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YOUNGSTOWN City picks company to handle public input for major plan



Published: Sat, April 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



All the input will point the city toward goals.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The city will pay about $85,000 for a Canadian company to handle public input into a major planning effort.

Urban Strategies Inc. of Toronto, Ontario, will spend about six months gathering input from community leaders and residents. What everybody says will make up the bulk of the city's comprehensive plan, said Bill D'Avignon, deputy director of planning.

All the public input will point the city toward planning goals, he said. Such an approach should help "sell" the eventual plan to most of those who have a stake in the city, D'Avignon said. What emerges is anybody's guess, he said.

"We're not even sure. It's going to give us a direction," D'Avignon said.

Urban Strategies also will design a process the city can follow to keep bringing community views into its planning, he said.

City council has authorized the board of control to negotiate a contract with the company. The estimated cost is $84,548.

About the company

Urban Strategies is an international company involved with a variety of planning work including downtowns, waterfronts, college campuses and neighborhoods. The company's Web site is www.urbanstrategies.com.

The company will conduct a half-dozen focus groups later this year -- by invitation only -- with government, business and neighborhood leaders. Those people will be asked to be frank about the city's strengths, weaknesses and opportunities they see.

The company will analyze the input and bring what emerges to a series of public meetings. What residents say will be used to prioritize items outlined by the community leaders.

A group of about 20 city, regional and Youngstown State University officials will form to work those priorities into a plan.

Public input will be sought through the fall. The planning group wants to have the information by early 2003. The group will spend about a year forming the information into the comprehensive plan.

Selection process

Seven city and YSU officials worked together to seek the proposals that eventually led to hiring Urban Strategies. Eleven companies responded and five were interviewed. Costs ranged from $70,000 to more than $100,000.

The group picked what it thought was the best one, Urban Strategies, which offered a price in the middle, D'Avignon said. The runner-up was a company from Bowling Green, he said.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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