By Sara Kirkley, Weekend Anchor / Reporter - email
The Grander Vision project could cost the city of Grand Island $100,000; and Monday, the public got its first taste of what it might accomplish.
For the first time a group of 26 community leaders met with Design Workshop, the company contracted to spearhead the visioning process.
It kicked off by deciding a motto: "Your voice, Your plan, Our future."
That slogan can be easily translated into different languages - an issue the group discussed before voting.
According to the G.I. Multicultural Coalition, about 30 percent of Hall County's population is considered minority.
Visioning participants said getting their input is key to making a plan for the future.
"We're going to be sure that we do everything possible to go ahead and ensure that everyone has access and has that ability to communicate," said Grand Island Mayor Jay Vavricek.
That may be easier said than done considering, out of 26 participants Monday, only one was a minority.
"You can't just put up a website and assume people will go to it. You can't just send out ads on the radio. You have to really talk to community leaders and figure out how are the best ways to reach out to this community or that community," said Britt Palmberg, Design Workshop project manager.
Carlos Barcenas, originally from Mexico, agrees.
"It's those relationships that we have built in the past that I think are key for moving forward in the future, that we make those contacts with people that have moved in, that are new or that haven't been involved at a certain level," he said.
Barcenas was involved in G.I.'s last visioning process and is excited for the next project.
He said language will be the biggest challenge, but cultural and generational difference could also make the process harder.
Design Workshop's contract says they'll translate their surveys in Spanish, Sudanese and Somali.
"If we can break that language barrier, we can get to know each other," said Barcenas.
The Latino, Sudanese and Somalian communities are also named in separate focus groups.
Monday, the project's first participants asked that the Asian community also be included.
Another minority the project wants to include - those living outside Grand Island.
Project leaders said it's important those communities are listed on websites and surveys so residents get involved.
"Cairo, Doniphan, Wood river, Alda - your voice is important to this," said Vavricek. "This really makes this process unique."
Vavricek said he and other city leaders have been laying the ground work for this project for the past year. G.I. City Administrator Mary Lou Brown said in Monday's meeting, that included reaching out to some minority communities.
Design Workshop will have surveys available and hold public meetings soon.
Focus groups are expected to be split into 12 categories: senior citizens, policy makers, community builders, education, business, housing, transportation, ag and environment, youth and young professionals, Latino, Sudanese and Somali communities.
Hall County leaders said, when the process is over, they want an action plan that will increase the quality of life and revenue coming into the area. Another popular idea in the meeting was to change they way Hall County residents view "we."
There were also some concerns. Participants talked about making sure changes in leadership at G.I. City Hall would not impact the progress of the project.
Another challenge identified was that information is also being gathered for a separate five year economic development strategy.
Design Workshop said they'll work to make sure there's not confusion between the two.
"We think it's a great benefit there's a separate effort going on in terms of business and economic development because that information they're gathering from the business community helps to feed into this effort for Grand Island and surrounding area," said Palmberg.
The Grander Vision project is funded by a $100,000 gift from the Nebraska State Fair. G.I. city council members have argued that money could have gone into the city's general fund.