Clearer water, shop locally, better service
Over 100 concerned Rockdale residents did just that Thursday evening, packing the Patterson Center to share their ideas on Rockdale’s future and offer input on how to make it better.
All the data compiled Thursday won’t be put in a cohesive form for a month to six weeks but some recurring themes rippled through a large group discussion with more than 100 persons and the three small groups into which they split.
Those included “brown water,” shopping locally, first impressions, cleaning up the town and making service better.
“I know the water situation came up in every group, the big one and all three small ones,” Tom Manskey, executive director of the Municipal Development District (MDD) said.
Tom Stellman, president/CEO of TIP Strategies in Austin, facilitated the large group. Leading the small groups were Manskey, City Councilwoman Melody Dawson and Cindy Jerman, coordinator for the Rockdale office of Workforce Solutions of Texas.
For a half century Rockdale officials have acknowledged chronic coloration in local water—pointing out it remains safe to drink and passes state health inspections— and noted the astronomical costs involved in replacing city water lines.
The most recent estimate is about $25 million.
“What we hear people telling us is that, even though it’s very expensive, we need to make a plan,” Manskey said.
“ The tone was extremely positive,” Manskey said. “I’ve done a lot of these (visioning discussions), many in towns a lot larger than Rockdale, and this was probably the best I’ve ever done. Certainly it was one of the most positive. I’m thrilled with how it turned out.”
SHOP AT HOME—Shopping locally, hardly a new concept, also figured prominently in Thursday’s discussions.
“We heard a lot about people leaving Rockdale to shop out-oftown and, of course, part of that problem is there are some goods and service which just aren’t available here and customers have no choice but to shop out of town,” he said.
“If people can get those goods and services in Rockdale, they will stay here,” Manskey said. “Of course that also ties in with recruiting new businesses, another prominent topic.”
Some participants men- tioned problems with service in Rockdale. “Having some customer service training might be something we need to pursue,” Manskey said.
BEAUTIFICATION—Another familiar theme raised Thursday was Rockdale’s appearance, especially “first impressions” at entrances to town.
“Certainly beautification efforts are something which need to be encouraged,” Manskey said.
“We could even envision something like cash grants for which businesses could apply, then receive for extraordinary efforts in making appearance better.”
Another idea mentioned was a “business indicator.”
“That would be something like taking one of the vacant buildings downtown, cleaning and fixing it up, then renting cubicles, or spaces, at a reduced rate to small businesses just starting up,” Manskey said.
“ The goal would be to give these businesses a head start, a chance to build up customers for 12, 24, 36 months, until they are capable of going out to a permanent location on their own,” he said.
DATA—What, ultimately, will happen to all the data collected on Thursday.
“All the facilitators will need to get together and combine our notes,” Manskey said. “We will get a hard copy from TIP Strategies.”
A list of ideas from the session will be compiled and sent to all persons who registered Thursday. “That’s why we asked for e-mails and addresses,” Manskey said.
The public will then be asked to prioritize the ideas.
“Once we have the priorities we should be able to go down the list and say ‘well that’s something for the MDD to work on,’ or ‘that’s the city or a combination of two or three entities.”
“Then there will probably be some that will need to be handled by people in the community,” he said.
DR AWI NG S—Door pr ize winners Thursday were:
• Jimmy Cox, 42-inch television (grand prize). Donated by MDD.
• Jim Hodson, Judy Slusher Janice Pelzel, $50 gift certificates, Donated by Rockdale Downtown Association.