The Ottumwa Courier

February 21, 2014

City officials seeking public input

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Any community member who wants to make their voice heard will have plenty of chances during a few-day stretch at the beginning of March, when public hearings will put many of the city’s most important topics center stage.

To begin the very busy first week of March, the Ottumwa City Council will meet on Tuesday, March 4, starting at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, and a public hearing about the Fiscal Year 2015 City Budget will hopefully dominate the night.

There have been multiple opportunities for community members to voice their opinion on what they want to see included in the next city budget, but so far there has been very little public involvement.

“We’ve had very little public input from the general public on the budget this year, in spite of having several meetings and a couple of work sessions,” City Administrator Joe Helfenberger said.

Public hearings on the Fiscal Year 2015 City Budget on Nov. 19 and Dec. 3 were met with very little response, and then budget workshops held on Jan. 23 and Feb. 10 also had minimal public input. The City Council meeting on March 4 will be the absolute final time the public will be able to voice an opinion on what will be included in the budget, because after the public hearing councilmembers will vote whether or not to adopt it.

City Councilmembers will not get much of a rest before they are again in front of the public. On March 6, beginning at 5 p.m. at the Bridge View Center, the council will be discussing the goals for the city over the next two years.

There will be a presentation by Jeff Schott, Director of the Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Iowa, outlining some things to focus on while setting goals. Helfenberger said they will focus mainly on seven goals during the discussion: economic development, housing, recreation, user friendliness, pride in the community, airport development and streets and sewers.

“It will be a very important meeting to establish where we are going and our effectiveness,” Helfenberger said.

Once Schott has given his presentation, the night will mostly focus on discussion of the City Council with many of the city’s department heads and the public. There will be food and refreshments available for everyone who attends, because Helfenberger said they are willing to extend the meeting several hours if need be.

“Whatever it takes to come up with the finalized set of goals and supporting information is what we’re looking to accomplish from the evening,” he said.

The continued growth of Ottumwa as a community with true value depends on the input from the public, and these two meetings are great places for community members to really make their voices heard. Everyone is strongly encouraged to attend.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh