While times are tough, the city must not become such a miser that it chokes off its own future, Iola Mayor Bill Maness said Tuesday.
Maness spoke at Tuesday’s city commission meeting in response to a sweeping series of proposals presented by Vision Iola organizers.
Vision Iola was a six-month planning process looking at ways to create “a healthier, more vital community.”
On hand for the presentation were Carisa McMullen, Dale Stafford and Holly Powers of Landworks Studio, Olathe, and David Toland of Thrive Allen County.
Landworks and Thrive worked in league with the city from January through June to look at ways to improve Iola’s community identity through better signage; enhance the downtown business district; and make parks and trails more appealing in order to get Iolans outside.
Organizers met multiple times with the public to discuss the city’s strengths and weaknesses before developing concepts and finally proposing “action items.”
The key to Vision Iola’s success, McMullen said, was in the community’s involvement, noting hundreds of folks who attended meetings or filled in surveys, online or in person, to generate ideas and feedback.
“This is your plan,” she said.
With the planning process complete, Landworks will continue to work with the city for years into the future to seek grants and other funding sources.
Among the proposals:
COMMUNITY IDENTITY — Placing four entry monuments to greet motorists coming from each direction into the city and eight primary directional signs around town to get them to city parks, schools, Allen County Hospital and the downtown business district.
Looking further, organizers recommended the city look at purchasing banners for light poles along the Prairie Spirit Trail and provide added signage where necessary.
DOWNTOWN ENHANCEMENT — Vision Iola’s ultimate goal is to see a more pedestrian-friendly downtown, including crosswalks made shorter with bulb-outs or sidewalk extensions, storefront benches, trees that would serve as gathering points and sidewalk pavers that would create a durable, attractive walking surface.
Bulb-outs would not infringe upon the traffic corridor for motorists along U.S. 54, Toland said, although reconfiguring of parking may be needed.
The projects would cost money, McMullen said, which is why Landworks would continue to work with the city to prepare grant applications as they become available.
McMullen urged the city to conduct a meeting with downtown business owners to discuss potential enhancements, evaluate the possibility of building a restroom facility on the courthouse square and focus on improving boarded up and broken windows on upper levels of some downtown buildings.