County Vision, Planning Meetings Continue | Butler’s Bulletin

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SPENCERVILLE — It takes public participation to gather dreams, wishes and visions for the future.

About 30 people turned up at the Spencerville Community Club on Thursday for the third in a series of DeKalb County visioning and planning meetings to identify future wants and needs.

The series is made possible with support from the James Foundation, Community Foundation of DeKalb County, United Way of DeKalb County, City of Auburn, City of Butler, City of Garrett, City of Waterloo, the City of Hamilton and school districts.

David Terrell of the Indiana Communities Institute at Ball State University and Michael Fortunato of Madison’s Creative Insight Community Development led the discussion on Thursday.

“It takes all of us working together to make this happen,” said Tanya Young, executive director of the Community Foundation of DeKalb County.

“To get a good view of DeKalb County, it has to come from you,” Fortunato told the rally.

Each forum is centered on public participation.

Visitors were asked to write a postcard to a friend or family member as if living 10 years in the future, sharing what had happened in their community during that time.

Later, they participated in a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) exercise. At the end, audience members were asked to place dots next to items they felt prioritized over those SWOT items.

St. Joe City Council member Mary Simcox shared her postcard. “The Joe is still a rural community, but it’s become the place to be, where big vision and hard work prevail.”

“So many wonderful things have developed. We now have trail infrastructure connecting all the communities,” Spencerville resident Mary Hollabaugh Diehl, imagining a postcard sent to her brother. “Not only are we connected to all the communities, but we now have broadband throughout the county.

“In our hometown of Spencerville, the covered bridge is always a huge attraction. We have a heritage trail with native plants and it is a destination for many.

Terrell shared 2020 statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and how DeKalb County compares to the rest of Indiana and neighboring counties in terms of median income, per capita income, poverty rate, population growth, housing variables, owner occupancy, education level and more.

In the SWOT exercise, strengths included community tightness, quality of investors/philanthropy, a four-star school, potential for young leaders, rural environment, and support from emergency personnel.

Weaknesses were the lack of police and EMS presence in the area, lack of broadband, loss of farmland for solar development, lack of child care facilities, and the condition of county roads.

Opportunities identified included heritage marketing, grant seeking, proximity to Fort Wayne, growth of Allen County and the 24-45 age group, trails and greenways, attraction of outside developers for housing and local government funding for the southeast portion of the county.

Potential threats were access to affordable fresh food, drug and alcohol abuse, aging infrastructure, county zoning process, and economic downturn/inflation.

Everything here matters,” Fortunato said.

The group will take the responses shared at all planning meetings to gather content analysis to determine key themes as well as areas of difference.

Once all the meetings are over, the data collected and analyzed, they will come back to present their conclusions.

When the final plan is delivered, the group will offer suggestions on how to achieve the goals.

After a few weeks of rest, the public will have the opportunity to take part in two other events in July:

• Thursday, July 14, 6-8 pm at Garrett High School Cafeteria, 801 E. Houston St. Visitors are asked to enter through Door 20; and

• Thursday, July 21, 6-8 p.m. at the YMCA of DeKalb County, 533 North St., Auburn.

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