GLADSTONE - Gladstone will get help developing goals next month thanks to an assessment program through the MI Rural Council. Community members are invited to participate in the program, which is scheduled to take place March 11.
The city received a grant from the MRC to cover the costs of the assessment. While no dollar value was assigned to the grant, Renee Barron, community development director and zoning administrator for Gladstone, estimates the city would have to pay upwards of $7,000 for similar services. Barron briefed the Gladstone City Commission on the program at its meeting Monday.
"The grant will pay for this team to come to the city of Gladstone and take a look at our community and help us develop some goalsThe MRC representatives conducting the assessment will meet with members of the community including local officials, city departments, government organizations and boards, business owners, the school district, and churches. A town hall meeting will also be held to allow individual citizens the opportunity to voice their opinions.
"It's a good opportunity to have somebody else come take a look at us and tell us what we do right and show us what we can do better," said Barron.
Barron believes the assessment will ask some hard questions of the city, and community involvement in the process may shed light on any disconnects between public opinion and the city.
"When we write grants these are always questions that we look at, every grant asks these types of questions of us," said Barron. "Although the department heads and the commission are all familiar with these questions, I don't know that we're always in touch with what the community thinks about these same questions."
Residents will be receiving special invitations to the town hall portion of the assessment in their utility bills, and the city will be raffling off a television to residents who attend the meeting as an extra incentive.
Despite the town hall being scheduled at 7 p.m. at the Gladstone Sports Park - the same time as a regular commission meeting held at city hall - the commission will not be rescheduling its meeting nor attending the town hall.
"We need to have a clear distinction that decision makers won't be decision making that night," said Barron.
The MRC has been given copies of the city's strategic plan and master plan to be included in the assessment process. While the findings of the assessment cannot be used on the city's strategic plan - which was recently updated - the findings will be used when the master plan is revised this year.
"I wish that maybe it could have occurred before our strategic planning, but we were on a schedule to move forward with that and we did," said Barron. "I am glad that it's fitting in before our master plan and maybe we can utilize some of this information in that process."
The commission expressed interest in knowing the MRC's recommendations if the population of Gladstone decided the city should embrace being a retirement or bedroom community, where citizens commute to jobs elsewhere.
"If that is the direction we want to go, is that going to be able to sustain the services that we're trying to sustain, because frankly, every year it gets harder for us to sustain the services that we've become accustomed to, and if that strategy is followed would we be able to sustain those services?" asked Commissioner Joe Maki.
However, Barron felt confident that no matter how the community decided to frame the roll of the city, there were economic development opportunities available.
"There are ways to build economic development opportunities around that population. It doesn't necessarily mean that's all we should do but having things available for the population is definitely going to be a key thing to help Gladstone thrive," said Barron.," said Barron, who has been working to bring the assessment to the city, at the Monday night commission meeting.