County joins in Vision 2020 plan

First focus groups have already met

Receiving close to $200,000 in grants from Grow Greene County last week was a factor in a decision by the Greene County supervisors Monday to fund the full $24,000 requested toward the $98,000 cost of the Vision 2020 community development plan.

The board has discussed its participation several times since presentations about the project by Greene County Development Corporation in late February.

Board chair John Muir said Grow Greene County had driven home the benefit of forward thinking in awarding the county a $55,000 grant toward the restoration of the stained glass dome at the courthouse.

Muir retracted some of his previous comments about Vision 2020 being “set up to fail” by not working enough in the county’s smaller towns. “Some of that is where we set our expectations. If we think they’re going to move the state capitol here, we’re going to be disappointed and it’s going to fail. But, there are things we can push for and recognize and make happen throughout the county. We can set the bar there and call it a success if we achieve those goals,” he said.

“If we don’t look for things to help us see the right direction to go and the things that will pay off and the things that will work, nothing renders nothing. I’m in support of us participating in this project. I think it’s important that we be part of it,” Muir said.

“If we don’t participate, we won’t have a voice. We need to have a voice. We need to be involved. We can’t just sit back and never try,” supervisor Dawn Rudolph said.

She used the effort to bring Wild Rose Jefferson to the county as an example of something in Jefferson benefiting the entire county.

Last week Grow Greene County awarded $1.4 million in grant funds coming from gambling proceeds. Every town in the county received an amount based on population, and Churdan, Grand Junction and Scranton all received competitive grants for specific projects.

Supervisor Peter Bardole serves ex officio on the GCDC board. He said GCDC has made it very clear to Zach Mannheimer of Community 360, the consortium that will complete the Vision 2020 plan, that it needs to include the entire county.

A motion to approve $24,000 for Vision 2020 passed on a 3-2 vote, with Muir, Rudolph and Bardole in favor and Tom Contner and Mick Burkett opposed.

After the vote, Contner said 85 percent of the people he has talked to don’t know where the money would come from or how the smaller communities will be involved. His commented during the discussion that until the county adds jobs, population will not increase. Burkett made no comments before or after voting on the motion.

Several GCDC board members attended the supervisors’ meeting. GCDC president Sid Jones said that as telecommuting grows, quality of life will become a bigger factor in deciding where to live. He said Vision 2020 will provide new ideas, fresh thoughts and a new approach. A financial commitment by the county supervisors will send a message to the professionals who will compile the plan and to the entire community that there is support for the project, not only in Jefferson, but throughout the county, Jones said.

Jones said GCDC was waiting to receive support from the city of Jefferson and the county before soliciting financial support from industry. (The city council approved $24,000 in funding at its March 28 meeting.) That part of fundraising will begin now, with a goal of raising $25,000 for the project.

Work on Vision 2020 already under way – GCDC had already committed to pay the entire $98,000 cost of the project even if there were no participation by the city of Jefferson or the county, and work on the plan began Monday afternoon.

GCDC executive director Ken Paxton reported to the GCDC board Tuesday that Mannheimer, Sue Cosner of Iowa Development Group, and David Dahlquist of RDG Planning and Design met on Monday with three focus groups to address the current housing shortage. The groups were composed of realtors, lenders and developers; major employers, city/county representatives and local businesses; and young families and singles.

Information from those meetings will be combined with the housing study completed last fall and research on incentive programs recently used in other communities to formulate the next step and funding options to improve housing options.

Paxton explained that Vision 2020 will be managed by a steering committee of “young” people (late 20s and 30s), representatives of community and government organizations, local businesses, and each city in the county. The group will number 30 to 35. The steering committee will establish the overall direction and key projects to promote. An executive board of about a dozen persons will be chosen from the steering committee. The executive board will meet monthly with Community 360. As individual project areas are identified, subcommittees will be selected to work on each project with Community 360.

Paxton referred to Community 360 as a “dream team’ of professional community developers. Vision 2020 is the team’s first total community development project for a rural Iowa county. The team hopes to demonstrate success that they can use to market its services to other rural counties.

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