First Coon Rapids community meeting draws few residents

by Peter Bodley
Managing Editor

Attendance was sparse Feb. 27 at the first of three community meetings that the city of Coon Rapids is hosting for residents to present their views on community goals, values and plans to help shape the future of the city.

Dave Unmacht, a consultant with Springsted Inc., is running the three city of Coon Rapids community meetings on the future of the city. He told participants at the Feb. 27 meeting how the small group discussions would work.

Some 15 people showed up at the Coon Rapids Civic Center for the first community meeting.

But two other meetings have been scheduled, both from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

• Thursday, March 15, The Harvest Grill at Bunker Hills, 12800 Bunker Prairie Drive.

• Wednesday, March 21, Coon Rapids Ice Center, 11000 Crooked Lake Blvd.

The city has outlined six specific goals for the community meetings.

• Broaden citizenship participation in the community visioning process.

• Focus on established community priority topics.

• Support a positive community dialogue.

• Make a difference in the city council decision making.

• Group discussion and individual input.

• Meet new people, enjoy and have fun.

Mayor Tim Howe welcomed the participants.

“You are helping us plan for the future,” Howe said.

“This is an opportunity for us to learn from you your vision going into the future.”

The council, although some of its members were at the meeting, would not be involved in the group or individual input, Howe said.

Then after guidance from moderator Dave Unmacht, a consultant with Springsted Inc., the participants split up into three small groups of five to focus on five specific topic areas – transportation, community development/redevelopment/housing/neighborhoods, community diversity, public safety and civic involvement/excellence in government.

In addition to presenting a small group perspective on each of these five priority areas, which were first identified by the Coon Rapids City Council in 2005, attendees were also asked to fill out a questionnaire to give their individual thoughts on the priorities.

They were asked to give their opinions – “the good, the bad, the ugly,” Unmacht said – on whether the topic was important to Coon Rapids, why it was important, how well was the city doing in addressing the priorities, the city’s strengths and areas of opportunity and the priorities the city should be focusing on in the next 10 years.

Some highlights from the responses by participants were:

• Transportation: continued bus service, better commuter rail train hours and better street maintenance.

• Community development: need to attract new business, more business friendly atmosphere and continue work on Coon Rapids Boulevard.

• Community diversity: establish welcoming attitude, diversity not government issue and more family friendly activities.

• Public safety: Cross-train departments, cooperation with local communities (sharing equipment) and more visibility in neighborhoods.

• Civic involvement: Council disengaged from community, councilmembers need to get more involved in community and frustration in time to get variance.

But at the end of the small group presentations, Unmacht said a “end of session bucket topic” could be brought up, “something that had been missed.”

“You may have come with an idea, thought, agenda and this will be a chance to talk about it,” Unmacht said.

According to City Manager Matt Fulton, the council’s priorities for the future set in 2005 came before the “economic difficulties.”

“We are testing these vision statements,” Fulton said.

It is important to get citizen engagement on these priorities because over the past five years, “the economy has changed lives,” he said.

The council had previously put in place a 2030 vision plan and this process is an effort to update that plan, Fulton said.

Fulton has been meeting individually with the council’s advisory boards and commissions as part of the strategic planning process to get their vision for the city’s future.

And this spring there will be a community survey undertaken; the questions are now being developed, Fulton said.

Reservations are not required to attend the meetings.

For more information contact City Clerk Cathy Sorensen at 763-767-6493 or e-mail [email protected].

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]