technology, diversity and green jobs instead of “Old World.” They marked under inclusiveness/social issues the need for more education about mental health and addiction, creating an all-inclusive cultural festival, and having other entertainment events like gatherings and online gaming nights.
The process to update the comprehensive plan will be done in three phases. Phase one will be examining existing conditions, a process that will run from now until November. Phase two will be strategic planning of new ideas for the future; that process will run from November to April. Phase three will involve determining ways to implement the strategies, including getting the updated comprehensive plan approved by the city’s Plan Commission and Common Council; that process is expected to run from April to August 2019. Each phase will include committee meetings and a public meeting.
The steering committee will have five meetings — the first was Tuesday — and three public meetings that will be held throughout the study period. It will also review the consultants’ work and provide input, promote the importance of the project to the public and encourage fellow residents to share their perspectives and ideas.
Seitz thanked the group for stepping in to serve on the committee and for their willingness to take the time needed to work on the document.
“It’s not going to be easy,” he acknowledged. “And it’s not going to be overnight.”
The committee will meet again in October. In the meantime, each member was encouraged to look at one of the city’s assets or challenges and brainstorm ideas for improvement. Those ideas will be sent to the consultants in the next few weeks. The consultants also plan to set up at the upcoming Strassenfest in hopes to engage the public and get comments and ideas from people at the festival.
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