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First workshop is Monday night as residents’ input sought on Valparaiso’s future

VALPO NEXT

5-7 p.m. Monday

Thomas Jefferson Middle School, 1600 Roosevelt Road

Noon-1:30 p.m. Tuesday

Grace Chapel, 157 Lafayette St. (enter north or south, parking at Von Tobel’s)

7-9 p.m. Wednesday

Valparaiso High School, 2727 N. Campbell St.

For more information, visit www.valponext.com.

Updated: March 25, 2014 6:18AM



VALPARAISO — If there’s something about the city you don’t like or there’s a direction you know it should be going, city officials want to hear it.

They’re asking residents of all ages and backgrounds to plan the next 20 years of the city in three special meetings this week, starting Monday. They want to hear about every topic important to residents: policies, economics, social and other projects or other concerns.

“We don’t want to limit the input,” Mayor Jon Costas said. “It could be anything, really.”

The events, billed as Big Idea Workshops for Valpo Next, could be specific proposals, such as a natatorium, or comments about how people feel, such as a lack of communication around the city, he said.

Costas said he’ll visit at the state of each meeting to thank people for showing up — then leave, so people feel comfortable speaking up.

At the workshops, people will divide into groups and present ideas.

Planning NEXT will put the information 15 facilitators collect into a database and arrange it by themes. Then, the consulting firm will return in May to present the information collected at a meeting where residents will help them understand what it all means.

The firm plans to produce a rough draft for the city in August and the final draft by early October.

For a city of Valparaiso’s size to embark on this when not in a crisis is unusual, said Costas and Jamie Greene, principal with Planning NEXT.

Greene said that the city’s commitment to planning is more robust than most and unique in his 20 years of consulting.

Residents also seem enthusiastic, with 2,400 “likes” on the Facebook page for the planning process.

“That is a very high percentage ... including communities much larger than Valparaiso,” Greene said.

He attributes some of that to networking by 40 volunteers recruited in September for the steering committee.

Besides looking for ideas, Costas hopes Valpo Next will build connections.

“The process is often as significant as the outcome,” he said.

Costas said creating a long-range plan came from the realization that the projects his administration had worked on for the past 11 years were obvious, low-hanging fruit.

The city is paying Planning NEXT’s $198,000 fee out of riverboat gambling fund proceeds.



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