As reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, several local experts in nearly a dozen areas including economic development, cultural resources, education and social services recently met at The Classic Center in downtown Athens to share their insights about the community’s future as part of an initiative with Envision Athens.
The consultant-facilitated enterprise was created with a 20-year plan for the community’s future in mind and it is now entering a new phase.
The group of experts include members of the Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission; social service leaders from the Athens Area Homeless Shelter, Concerned Clergy of Metro Athens, and the Athens Neighborhood Health Center.
Participants are meeting with representatives of other organizations within their scope of expertise such as a health and safety group that will include representatives from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Piedmont Athens Regional, and the University of Georgia Health Center.
After that first meeting, stakeholders will meet in groups with varied expertise. The goal of the sessions is to provide “cross-education opportunities” to participants, according to Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Sharyn Dickerson.
Dickerson is co-chairing Envision Athens with local businessman Bob Googe, who owns Jittery Joe’s Coffee Roasting Company.
“Even if you’re in economic development, education is an issue for you; social services are an issue for you,” Dickerson said.
With the overall Envision Athens effort being facilitated by planningNEXT, a Columbus, Ohio-based strategic planning consulting firm, the majority of the $244,500 budget for the initiative is going toward planningNEXT and Ninigret Partners, another planning consulting firm.
The rest of the funds will go to UGA’s facilitation services, printing and meeting venue rental expenses, a post-planning celebration, and as seed money for a 2018 review of progress on the plan.
Envision Athens attributes the county government for most of its funding, with other contributions coming from the Athens Housing Authority, the Clarke County School District, the University of Georgia, Athens Technical College, the City of Winterville, Georgia Power Company, the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Northeast Georgia, Piedmont Athens Regional hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital.
Earlier this month, Jamie Greene of planningNEXT presented some initial impressions of the community such as that “there appears to be a growing inequity” when it comes to financial security in Athens, as the poverty rate and the percentage of families receiving food stamps have increased over the years.
The public can also find opportunities on the Envision Athens website to offer their input on the community’s needs and challenges.
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