Panel discusses future of county
COUNTY COMMONS – More than 60 local residents gathered Thursday night to share their visions of Summit County’s future at a meeting hosted by Our Future Summit, a nonpartisan group organized to provide a forum for locals to voice their opinions about county life.The focus of Thursday’s event at the Summit County Community and Senior Center was the creation of a vision for the county that all residents could share. Our Future Summit president Howard Hallman kicked off the proceedings by emphasizing the importance of broad-based support for community decision-making.”We need to understand what motivates us and our neighbors,” he said.Attendees were asked to fill out a questionnaire stating their reasons for moving to, and staying in, the county. A panel of local facilitators, including Summit County County Commissioner Bob French, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments executive director Gary Severson and Dillon mortgage banker Jennifer Kermode all shared their personal answers to the same questions. Each panelist then addressed their own particular concerns about Summit County’s future.The issues mentioned most frequently by both the panelists and the audience were traffic, economic growth and cultural diversity. Several people addressed the lack of diversity at the meeting, as well as the small percentage of county citizens present.”We need to get more people involved,” French said. If we can’t do that, he added, maybe we can’t do anything. Family & Intercultural Resource Center director Christina Carlson spoke at length about the need to include input from all sectors of the community when developing a vision statement, not just from native English speakers.”Who was born here?” she asked. “We are a transient community.”Panelists Mary Ann Looby, a Frisco resident and management consultant, and Eric Turner, president of the Summit County Chamber of Commerce, both agreed the county’s cultural diversity is one of its greatest assets.The overall mood of the evening was positive and non-confrontational. Consensus building, rather than debate, was the focus. Keystone resident Craig Suwinski said he approved of the process in general, but feels it is now time to move forward.”When you go out and get ideas you need something to grab onto,” he said. “As soon as you start to grab onto something, though, you start getting opponents.”Kermode, who is the driving force behind the vision statement initiative, said the organization will continue to gather ideas from county residents. She expressed her delight at the level of the audience participation at Thursday’s meeting. “The process of creating a vision can be more important than the vision itself,” she said.Issues discussed at Thursday’s Our Future Summit forumn The I-70 corridor: Will quicker travel time to Denver help or hurt Summit County?n Affordable housing: How should it be funded?n Economic development: How can diverse businesses be attracted to the county?n County governance: How can the different government entities within Summit County work together more effectively?n Citizen participation: How can more citizens be encouraged to participate in planning the county’s future?n Government involvement: How much of future planning should be left to free enterprise and a natural economic course?n Rising price of oil: How would Summit County weather a possible nationwide shortage of oil? .
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