Low turnout, good input at strategic plan community engagement sessions



By Ron Giofu


Turnout was lower than expected at the community engagement sessions for the town’s strategic plan but facilitators of those sessions believe they received solid input.

Roughly 22 people attended last Tuesday night’s session at the Libro Centre with eight attending an afternoon session at the McGregor Knights of Columbus Hall Thursday. The meetings were facilitated by the town and the consultants MDB Insight.

Manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said the turnout was less than what was anticipated but was happy with the input those who turned out gave.

“I think they went well,” said Belanger.

Belanger said many of the thoughts shared at the two public sessions mirrored what they are reading from the online and written surveys as well as the brainstorming sessions that were held with council and administration.

“All of the priorities seem to coincide,” she said.

Participants in last Wednesday afternoon’s community engagement session discuss their ideas for the strategic plan at the K of C Hall in McGregor.

Participants in last Wednesday afternoon’s community engagement session discuss their ideas for the strategic plan at the K of C Hall in McGregor.

Members of the public brought up various issues over the two sessions, including the need for economic development and a town department to further that portfolio, marketing of the town and its outdoor tourism opportunities, partnering with institutions of higher learning such as St. Clair College, waterfront development, sound finances, having an “uptick” in small manufacturing, the need for improved infrastructure in rural areas and expansion of broadband Internet.

Both Belanger and Lauren Millier of MDB Insight said that over 450 surveys were completed with Belanger adding last Thursday that the town expected to have over 500 done. The surveys are now closed.

“This information will form the basis for our community-based strategic plan,” said Belanger.

A draft version of the strategic plan is anticipated to be complete and on the town’s website by the end of April.

“There will be opportunities for the public to read it and provide comment back,” said Belanger.

The plan is expected to go before town council in late May for final approval.

The low attendance was not lost on some of the participants. Jeff and Sarah Watson attended the afternoon session in McGregor with the former MP hoping the participation rate would have been higher.

“We need more people participating,” he said.

Mary Ellen Morton also attended the McGregor meeting and believed it was worthwhile.

“It was very well done,” she said.

Morton believed outlying areas such as McGregor are “forgotten” and that part of town should get the same consideration as the downtown core.

Louise McDonell said she is new to Amherstburg and spoke of the town’s historical destinations, and believed there should be a greater promotion of eco-tourism and the town’s retailers.

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