Livability participants report

Some 25 people gathered Tuesday, April 7, to discuss progress made in implementing some of the results of the Livability Assessment for Sweet Home released last November.

The meeting was a follow-up to the Livability Workshop held March 3-4, in which local residents and representatives of various government and nonprofit agencies with interests in the Sweet Home community got together to brainstorm on how to implement the recommendations and ideas in the 160-page Livability report. It assesses Sweet Home’s economic, transportation, housing, health and employment situation and makes numerous recommendations of actions community residents could take to improve things. The report can be viewed at http://www.sweet-home.or.us/DocumentCenter/View/2617.

Workshop participants produced a list of proposed projects and goals to be implemented and representatives of the groups who developed those gave reports at the April 7 meeting on their progress.

n Police Chief Jeff Lynn reported on a proposal to expand Sweet Home Junior High’s Safe Routes to School program to a broader range of the community.

Lynn said that, after meeting with junior high Principal Colleen Henry, he learned that the program has been on hold and has not been implemented during this school year because staff time has been devoted to other concerns.

“It requires a time commitment from administrators to run this program,” he said. “It became apparent to me that we didn’t have appropriate players in the room when we did our planning (during the workshop).”

Lynn said a more “top-down approach” would be necessary and that School Board Chairman Mike Reynolds, who was present April 7, “is going to help.”

Sweet Home District Ranger Cindy Glick, who has been intimately involved in the Livability Assessment since its beginning, noted that “having a plan and implementing it can be good at leveraging folks.”

She said potential revenue sources in the federal government are “very interested” in the program.

Jo Ann McQueary, another organizer of the Livability effort, acknowledged that “we were making plans for others, hoping for their buy-in.

“That was not ideal, but that’s where we are,” she said.

n Ken Bronson, manager of Linn Transit, reported that a plan to create a summer bus service between Sweet Home and Clear Lake is moving forward.

He said details are still being clarified, but “I think this is very doable.”

Bronson said a bus is available and some funding is available from Sweet Home Shopper bus budget.

He said one question now is whether a volunteer driver could be recruited, which would cut the cost of providing the trips, which tentatively would be offered one weekend in June, two in July, two in August and once in September.

“We can make this happen as is if we have a volunteer driver,” he said.

Stops would include campgrounds, trailheads and other points of interest along the 114-mile route. A trailer or rack would be needed to haul bikes and other equipment for riders, he said.

Bronson said mountain biking enthusiasts, who like to use the Santiam Wagon Road, are already showing interest.

“We can make this happen,” he said.

n Sweet Home City Manager Craig Martin reported that efforts are under way to identify firms that specialize in place-based advertising – marketing Sweet Home as a community to potential new businesses.

He said participants in a committee dealing with that project will reconvene next month.

The goal, he said, is to convey to potential residents “what makes east Linn County such a great place to live, work and play. We’re targeting businesses that look for that because that’s where they want to be.”

n Angela Clegg of the South Santiam Watershed District said her group has been working on a short survey that would ask residents and potential visitors questions such as what they like about Sweet Home, what they think the community is known as and what its image should be in the future, whether Sweet Home needs a theme and, if so, what that should be.

“We want to make this fairly simple,” she said. “If it’s too long, people won’t want to fill it out.”

The plan, she said, is to administer the survey in various ways, including an online version on the city’s website and having young people armed with iPads administer it at events, such as the Oregon Jamboree.

“We have a variety of ideas for getting this out,” she said.

Brian Hoffman of Sweet Home Sanitation, who previously served as Sweet Home’s economic development director, suggested that Clegg’s group’s efforts could coordinate with Martin’s.

“It kind of plays back to the place-based marketing strategy,” he said. “You can get feedback from groups like that.”

n Progress is happening and contacts are being made in other areas, including developing a strategy for sustainable tourism marketing and developing job skills training for local youth and veterans, others reported.

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