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Berlin planning draws full house for Flower St. meeting

(Feb. 5, 2015) More than 50 people attended the first in a series of strategic planning meetings gauging public interest for future projects in Berlin on Thursday, Jan. 29.
Held at the multipurpose building on Flower Street, the meeting drew town and county officials, as well as dozens of Berlin residents.
“This is an opportunity for you,” District 4 Councilmember Dean Burrell, acting as host, said. “This is an opportunity for you to share why do you think Berlin is so great and how we together can make it better. This is an opportunity to see government work.”
Christine Becker, who facilitated the meeting, said the process would involve “three major steps,” including an introductory meeting previously held at town hall, four community meetings and an online survey, and a public work session with the Berlin mayor and council.
“The whole purpose of this is to get your input into guiding what will be a three-year strategic plan for the mayor and council, which will guide their work and the work of the department heads,” Becker said. “We’re developing goals and objectives, the ideas that you provide, and also the clarity you give us.”
Becker said the meetings were “about collecting ideas.”
“We’re not going to do the strategic plan here today – we’re going to begin to develop it,” she said. “Try to think big picture. Think about where do you see Berlin going, what is it going to be like, what do you want it to be like.”
A full house discussed positives and negatives in the community, the ways the community is changing and the direction they would like to see change take.
The likely continued growth in the town fell on both sides of the fence, with some anticipating increases in revenue and opportunity while others worried about protecting their way of life.
“We don’t want to disappoint our town citizens and/or visitors by getting complacent … and just resting on our laurels,” Jim Volk, administrator at the chamber of commerce, said.
“This is a very good time for the time to be doing a strategic plan, because you’re coming off the ‘coolest’ designation [and] there’s a lot of positive things happening,” Becker said. “You want to seize the momentum.”
Working in groups, attendees brainstormed about goals on oversized poster boards lining the walls, moving from station to station and mingling in and out of each topic.
Becker collected ideas and then invited everyone to place red stars next to the goals they felt were most important. Increased parks and recreation facilities and maintaining safety appeared to garner the most interest.
At the conclusion of the more than two-hour meeting, Becker thanked participants and encouraged them to recruit friends and neighbors to come out for future sessions.
“We would ideally like to have four different groups of people so that we hear different things,” Becker said.
Mayor Gee Williams also thanked the crowd.
“I don’t know which emotion is greater, my gratitude for this evening or my excitement, so I’ll call it a draw,” he said. “If you had a good experience [and] thought it was worth your time to encourage your friends and relatives … the folks you work with, the folks that you serve publically with … everybody is welcome. This is not about exclusivity, it’s about inclusivity.
“We’ll take this journey together,” Williams continued. “It starts with you.”
The next strategic planning meeting is scheduled for Feb. 7 at 10 a.m. at town hall, followed by a session on Feb. 12 at Buckingham Elementary School at 6 p.m. and a Feb. 21 meeting at the multipurpose building at 10 a.m.