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Opinion

My Side of the Fencepost

By Jim Dickerson

The Future is under discussion

I attended two meetings Monday evening, not thinking there would be any common threads connecting the two. As it turns out, there were common threads.

Both sessions were about the future of the Albion area — different aspects of that future, certainly, but discussion leaders wanted public input from Albion residents at both meetings. They wanted to hear our thoughts about the community’s future.

The first meeting, at Boone Central, was about the search for a new superintendent of schools. Marcia Herring, director of superintendent search services with the Nebraska Association of School Boards, explained the entire process.

She then asked three questions that are considered important to the search process: What are the strengths of your school district and communities? What are the challenges faced by your school district and community in the coming years? What are the most important qualities you believe are needed in a new superintendent?

These questions were answered in various ways by the small group of seven people attending. Strengths included good community support of the school system in academics and all activities, a strong teaching staff and administration, and a welcoming attitude toward new residents and new ideas. Challenges, the group said, were budgeting, maintaining all academic and activity offerings, dealing with enrollment declines, and maintaining buildings and transportation infrastructure. A superintendent, they said, will need many positive qualities, including good communication and leadership skills, involvement in community issues and a businesslike approach.

On to the next meeting . . . the Albion Planning Commission was holding the first of its Planning Steering Committee meetings to begin work on the 10-year update of the city’s comprehensive plan (and additional plans on redevelopment and economic development).

Tim Keelan and Lonnie Dickson presented their preliminary information on population trends, household characteristics, employment data, housing stock and land use. Several interesting points were made from their preliminary study.

Point 1: Land within the corporate limits of Albion is nearly fully utilized. To build new housing within the city limits, the primary method is to remove an existing structure and replace with a new one.

Point 2: The population within the Albion City Limits has been declining for several decades; but if you include the people in the city’s one-mile planning jurisdiction, it has actually remained stable. New residential areas are being created just outside the city limits. The theory is that the city is “bleeding” its population and housing stock outside the corporate limits. A primary reason is that there are very few open building lots inside the city limits.

Point 3: In order to add new housing for future growth, the city will need to expand its corporate limits.

Again, the 20 to 25 participants were asked what they felt the most important planning goals for the city’s future would be. They mentioned increased affordable housing, infrastructure improvements to allow future growth, improvements in the business district and various other priorities.

These were good local discussions to lay some groundwork for the future at the beginning of a new year.