Vision meetings begin in the county | Butler’s Bulletin


BUTLER – It started with an exercise as if the audience were looking back to 2022 from 10 years in the future, telling family and friends in other places about the changes that have happened.

Finally, participants placed dots next to items they considered priorities after a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) brainstorming exercise.

About 30 people gathered Friday morning in the council chambers of Butler City Hall to participate in a DeKalb County Vision meeting 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.

Beth Neu of the Indiana Communities Institute at Ball State University and Michael Fortunato of Creative Insight Community Development in Madison led the discussion.

The first session was Thursday night at Ashley. The other sessions will take place:

• Thursday, 6-8pm at Spencerville Community Center, 5629 CR 68;

• Thursday, July 14, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Garrett High School cafeteria, enter door 20; and

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

In April, a group of 37 citizens from across the county came together for a workshop and began discussions about the future of the county. The group included mayors, city managers, county officials, and private and nonprofit leaders.

Butler clerk-treasurer Angela Eck fancied writing a postcard to her sister after police and firefighters ran out of items to hand out at an event that drew more than 1,000 people. “Who knew so many families moved to town? The new housing developments have really helped our community grow,” she wrote.

In her postcard, library manager Sarah Dempsey reflected as she sat on the patio of a local restaurant, observing a steady stream of traffic in the city center, with vehicles using the viaduct to avoid train traffic. “After breakfast, I plan to walk the paths of the pretty park in front of the library. What a great use of the vacant space. … Trees, flowers, shrubs make it a wonderful place to relax.

“After that, shop till I drop after shop after shop,” Dempsey said. “I love staycations.”

Mayor Mike Hartman imagined writing to his aunt and uncle in California about the hotel on the west end of town across from the monster truck and hot rod museums.

“I really want to take you to Butler’s new downtown steakhouse. When we’re done, I want to take you to the water park and pad… I have so much to show you how much Butler has changed since you were here 10 years ago,” he wrote.

“The great thing about these postcards is that they make us think a little differently,” Fortunato explained. “When you stand where you are, when you look ahead, you tend to see the future in terms of needs and what needs to be done.

“When you project into the future and look back, you tend to see the end product. That’s what your imagination has to tell you.

“These kinds of ideas are centered around your highest aspirations, what really matters to you in your community, and the kinds of things you’d like to see happen.”

Neu 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, audience members identified different topics – some of which could be included in more than one category.

Weaknesses identified included child care, lack of housing, aging infrastructure, improved roads, quiet shopping, homeownership and homeownership responsibilities, greater school interaction, public transport, broadband access, brain drain and diversity of thought.

Opportunities included housing, trail connectivity, college connectivity, restoration grants, unique attraction marketing, infrastructure development, community collaboration, front grants, assisted living, and ambition.

Threats included other communities attracting population and opportunity, closure of major employers, loss of young leaders, halting of trains and blocking of level crossings, declining mental health, transient population , drugs, cultural land use and access to mental health services.

“We want to understand the relative importance of these themes to community members,” Fortunato said. “Just because something isn’t considered essential doesn’t mean we’re just going to gloss over it.”

He said they would take the responses shared during these sessions to gather content analysis to determine key themes and areas of difference.

“Everything on that wall is important, but we also have to know that there’s some sort of priority or hierarchy of those things that people want to do as soon as possible, or they think it’s a more pressing issue or urgent,” he added.

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

“We’re going to find a big place where we can get people together who want to see what the final plan is. We’re going to introduce it, and we’re going to say, “Make it full of holes.” How did we do? said Fortunato.

“This is where we really get feedback from the community to help us interpret, ‘Did we get it right? Does this make sense? Does this match what’s actually going on in the community? How can we make it better?'”

Once the final plan is delivered, they will offer suggestions on how to achieve the goals.


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