Nearly 50 people turned out Thursday night to talk about Neligh's future and start planning for the next decade.
The City of Neligh and Neligh Economic Development Office hosted the town hall meeting at the Neligh Senior Center to gather information to form a comprehensive plan that will take the community into 2025. The last comprehensive plan for Neligh was completed in 1977.
Residents, business owners and elected officials participated in the 90-minute meeting, discussing strengths and weaknesses of the community. Among the diverse topics discussed by the two groups were downtown Neligh, workforce development, housing and lack of affordable housing, medical availability, businesses, education and school facilities, parks and recreation,communication frustrations, supporting entrepreneurs and financing opportunities.
“It was a fantastic meeting, and I was amazed by how many people participated,” said Economic Development Director Greg Ptacek. “The discussion went very well. I was pleased at how the planners conducted themselves and the discussion that took place. It's very valuable to the city and the community."
Miller and Associates, a Kearney-based Consulting and Engineering firm, has partnered with the city to develop a short term strategic plan, capital improvement plan, community needs assessment and a full housing study. About half of the funding for the project comes via a $21,000 grant from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA) to the City of Neligh.
Ptacek said content from Envision Neligh - an online, interactive forum - up to six town hall meetings and a mail survey will be compiled into the planning document. Completing this process qualifies Neligh for Leadership Designation by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, which will allow Neligh to apply for downtown revitalization funding of $400,000, Ptacek said. On Thursday night, Miller and Associates community planner Brenda Jensen and Eric Hellriegel facilitated the town hall meeting, which is the first of up to six meetings planned over the next 10-12 months.
“Having a vision for the future is going to be huge. Right now, we don’t have any set goals or know where going,” Ptacek said. “The comprehensive plan will point us in the right direction and open access to lots of grant opportunities. It will be beneficial in attracting employers and housing developers into the community. Having serious planning and vision of the town makes the community more attractive in their eyes."
Jensen said the project will bring elements of engineering, economic development, site development and funding into the planning. She told the audience a successful project begins with the end in mind, which is why planning is so essential for communities.
According to LB997, it’s state mandated that cities have an updated comprehensive plan with an energy element by January 2015. Jensen said a comprehensive plan is a requirement for some grants and an incentive in funding for others. Most importantly, she said, it ties together all planning documents for the community while assisting with better options for funding opportunities.
The comprehensive plan, Jensen said, is a roadmap for future growth and development for Neligh and is a plan for residents to grow in Neligh. The process will engage citizens and is successful based on the presence of community input, she added. Those attending the meeting, which is open to the public, are members of the steering group.
The date of the second town hall meeting has not been set at this time. Those wanting to participate in the online forum of Envision Neligh can do so by clicking here.