Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society: Public input needed to hand out cash

The Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS) wants to know where local residents half a million dollars should go.

Half a million dollars can go a long way when spent carefully and thoughtfully. The Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS) wants to know where local residents think that money should go.

The organization has $600,000 waiting to be spent and Terry Van Horn, economic development coordinator with the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC), says the money will sit until the group has gathered enough public input through an online survey to determine where every penny will go.

“We want people to start thinking about that $600,000,” she said. “We want the public to come up with some higher level ideas about where they want the money to be distributed and this is just the beginning.”

After the survey process is complete, planned for the end of October, Van Horn says there will be focus groups and open houses where the ideas gathered from the surveys will be synthesized into a plan.

“We are going to take those higher priorities (from the surveys) and start narrowing them down into action items,” she said. “It is all about how the community would like us to address their concerns.”

Van Horn says garnering public input for how to spend development dollars is the best way to keep the community accountable, involved and invested in the future.

“We want to say, ‘hey guys, we have this money and we want to know how you want us to spend it,’” she said.  “That is part of getting people engaged and getting them active and participating. Getting them included so they can take some ownership of the areas they live in and they have a say in it. We really want them to be able to tell us what their priorities are and feel included.”

LCCDTS and the LCIC have no preconceived notions on how the money will be spent, and that was on purpose.

“We have not done any kind of analysis on how we think this should look,” said Van Horn. “We are going to be totally driven by the communities through the survey, the focus groups and the open houses.”

The plan, so far, is to have a spending plan ready to go and have the community priorities determined by the end of the year.

Focus groups and open houses will be starting around the Lower Columbia area by the end of October, according to Van Horn, and she is looking forward to seeing some of the responses from residents in the area.

“We are really excited about this,” she said. “It is a good way to engage the community and get people to start talking about issues that perhaps they’ve thought they would never get a chance to change. The more input we get, the better we can serve the community.”

The survey is available online at www.lccdts.com/prioritiesplan, or you can pick up a paper copy at municipal offices and Chamber of Commerce offices in Trail, Rossland, Warfield, Montrose, Fruitvale and Area A and B.