Columbia commences conversation

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The City of Columbia wants to hear from its citizens. 

An online presence has recently been established to facilitate public input regarding the city’s comprehensive plan, “Beyond the Horizon.” 

The platform, available through the city website and at columbiaconversations.com, is the first step in a yearlong process to help create a plan for Columbia over the next 20 years.

Currently, the Columbia Conversations site has information explaining the comprehensive plan process as well as a “Community Vision” survey.

The project is being managed by Columbia Director of Community Development Scott Dunakey and Columbia Assistant to the City Administrator Sue Spargo.

“The main thing we really want to continue communicating is that this will be a community-driven plan,” Dunakey said. “We’d like to have as much of the community register on Columbia Conversations and stay up-to-date and involved as we can possibly get.” 

As explained on the website, the comprehensive plan is “a living document that embodies the community’s vision and goals for the future” and will rely heavily on input from residents about “housing, parks, transportation and more.”

“We’re very early in the process,” Dunakey continued. “The first area of focus is long-term vision. That is, what type of community do we want Columbia to be? What do we preserve, improve and achieve to become that community? The first survey posted on Columbia Conversations gets that conversation started.”

A project team is meeting this week to finalize more details about community engagement opportunities as well as developing the plan once input is received. 

The plan is expected to be adopted next October.

Columbia Emergency Medical Services is another department that has been engaging with local citizens lately. 

Columbia EMS Chief Kim Lamprecht continued a series of department updates at Monday’s Columbia City Council meeting. 

Lamprecht reported her department has been able to interact with the community at recent in-person EMS vehicle displays and car seat clinics throughout the city.

She also reported that Columbia EMS is experiencing an “anomaly” lately due to a decrease in call volume. Lamprecht noted that volume in surrounding municipalities has steadily increased in recent years, but 2021 has seen a reverse trend for Columbia.   

Possible reasons for the lower volume are significantly lower residency at a Columbia senior care facility and lower traffic at the local urgent care center, Lamprecht reasoned. 

Otherwise, she said the department has been running smoothly in 2021 with newly added full-time staff and no emergency vehicles out of service for repairs. 

Monroe County Public Safety Director Kevin Scheibe also addressed the council with the county’s multi-hazard mitigation plan as it relates to Columbia. 

As previously reported, Illinois requires a mitigation plan be implemented every four years and the plan must be approved by all municipalities. 

Scheibe alluded to proposed updates to flood plain maps while discussion Columbia’s part of the plan. He noted that one of his duties is working with levee districts and applying for grants to build and maintain flood mitigation measures.

Having an approved plan ensures eligibility to apply for such grants.

While flood map updates are still in progress and no pending action is included in the plan, Scheibe told the council that the city and county “need to be prepared” for emergencies.   

The council will vote to approve the plan at its Nov.  1 meeting.

Action taken by the council included approving a memorandum of understanding with the Prairie Du Pont Public Water District. 

As reported last week, the amount of water supplied to Prairie du Pont is under dispute. The memorandum, approved Oct. 13 by the water district, states that a “questionable meter” will be replaced and both parties will abide by the new measurements respective to a 15 percent threshold of previous readings.

At the beginning of the meeting, Columbia Mayor Bob Hill read a letter from Columbia High School Media Specialist and Student Council Adviser Krista Schoellhorn thanking the city for helping make the CHS homecoming celebration possible. 

The homecoming dance was held Saturday evening on Main Street near City Hall. Schoellhorn thanked Hill, Spargo and aldermen for their support in creating an “unforgettable” event for CHS students.

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