GUEST COLUMN, Jim Rice, Seward County Commissioner
A little report on Thursday’s meeting of the City of Liberal and Seward County, what to do about developing a new Comprehensive Plan and possible changes in the structure of Economic Development. I will say I had no idea what to expect, yet the outcome was fantastic in my opinion.
“Probably the best meeting between the city and county I remember ever,” is the best way to describe it. Enthusiasm and a willingness to work together filled the room, not only between commission members but to include a room full of folks who came to observe. Everyone had the opportunity to speak and speak they did.
First was the discussion of the Comprehensive Plan, and if the two entities including the City of Kismet could work together to do one plan. This is a plan and guideline into the future of the entire county, what we want to see and what are our needs projected out over the next five, 10, 15, even 20 years as we set goals and objectives for future growth.
The last comprehensive plan was for 20 years and was developed in 1996 so I guess you could say it expired in 2016, although no one probably noticed.
I will say it was an interesting read, and many of the things it identifies have to some extent been accomplished or perhaps become outdated since it was originally written. So, the need for developing a new Comprehensive Plan is upon us.
The big question was, could we do a joint plan, save money and provide a plan for the entire community to follow that would move us forward? As the discussion began and continued it became very evident that all players were more than willing to try, perhaps develop an in-house plan with a coordinator, director, collector of data or whatever title one wanted to select — a single individual needed to be in charge. The county offered the use of a vacant office in the Admin Building, complete with a computer, desks and most all the things necessary to begin the project. Following a lengthy discussion, all agreed to start the process by drafting an inter-local agreement between the City of Kismet, Seward County and the City of Liberal. It was agreed that one year should be a sufficient time to complete the process which includes many factors. We do have a template or a guideline to work from and it can be modified as needed.
I think this is pretty exciting to know all present were willing to proceed in writing our own plan right here in Seward County and hopefully with local folks. Who better to head up the project than someone that lives and works right here? Estimates to write a new plan from a few companies that specialize in comprehensive plans and other counties ranged from $70,000 to $120,000 for a single entity, perhaps more? Can we save money and utilize a combined plan, perhaps and hopefully, but the best part is that it will be a combined effort to include the entire community from collecting data to the finished product. Yes, you can expect to hear more as the plan develops and rest assured you will have an opportunity to express your ideas and dreams as to what you believe your community needs to grow and expand. I guess in the end, “results” are what really count and not the upfront costs. Imagine if some how, some way we increased our tax base by 25 or 50 percent, that would certainly be money well spent in my opinion, yet we will never know if we don’t try, and all the the stars seemed to be aligned last night to proceed, with intent and enthusiasm.