Pittsburg residents gathered at Pittsburg State University’s Wilkinson Alumni Center Wednesday evening to hear the initial results of a community visioning project designed to make Pittsburg a better city. It was the first of three town hall meetings to discuss the findings.

Pittsburg residents gathered at Pittsburg State University’s Wilkinson Alumni Center Wednesday evening to hear the initial results of a community visioning project designed to make Pittsburg a better city. It was the first of three town hall meetings to discuss the findings.

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.

John Deadwyler, a representative from the Bernard Consulting Group, which is heading the project, led the presentation of the study’s initial findings then opened the floor for a lively discussion.

“This is still very much in the draft stage, Deadwyler said of 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 narrow 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 are you going to build on and plan around.”

Deadwyler first described the process of developing the vision. According to the surveys, residents have a generally positive image of Pittsburg; the city is a great place to raise families; there is a strong sense of community; Pittsburg residents have a friendly spirit of co-operation; the city has good amenities, cultural events and recreation opportunities; Pittsburg has good options for its size and Pittsburg State University is great for the community. Areas Deadwyler said areas residents identified as needing improvement include housing; workforce development; transportation and infrastructure.

“It’s not unlike what you’d see in other cities,” he said.

The surveys showed that residents consider PSU, area medical services, the variety of cultural amenities, downtown and schools as positive building blocks for the future. That area schools were deemed good was something Deadwyler said he didn’t often see.

“It’s atypical,” he said. “You often hear that the schools are a problem.”

The areas the steering committee agreed to focus on were housing, economic development, transportation, infrastructure, basic city services and public safety. Deadwyler then presented the draft vision, which attempts to answer the question “People want to live here because Pittsburg is?” The answers were:

• A vibrant university community
• A vibrant business climate that attracts new business
• Prettier, with more/sufficient housing codes
• Great housing choices
• A healthy community with healthy community members
• The best place to raise a child
• A destination point

Deadwyler explained each point in finer detail, then opened the meeting for comments and questions. There were many, such as why the survey participation lower than normal — people didn’t open their bills, didn’t get bills or simply chose not to participate, among other reasons — to how to attract new and well-paying jobs to the area.
Deadwyler made it clear that he didn’t have immediate answers to many of the focus areas because the project is still so young. Next his team will take the reactions from the town hall meetings — there are two today, one at noon at the Law Enforcement Center at 201 N. Pine and one at 6 p.m. at Fire State No. 2 at the intersection of 20th and Rouse Streets — and the results from another round of online and community surveys, and meet with the steering committee to incorporate the findings. Then they will meet with objectives teams to decide how to accomplish their goals.

“You’ll know who ‘owns’ that objective, so you’ll know who to look at down the road,” Deadwyler said.