After about three months of effort and two public meetings, Bingen's new "Community Action Plan" process has been completed.
On Jan. 17, the 60-page document, prepared by Cogan Owens Cogan LLC, a consulting firm from Portland, was unanimously approved by members of the City Council.
The plan's "vision statement" offered an overview of what Bingen's citizens want their city to be: "Create and maintain a livable, attractive, and economically-viable community environment that meets the challenges of the future."
Among the many goals identified through the public meetings and questionnaires to citizens were the following: Encourage attractive, affordable, and well-planned housing throughout the community; retain and assist in creating or attracting more high-skilled industrial or light-industrial jobs; provide a full variety of retail options in the community; provide an adequate supply of clean, high quality drinking water to meet future community residential and business needs; maintain, improve, and develop water, wastewater, and storm sewer systems; create a community or recreation center that provides opportunities for youths and adults; continue efforts to revitalize the downtown business district; create parking areas for large vehicles; and create opportunities to use the riverfront for special events and concerts.
"The goals were prioritized, but not the implementation measures," said Matt Hastie, a principal of Cogan Owens Cogan and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.
Randy Anderson, a member of the Bingen City Council, asked Hastie how the city could pay for some of the projects it wants to pursue.
"Is there any way to come up with options for funding as part of this action plan?" asked Anderson.
Hastie offered to outline some potential funding sources for the city.
According to Hastie, approximately 40-50 people participated in the public comment opportunities during the planning process.
"It was a good turnout for a town this size," said Hastie. "I also consider the cross-section of representation as exceptional."
Prigel said those responding included members of the general population of Bingen, the business community, senior citizens, the Hispanic community, and even out-of-towners who own property in Bingen.
"Overall, we had a good outcome here. It reinforced old priorities and identified some new priorities," Prigel said. "In fact, the Maple Street reconstruction project coming up next fall will fit right in to this."
Prigel pointed out that the document was not intended to be a hard and fast blueprint for Bingen's future.
"This can be changed. It's just a guide to gauge what our citizens' priorities are," Prigel explained. "The council will use it to reaffirm and guide us if there are questions about what's more important."
Council member Laura Mann asked which priorities the city would tackle first.
"What is the next step? There are about 24 goals here," Mann questioned.
Prigel said the goals could be prioritized in three ways. First, by the ranking the citizens attached to each goal; second, based on the available funding and staff time to work on specific projects; and third, by funding or other opportunities that come up that are beyond the control of the city.
"We have this list, and when opportunities come up, we'll take advantage of it," Prigel said.
Council member Tim Hearn suggested that the city map out a strategy to prioritize the projects.
"It's our job to go through this document and implement the goals. That's what the City Council is for," Hearn said.
After the meeting, Mayor Prigel said he was happy with the city's new action plan, which cost $15,000.
"It gives us some ideas to work on," Prigel said.
Prigel added that the document could help the city gain funding for various community development projects.
"It's not really a requirement, but if we go for grant funding, this certainly helps us because it demonstrates what's important to the community," he explained.
Prigel said there was no set project that would be worked on first.
"There are no projects targeted right now. We may do so later this year," Prigel said. "We'll look to see what we can tackle."
Prigel said his view is that improvements to the city's parks and recreation opportunities, as well as economic development and the economy of the business district, are the most important issues facing the city.
The city's previous Community Action Plan was produced in 1998.