By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Work on a feasibility study to determine what, if any, town community center is on the drawing board began Tuesday with public input.
Clark Patterson Lee, the consulting firm engaged since February in development of an updated town comprehensive plan, took citizen input at a workshop meeting held at Grand Island High school.
Brian Kulpa, project manager with Clark Patterson Lee, said that as part of the comprehensive plan, the Town Council and Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray "have asked us to consider community services in the form of a community center as a building type or as a place."
According to the sign-in sheet at the entrance to the Grand Viking Theater, almost one-third of the more than 55 participants in the program were connected to the government in some way.
In a post on social media after the meeting, McMurray said the process is "off on the right foot," though he added: "But this process will be dominated by the same handful people unless more people are involved."
The participants broke up into small groups and took part in exercises to ascertain the town's building needs.
"What we're here tonight to do is to find out what residents in the town would like to see, ultimately," Kulpa said. "So we're not passing any judgments on place or location or anything like that."
Kulpa said Thursday data from the meeting was still being gathered. He said a goal of the exercises was to ask about the past, present and future.
•Past: "What we want to know is, in the past, what have you had as a community in terms of recreation, in terms of community enrichment, in terms of continued learning opportunities that you don't have now that you would like to get back."
•Present: "What do you have in your community that you want to hold onto?"
•Future: "Looking ahead, ask yourselves as you and your family age, but also as this community transitions and grows, what does this community need to have, respective of recreation, enrichment, and continuing opportunities, as places?"
At the end of Kulpa's introduction, McMurray reminded participants that the meeting was the first of multiple meetings planned to discuss the community center, and said, "You will decide this. Now, if the town decides we don't want to go forward, we won't go forward."
McMurray said he believes the town needs to do a needs assessment and the best way to do that is talk directly to the people of the town. He urged residents to "come to this with an open mind. Look at all the options."