'We're in halftime': Anniston Summit brings all residents together to talk about goals
by Patrick McCreless
Nov 20, 2013 | 3083 views |  0 comments | 85 85 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Former Anniston City Councilwoman Debra Foster is shown at her work table Tuesday night at the Anniston City Meeting Center. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Former Anniston City Councilwoman Debra Foster is shown at her work table Tuesday night at the Anniston City Meeting Center. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
It's clear to Anniston native Lyn Brown how her city can improve and grow.

Jobs, jobs, jobs.

Oh, and more jobs.

"Bringing in industry and creating jobs and helping the schools so they'll be ready to help train students for jobs, those are the priorities," Brown said.

Brown was one of nearly 300 area residents who attended the Summit Community Meeting at the Anniston City Meeting Center Tuesday, the latest in the city's One City, One Vision strategic planning initiative. Through the meeting, residents were asked to develop necessary actions city leaders could take to achieve specified goals to improve Anniston.

The participants were separated into nine groups, each focusing on a specific category, such as economic development, education or transportation. Each group had individual lists of actions that could be taken to improve their respective categories. Participants were asked to designate which actions they supported, then specify which of those were priorities and why.

The Summit was the fourth meeting of the One City, One Vision program to develop a strategic plan for the city. The Summit categories and action choices were developed from surveys residents took in previous meetings.

"We're in halftime right now as far as this strategic plan is concerned," Mayor Vaughn Stewart said at the start of the Summit. "Next comes implementation ... it's good to talk, but sooner or later you've got to pull the trigger."

Jamie Greene, a consultant with ACP Visioning and Planning, which has led the meetings, said previous surveys showed Anniston residents have a positive outlook on their city's future.

"You've told us Anniston has significant unrealized potential," Greene said. "Now we're working on how to bring that to life."

Brown was a member of the group focusing on economic and retail development. Unlike some of the other groups, she and her fellow members said the actions needed to improve economic development in the city were easy to discern. Among the group's top action priorities were for the city to provide more tax incentives for businesses, hire someone to lure in more industry and remove regulations that might impede business development.

"My top priority is getting industry in here and creating jobs, which will then also bring in more money for the city," Brown said.

Across the room, several other residents discussed the city's transportation system and how to improve it. Joe Jankoski, table leader for the transportation group, said fellow participants' top priority was to improve shelters at city bus stops.

"When there is inclement weather, it decreases the use of the bus if there is no shelter," Jankoski said.

The transportation group also decided that reworking the city bus routes should be a priority.

"It's difficult to use a bus to get where you want to go quickly," Jankoski said, noting that his group thought bus travel in the city was too slow.

Transportation group member Joe Harrington said he felt the meeting was worthwhile, but just developing a strategic plan was not enough to help the city.

"The most important thing is, if you don't believe in it, it's not going to move forward," Harrington said.

With the Summit over, the next step is for ACP to compile all the answers into a draft strategic plan, Greene said. Then in January or February, ACP will host an open house meeting to show the community the draft and obtain any critiques or additional ideas. Greene said he expected the final strategic plan to be ready by March at the latest.

"Then we take the plan to the city council to take formal action," Greene said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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