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The Suburbanite
  • A letter from the mayor of Green, Dick Norton

  • I appreciate the opportunity to write this column for The Suburbanite’s profile of the City of Green. As the mayor for 16 months now, I want to continue the dialogue of how to make Green one of the best places to live in the country. This has and continues to be my goal and vision for our community.

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  • I appreciate the opportunity to write this column for The Suburbanite’s profile of the City of Green. As the mayor for 16 months now, I want to continue the dialogue of how to make Green one of the best places to live in the country. This has and continues to be my goal and vision for our community. 
    But what does this mean for you, and what does it entail? For the most part, it’s about quality of life. It’s that feeling of pride in our community.  It’s the sense of connectivity you have with your neighbors. It’s having the mystique of an American small town, but with the amenities of a larger city.  
    So how do we plan on cultivating these feelings and creating an atmosphere conducive to enhancing the quality of life for Green residents? By developing and implementing a strategic plan for our city.   In September 2008, I assembled city department heads, council members and other key personnel for a retreat to develop key initiatives to help us reach this vision. From this meeting, four key initiatives were determined – parks and recreation, economic development, public safety, and public service and transportation. These broad goals were then broken down into key strategies by a committee assigned to each initiative. Each committee is responsible for outlining and implementing an action plan to help achieve our goal of making Green one of the best places to live.
    Every month I meet with the chairs of these committees to receive updates, add input and continue to drive our vision. As an aside, a vision is a guidepost, even in these stormy economic times, and we will continue to strive for our goal, while keeping in mind current (and future) economic conditions. 
    Here’s a synopsis of some of the progress that has been made on fulfilling our vision.
    Parks and Recreation
    If you lived in Green 15 years ago, you have witnessed the work that has been done in creating and maintaining our beautiful parks. In that time, we have developed 10 parks with more than 524-acres. Not an easy feat, but one that is extremely important to the citizens of the community. As a city we have been fortunate to have Mike Elkins, superintendent of parks and recreation, who has implemented the parks vision for the past 10 years. Under his leadership we have seen the original vision of the parks come to fruition in a relatively short amount of time. Mike is currently co-chair of the parks and recreation initiative, while our Service Director Randy Montieth, chairs the committee. The committee has determined to focus on three key initiatives for parks. 
    1. Develop sustainable funding to ensure proper maintenance of existing and future facilities.   When the city’s charter was formed, the citizens believed so much in green space and parks that they dedicated, by charter, to provide 10% of the 1% (at the time) income tax to capital expenses for the parks. (Now parks receives 7% of the 2% income tax). This money was set aside to purchase land, build ballfields, playgrounds and pavilions, and construct walking trails, among other capital improvements. Today, the capital funds remain necessary because of the desire for added features and upgrades to our parks, but our new challenge is to figure out the best way to maintain them at the standard we all envision. This is a tough initiative to tackle and a problem that will take time to solve.  
    Page 2 of 3 - 2. Establish sustainable use for the Belden Lodge. In 2007 when the city purchased Southgate Park, we also acquired a beautiful 16,000-square foot home that isn’t so easy to determine its place or purpose in our parks system. Currently the committee is requesting a study be completed to determine the feasibility of turning the space into usable meeting space for special events or some other purpose. 
    3. Review and recommend outstanding projects for completion as identified in the parks and recreation master plan. The parks and recreation master plan was created in 2006, and set a vision for building park amenities and programs. However, like any plan, it changes and evolves over time. What hasn’t changed is the desire of our residents to have amenities such as an outdoor pool, recreation center and other key services. Now that time has passed, this plan needs to be revisited and prioritizes re-examined to map out the next 10+ years for our park system.
    Economic Development
    Economic development is really about attracting new businesses and retaining existing businesses, creating jobs and enhancing the city’s revenue. Increased revenue for the city in turn impacts each resident by an increase in the level of service (and hopefully quality of life). The economic development team led by Wayne Wiethe, planning director, and co-chaired by Stephen Pruneski, law director, is focusing on four strategies.
    1. Retain existing business through various tactics such as public relations, outreach programs, Charting the Course presentations, and additional resource programs for existing businesses.
    2. Expand existing business.  Develop programs and initiatives to ensure that when our businesses expand they choose to expand here in Green.
    3. Attract new businesses. This will be accomplished by developing and implementing a marketing plan for the city.
    4. Market available real estate.  Just this month, we have launched our new commercial real estate database of all available commercial properties in the City of Green. Coupled with the marketing plan to attract new businesses and expand existing businesses, this database will assist site selectors, commercial developers and realtors with identifying a prime location in our city.  Currently, we are only one of a few municipalities in Summit County with this feature.
    Public Safety
    Public safety isn’t a desire, but a necessity to quality of life. This committee, chaired by Fire Chief Robert Calderone and co-chaired by Kevin Groen, acting fire chief, has three key initiatives:
    1. Emergency Operations Plan. A comprehensive emergency operations plan is needed for the city, and it is the responsibility of this committee to ensure it is developed for the safety of our residents.
    2. Emergency Notification System. There are several new technologies available for emergency notification. The committee is charged with evaluating all the options and costs, and ultimately, recommending the best option for our city.
    Page 3 of 3 - 3. Parking. During the McCain/Palin rally, several local streets were blocked by illegally parked cars. As a safety concern, the committee was charged with reviewing the current ordinances related to parking in our city and offer suggestions for preventing this problem in the future. It has been determined that the current ordinances are adequate, but that a process for temporary no-parking signs should be instituted, since rallies and events of this magnitude are few and far between.
    Public Service and Transportation
    This initiative deals mainly with our infrastructure including roadways and pedestrian access.  The team, led by Paul Pickett, city engineer, and co-chaired by Jeanne Greco, human resources manager, has identified four goals.
    1. Analyze pedestrian mobility. Many residents desire sidewalks for the ability to safely walk to our local businesses, schools and parks. Because of our township roots, sidewalks were not a requirement when building new streets and subdivisions. Today, this is required by ordinance, but it doesn’t resolve current areas without sidewalks. This committee is identifying areas where sidewalk and pedestrian access make sense to connect our city.
    2. Highway study. The committee is responsible for overseeing the necessary highway studies to schedule and prepare for upcoming road repair and construction.
    3. Evaluate highway maintenance and preserve pavement conditions. This goal is to find ways to preserve our existing roadways as a way to trim costs for the city.
    4. Intra-city access to public transportation. As a suburb, public transportation isn’t readily available to our residents.  The team is exploring the feasibility of residents using public transportation to large activity
    centers. 
    Each of the sub points under these key initiatives have multiple steps that take months to complete. Our goal is to not allow these strategic ideas and our vision to sit on a shelf in some office without progress or resolution. Our goal is to provide residents, businesses and all who enjoy our city with the best possible experience. Through these positive experiences, we will achieve our vision of being one of the best places to live. But, I already believe this, and would like to hear from you.
    Email me at communications@cityofgreen.org with your thoughts and feedback on how you believe we can make this vision a reality.