Organization seeks residents’ opinions on collecting residents’ opinions
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Jul 10, 2013 | 2354 views |  0 comments | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Calhoun County Metropolitan Planning Organization wants public input on how to get public input.

The organization, a federally funded agency responsible for handling transportation projects throughout the county, is in the process of updating its public participation plan. Like all of the organization’s projects and proposals, the draft plan needs to seek public input before submitting a final plan.

Jack Plunk, a principal planner with the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, said the public participation plan was last updated in 2003. Most of the changes to the document are minor, he said, with the biggest addition being a foreign language component that will require the organization to accommodate non-English speaking residents who want to attend meetings or comment on projects.

An open meeting Wednesday about the plan didn’t attract a lot of traffic to the organization’s office on third floor of the Noble Tower, but that didn’t surprise Plunk.

“This is pretty dry stuff,” Plunk said. “This isn’t about an actual project we’re working on.”

But even when the organization has major plans in the pipeline, getting public opinion can be tricky, Plunk said.

“The American public typically only provides input when there’s a crisis,” Plunk said. “They never call you up and say, ‘Hey, you’re doing a good job.’”

Plunk said he expects to hear feedback on the plan from the organization’s Citizens Advisory Committee, made up of residents selected by the organization and local city officials.

But even that form of public input has dried up a little bit in the past year. Plunk said the committee lost 25 percent of its members since 2012 as residents either moved away or in some cases died. City mayors are typically tasked with asking for volunteers to replace committee members.

“We’re always looking for people to join that committee,” Plunk said, noting eight seats each in Anniston and Oxford need to be filled as well as two seats in Weaver. “If anyone is interested in talking about transportation for one hour every two months, they should get in touch with me.”

Residents can obtain a copy of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Public Participation Plan on the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission’s website at earpdc.org, or in the commission’s office in the Noble Tower. Residents can have input on the plan by attending the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s meeting on July 18, the Citizen Advisory Committee’s meeting on July 24, or through the commission’s website.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.



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