Pittsburg residents learned about the initial results of a community visioning survey during three town hall meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, and the reactions of community members seems to be optimistic.

Pittsburg residents learned about the initial results of a community visioning survey during three town hall meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, and the reactions of community members seem to be optimistic.

The Imagine Pittsburg 2030 Survey was commissioned in 2011 by the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce and other community leaders to identify the city’s strong points, figure out where it needs to improve and how it can go about making those improvements. The project comes with a price tag of $100,000, most of which was pledged or donated by local businesses.

“This is still very much in the draft stage,” said John Deadwyler, president of The Bernard Consulting Group, Inc., which is heading the study. “We want input and reactions to what’s been done.”

The information Deadwyler presented is the combined result of answers provided by 13 focus groups consisting of area business owners and community leaders, university faculty, and students, young and old alike. The 14-member guiding committee is co-chaired by mayor Marty Beezley and Pittsburg State University’s Brad Hodson. Also combined for the vision draft were 10 one-on-one interviews with community leaders and the results of 286 responses from community members to an online survey that residents were notified of in their city water bills. The firm then met with the steering committee to identify focus areas and compose a draft of the vision.

“This is a long-term view of what you want to become,” Deadwyler said. “What you are going to build on and plan around.”

Reactions from residents who attended the meetings were broad. Among them was the desire for more well-paying jobs; city-wide cleanup days; more/better public transportation, biking and walkways; more festivals and concerts and better advertising for them; stricter enforcement of housing codes and ordinances for homes and businesses; curbside recycling service; better preservation of historic areas of Pittsburg; having a wider variety of businesses in the downtown district; crews that volunteer their time to fix up houses for those who can’t afford to; animal control to start picking up feral cats; and green roofs for buildings — essentially, landscaped roofs that can help manage stormwater and air quality.

Residents said they liked the fact that the study is getting people to talk about how to fix Pittsburg’s problems. But many expressed concern that it could create unrealistic expectations.

Reno Cecora, a Detroit, Mich., a Pittsburg native and retired geography professor at Pitt State, said the study was long overdue.

“The community needs to have a vision of what it wants to do,” said Cecora, who moved to Pittsburg with his wife. “Pittsburg has its problems, but there’s potential here. But will this be followed up on? That’s the question.”

Harry Humphries, a sociology professor at Pittsburg State University who teaches research methods, said he was impressed with the initial findings of the survey and the process of collecting the data.

“I think they did a really good job and I can see why they hired him,” Humphries said after Thursday’s noon meeting at the Law Enforcement Center. “This is excellent. It’s money worth spending and he needs to hear the feedback.”

Michalyn Shropshire moved from California to Pittsburg with her husband, Bill, several years ago to retire near family. Michalyn was a facilitator in California for decades, and said she thought the 6 p.m. meeting at Fire Station No. 2 was handled well. One question rarely tackled, she said, was how improvements would be paid for.

“I still feel like we’re building that pie in the sky, not the pie on the plate,” she said.

That skepticism is normal, Deadwyler said, and plans often become SPOTS — Strategic Plans On Top Shelves; there is initial excitement and euphoria, but then those emotions wear off and plans get put on the back burner. To that end, he asked the groups to think of “low-hanging fruit,” or goals that could be accomplished early and visibly. Ideas included enhancing The Y; advertising events on the city’s website; a list of “ground rules” for new homeowners; and Parcourse fitness trails in city parks.

“When they start to see positive things happen it creates a groundswell where people who are skeptics start to believe,” Deadwyler said. “They need to have some quick success.”

Imagine Pittsburg 2030
Visioning Process
• Town Hall Meetings

Steering Committee Members
• Marty Beezley, Mayor City of Pittsburg (co-chair)
• Destry Brown, Superintendent USD 250
• Randy Cason, CEO, Via Christi Hospital
• Rev. Mike Hart, Pastor Trinity Baptist Church
• Brad Hodson, Pittsburg State University
• Mendy Hulvey, Chief, Pittsburg Police Department
• Dr. Chris Jacquinot, Kannarr Eye Care
• Brian Jones, Owner/Broker, Jones Heritage Realtors
• Monica Murnan, Family Resource Center
• Sara Narges, Loree’s Bridal & Formal
• Dr. Gina Pinamonti, Owner, Pinamonti Orthodontics
• Ron Rhodes, Owner, Ron's Supermarket
• Steve Sloan, Midwest Minerals
• Mark Werner, Former Pittsburg Mayor

Overview of the Process
• Kick-off meeting with the Steering Committee
• 13 focus groups (estimate of 125 total participants)

Survey demographics:
• Chamber/CVB/CFSEK
• City Department Heads
• City Employees
• Health Care
• Influential Leaders
• K-12 education
• Manufacturing
• Media
• Ministerial Alliance
• PSU Faculty/Administration
• Rotary Club
• Retail/Downtown
• Young Professionals

Overview of the Process
10 one-on-one interviews with:
• Ken Brock, Owner, Names and Numbers
• Dick Coleman, President, Miller’s Professional Imaging
• Harvey Dean, Founder, Pitsco Education
• Mendy Hulvey, Pittsburg Chief of Police
• Kayla Joy, Physician Recruiter, Via Christi Hospital
• Krista Postai, Director, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas
• Dr. Steve Scott, President, Pittsburg State University
• Steve Sloan, President, Midwest Minerals
• Vince and Joel Van Becelaere, Owners,Van Becelaere Machine Shop
• Rick Webb, President, Watco Companies

The process continued
• Online survey conducted with community residents (286 responses)
• Meeting with the steering committee to identify focus areas and develop the draft vision
• Three town hall meetings with community residents   
• Second online survey with the community to get feedback on the draft focus areas and vision  
• Steering committee meeting to review and incorporate findings from the town hall meetings and survey
• Meetings with objective teams to develop SMART objectives for the focus areas
• Steering committee meeting to review the work of the objective teams

Key Findings from the Assessment
Self-image
• Respondents were overwhelmingly positive in describing Pittsburg.
• Most responses center around quality of life issues.
    ~ A great place to raise a family
    ~ A sense of community
    ~ Friendliness and spirit of cooperation
    ~ Many amenities as well as cultural and recreational options for a city of this size
    ~ Positively affected by the presence of the university

Priority challenges and opportunities
• Housing
• Workforce development and jobs
• Transportation
• Infrastructure

The following were identified as positive community building blocks for the future:
• Pittsburg State University
• Medical services
• Variety of cultural amenities
• Downtown
• School systems (public and parochial)

After the surveys, the following were agreed-upon focus areas:
• Economic development
• Transportation
• Infrastructure (e.g. roadways, sewers, basic city services)
• Public Safety

Vision draft
“We are such an attractive, progressive community that people choose to live here because Pittsburg is...”
• A vibrant university community
• A vibrant business climate
• A prettier community with more/sufficient housing choices
• A healthy community
• The best place to raise a child
• A destination point

Vision points in detail
A vibrant university community
• Energy, pulse that permeates the community; based on youth and vibrancy
• Fun, progressive place to be
• One of the top 10 college communities in the nation
• See the school colors and logo everywhere; signifies pride
• Community radiates with pride
• Shared spirit throughout the community

A vibrant business climate
• Recognized as healthcare hub
• Recognized as an applied research hub
• We're growing well-paying jobs across all economic sectors (not just higher education  or health care)
• Entrepreneurial spirit that fosters and sustains the next generation of entrepreneurs

A prettier community with more/sufficient housing choices
• From the point of entry into Pittsburg, the community is aesthetically pleasing
• Planned, well-kept community
• Physically attractive community
• Sense of pride in the community as reflected by appearance, convenience, amenities and community values
• Stricter and better enforcement of housing codes
• More neighborhoods of houses with middle to upper housing choices

A healthy community
• Community that encourages physical activity
• Walking, hiking, biking trails
• Sought-after and accessible fitness/recreational facilities
• Sidewalks
• Healthy habits starting with our kids

The best place to raise a child
• Outstanding educational systems
• Extensive, collaborative network of community resources

A destination point
• Cultural events (e.g. performing arts center at the University)
• Novel attractions
• Fun nightlife
• Athletics
• Educational competitions
• Utilize current businesses to help attract professional conferences