CLEAR 2030 seeks a better quality of life for area residents
by MARK LEDBETTER
TALLADEGA COUNTY —County residents wanting a better quality of life should make plans to attend a very important meeting Thursday at Central Alabama Community College in Childersburg.

Both the Childersburg and Sylacauga Chambers of Commerce strongly encourage local residents to attend Thursday’s meeting.

“I think we have the opportunity to truly make a difference in the region we live, work and play in,” Childersburg Chamber of Commerce President Pet Storey wrote in an email exchange. “The plan that is being developed can be something that will change the way we look at our county and individual cities and that will make a huge difference for not only us but for generations to come.”

Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce Director Carol Bates said she wanted to encourage everyone in Childersburg and Sylacauga to be part of what is taking place.

“Sylacauga is trying to move forward in commercial, industrial, and individual development,” Bates said. “We need everybody’s input, to share what they want to see today, tomorrow and for their grandchildren.”

“We want to bring people into it, to hear the voice of the people, rather than reflect what government, big business, and education want but what people want,” Oak Grove Mayor Charles Merkel said.

Merkel is also Chairman of the East Alabama Mayors’ Association and is a member of CLEAR Plan 2030 Consortium.

Merkel said Thursday’s meeting is CLEAR’s first in a series of regional meetings. “It is the first connect with the public and will help us lay the ground work for future meetings,” Merkel said.

Oak Grove resident Frank Young is a member of the CLEAR Community Engagement and Policy team. Young said, “It is a different way of planning.”

In October 2010 the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission and the CLEAR Plan 2030 Consortium were awarded a $500,000 grant to create a 10-county regionwide plan to determine what area needs are and what resources are available to meet those needs.

According to materials provided by CLEAR, CLEAR’s purpose is to gather information in six areas defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “livability principles.”

To gather information needed to develop a comprehensive data source Livability Resource Teams were assigned six areas to collect data - transportation, housing, economic competitiveness, community engagement policy, education, and health.

Merkel once the information is collected it will be posted on CLEAR’S website.

“Municipalities will find it is easier to qualify for federal grants,” Merkel said.

Merkel also said the information will provide valuable information to any industry or business looking to locate in the area.

Young said information gathering is the first thing needed to create a plan and said there are two ways local residents can provide their perspective on the situation in the present and what they would like to see in the future.

“Our goal is to have responses from 1 percent of the region’s population,” Young said.

Young said the 10-county region’s population is 470,000 and the goal is to receive 4,700 to 5,000 responses. He said as of Jan. 7 they had received 41.

Individuals are encouraged to visit CLEAR’S website and complete an on-line survey. The survey is offered in English and Spanish and seeks both demographic information and opinions regarding the individual’s perception of their community. The questions address the six livability standards and ask the individual to rank which issue is most important to them.

The second way is to attend public forums such as the meeting scheduled Thursday.

The meeting is designed to provide attendants with an overview of the CLEAR Plan for 2030 and to engage them in an exercise designed to give them a voice in what they want to see for the future of the region.

Three questions will be asked: What do you love most about living here, what do you think needs the most improvement and what should we do to address it, and what do you hope to see in your community five years from now?

Young said one reason why he participates in the CLEAR initiative is because he wants to leave a better life for his children and grandchildren.

“This is one way to do this,” Young said. “This is for kids tomorrow who will need jobs, housing, schools, and roads.”

The 10 counties included in the region are Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Etowah, Talladega, and Tallapoosa.

The meeting will be held in the Margie Sanford Building on the Childersburg campus and begins at 6 p.m. and is designed to allow Talladega County residents to provide their thoughts on how to give the area with a better future.

More information regarding the CLEAR Plan 2030 is available at their website http://www.clearplan2030.org.

Contact Mark Ledbetter at mledbetter@dailyhome.com

© 2013