City task forces reach objectives

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Although three of the City of Cassville's citizen task forces have completed their objectives, a pair of citizen committees will continue to gather information that will be used for future economic development.

"The senior housing, tourism and downtown revitalization task forces have completed their work and been closed out," said Eugene Dilbeck, city administrator. "The infrastructure task force didn't have all the information it needed to deal with all of the issues we wanted those individuals to look at.

"We have been gathering that information and are close to the point when we will call them back together," said Dilbeck.

The remaining task force, which focused on young citizens in the community, experessed interest in conducting a survey to discover the entertainment, retail and social preferences of Cassville's younger residents.

"With the DREAM and Main Street grants, part of the work that will be done will deal with market analysis," said Dilbeck. "We plan to bring the young citizens task force back together and give them the opportunity to be very involved in DREAM Initiative planning."

Even though the senior housing, tourism and downtown revitalization task forces have reached their objectives, work completed by those groups will also be used in future economic development planning, including the DREAM Initiative, said Dilbeck.

"The downtown revitalization task force evolved into the Downtown Cassville Partnership (DCP), which applied for and received the DREAM and Main Street grants," said Dilbeck. "They agreed as a body to form an organization that will function as an independent entity in the downtown area.

"Everyone on the task force agreed that downtown revitalization was a need," said Dilbeck. "The question was how to do it and how much it would cost. I think they are moving in a positive direction."

According to Dilbeck, DCP will be deciding a theme, a streetscaping design, guidelines, historic destination marketing ideas and other details for the downtown area.

"The desire for revitalization was strong," said Dilbeck. "That group has taken the reins and become proactive in moving it forward."

The senior housing task force surveyed seniors in different areas in order to reaffirm the city's assumption that additional senior housing is needed in Cassville, said Dilbeck. Survey information was used to define what type of housing was needed.

"As a result of that information, the city has contacted two firms in Springfield that offer affordable housing," said Dilbeck. "One of those developers is now researching state and federal funding options available for building in the Cassville area."

The city has also met with a developer that plans to build housing that will cost under $100,000 per unit within the Cassville city limits.

"The tourism task force found that although we, as a town, benefit from being a gateway to Roaring River State Park and Table Rock Lake, Cassville as a destination city doesn't exist," said Dilbeck. "We reap the benefits of people passing through Cassville on their way to their vacation spot, but people are not just coming here.

"For this reason, they decided to take a regional approach to promoting the area," said Dilbeck. "They ran into a stone wall when they tried to work with surrounding communities and areas to try to identify a regional destination."

The task force decided that the regional destination would need to encompass two states and around 20 counties. When researching grant options, the task force found that a group cannot get funding to promote other states.

"We offer multiple activities, fishing, museums, trails, ATV recreation, horse riding, wildlife viewing," said Dilbeck. "We have amazing stuff to offer, but we don't have it packaged to provide it in an entrepreneurial way."

Over the next few months, Dilbeck plans to call the infrastructure task force back together to look at the city's water and sewer systems and streets.

"Our infrastructure is terribly old," said Dilbeck. "It has not been maintained in many years. All of the towns in this area are experiencing the same problems. They never factored in depreciation of infrastructure into their budgets, revenue or rates."

After the task force reviews current needs and researches funding options, they will present the information to the Cassville City Council.

Dilbeck also plans to organize citizen task forces that will focus on stormwater and transportation.

"Cassville is going to grow," said Dilbeck. "Census numbers say that 23 percent of the state's growth occurred in southwest Missouri. People are coming, and we are going to have to accommodate them."

After information is gathered from all of the citizen task forces, Dilbeck hopes to organize an economic development task force, which will include members of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), local business owners and citizens.

"We are trying to get the citizens involved," said Dilbeck. "We want them to not only have an opportunity to speak up but to also understand the issues and prioritize those issues for the city.

"We want to know what they are willing to support," said Dilbeck. "It is critical for us to serve the will of the people."

Over 100 local citizens have volunteered to serve on city task forces or took part in Cassville's master planning process, said Dilbeck.

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