AUSTINTOWN Group has the future in focus

Its vision of the township's future is expected to be complete in August.
AUSTINTOWN -- A group of township residents is rolling up its sleeves and getting ready to coordinate an effort to create a plan for its community's future.
"There's a lot of work to be done in a short period of time," said James D'Eramo, chairman pro tem of the 20/20 -- Austintown steering committee.
20/20 -- Austintown is the working title of the effort to create a plan for the township's future. The steering committee hopes to organize focus groups and a public meeting in February to discuss the township's present and future.
A group from Ball State University headed by Dr. James Segedy, the university's director of community-based projects, will direct the focus groups and meetings. The Ball State group will be hired to write the plan and present it to the community in August.
No specific time, date, or location has been set for the focus groups or the public meeting.
The steering committee also wants to collect statistical information while increasing public awareness about the planning effort.
Seeking ideas
Those who attend the meeting and focus groups in February will be asked what they like and dislike about the township. They also will be asked about their ideas for the township's future.
"We need to start thinking about, actively thinking about, what the issues are," said Dr. Fred Owens, president of the Austintown Growth Foundation. The growth foundation initiated the planning effort and is raising $25,000 to pay for the plan's creation.
Owens said the issues identified by township residents are the plan's most important ingredient.
"If we're going to have a good vision for the future, it needs to be the people's vision," he said. "This isn't an experts-down type of planning model. This is a grass-roots planning model."
Committee's thoughts
On Thursday night, D'Eramo asked 17 members of the steering committee for their thoughts on the township.
Donna Buzulencia of Staatz Drive said she liked that she had easy access to the interstate highway system and that the cost of housing was reasonable.
Joe Caruso of Cider Mill Crossing said he enjoyed the township's parks, while Janet Polish of Callaway Circle said she thought the township had good schools.
Parker McHenry of East Beacon Drive added, however, that he was disappointed that township voters wouldn't support efforts to raise funds to build new schools. McHenry also said he thought voters should have approved the limited form of self-government called home rule for the township in November.
Caruso noted that he thought Austintown didn't have a central gathering spot. Beverly Bretschneider of Warwick South said she believed the township needed a community center for young people.
"They always say they want to keep the kids off the street. Where are they going to go?" she said.

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