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Public and officials invited to hear city planner speak

Private meeting, public business city planner At the August 14, 2017, private meeting hosted by Amy Livngston, Logan Rutledge and Betsey Hamilton. Standing at upper left is Philip Walker. At table, upper right are seated: Amy Livingston, Logan Rutledge, and Betsey Hamilton.

The push to hire a city planner and develop a strategic plan for New Albany has apparently started up again.
First Ward Alderwoman Amy Livingston sent out an email Thursday morning, August 23, inviting New Albany residents to a meeting on the subject to take place Thursday, August 30.

Livingston’s statement invites “All citizens, mayor, Board of Aldermen and anyone interested in the future of New Albany” to a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Union County Heritage Museum.

After being elected to the city board last June, Livingston asked that the matter of a city planner and strategic plan be placed on the agenda of her first meeting. At that July 5, 2017 meeting, Livingston spoke in favor of the city hiring a city planner to develop a strategic plan for New Albany. No motions were put forward during that meeting and no vote was recorded.

First city planner meeting in August, 2017, was not open to the public

First Ward Alderwoman, Amy Livingston

Then, on Monday, August 14, 2017, Livingston, along with New Albany residents Betsey Hamilton and Logan Rutledge, hosted an invitation-only meeting at the Magnolia Civic Center, during which Livingston introduced a man named Phillip L. Walker, said to be a city planner from Nashville, Tenn. Walker described what he could do to help the city develop a comprehensive plan for its future.

About 15 New Albany residents, including the mayor and four of the five city aldermen, were present for that August 14. meeting. In a conversation the next day with NAnewsweb.com, Livingston said she had invited Walker to New Albany and had individually invited each of the persons who attended. She said no attempt had been made to inform the general public about the meeting. Asked why she replied: “I didn’t think this needed to be public knowledge just yet.

Push for city planner continues

Alderwoman Livingston and other local individuals continued to lobby for a city planner/strategic plan, and Livingston brought the matter to the Board of Aldermen again at its Dec. 5, 2017 meeting.

At that meeting Livingston made a formal motion to create a “request for qualifications” (RFQ) for a city planner, essentially an invitation for proposals from consultants who are in the city planning business. Alderman-At-Large Keith Conlee seconded the motion.

Second Ward Alderman Johnny Anderson said, “I am not in favor of hiring a city planner.” Anderson said he had no problem with establishing qualifications for a city planner, but would “not be willing to pay $100,000 to $200,000 for someone to tell us what we already know.” When Livingston’s motion was put to a vote, Anderson voted with her and Conlee in favor of the RFQ. Ward Four Alderman Will Tucker voted no, and Third Ward Alderman Kevin Dale White was not present.

City planner proposal requests sent out in 2018

Early in 2018, an invitation for proposals went out to a number of organizations which are in the strategic planning business.

city planner

New Albany Community Development Director, Billye Jean Stroud

At the June 5, 2018, meeting of the aldermen, New Albany Community Development Director Billye Jean Stroud told the board that four proposals had been received from city planners in response to the RFQ request the board had authorized in December.  Stroud said the next step was to interview those who submitted proposals. Alderman Anderson said, “I think we need a city plan, but don’t think we need a city planner. I don’t think there is any reason to go forward with interviews.”

Stroud said she and others had been working with people from the McLean Institute at Ole Miss on what Ole Miss calls the “M Partner” program and that she believed a city plan could be developed through the M Partner work. Alderwoman Livingston then said, she agreed that, “There is no need to go forward with interviews of city planners.”

Then, on August 23rd, came the invitation Alderwoman Livingston issued last week for a meeting this Thursday with a city planner from Hernando, Miss.

Public invitation to hear city planner discussion

NAnewsweb.com called Alderwoman Livingston the afternoon of Saturday, August 25. There was no answer. A voicemail message was left, and, as this is being written early evening of Sunday, August 26, Alderwoman Livingston has not called.

NAnewsweb.com did speak by telephone Saturday with Community Development Director Stroud. She said, “I know we aren’t going to hire a city planner and don’t think we should. However, we do need to focus our community on specific goals. Interviewing these RFQ applicants could help get that underway.”

Below is the unedited full text of the message received by email from Alderwoman Livingston at 9:02 am. August 23rd.

“In an effort to bring citizens together for the future of New Albany, the Community Development Department, will be hosting a Community Development meeting on Thursday, August 30, 2018 at 5:30pm at the Union County Heritage Museum. All citizens, mayor, Board of Aldermen and anyone interested in the future of New Albany should attend. This meeting will be the first of many to begin the process of strategic planning for our future. The New Albany Board of Aldermen approved a Request for Qualifications from firms who could guide the city in designing a comprehensive plan for New Albany in the fall of last year. Billye Jean Stroud took the reigns of this process when she was hired in January and created a selection committee to review proposals that were submitted. The selection committee used the same criteria as other communities in ranking four firms who submitted qualifications. The two finalist were The Walker Collaborative of Nashville TN and Orion Planning +Design of Hernando MS. Both firms hold certifications from the American Institute of Certified Planners and both groups have award winning projects from working with large cities and small towns. “We are pleased to announce that on August 30th at 5:30 at the Union County Heritage Museum, Bob Barber of the Orion Planning+Design firm of Hernando will introduce to the public the planning process and procedures necessary for New Albany to begin Discovery, Design and Implementation of a city-wide vison for organized growth and future development of our town. We’re excited about beginning this important step and are eager to have citizen input.” said Stroud. “After much thought and discussion with citizens and some key city leaders, I believe we need to reconsider the idea of a comprehensive plan for our community. With the sign ordinance, zoning issues, tree placement, landscaping needs, need for new municipal buildings, land donations, and growth of our city, it makes sense to at least finish the interview process and discuss what other communities have done to facilitate growth.” said Stroud when discussing the upcoming meeting. The mayor will be asked to call an open meeting in case more than two aldermen plan to attend. “

Link to July 5, 2017 city board meeting:  http://nanewsweb.com/newest-alderman-speaks-often/

Link to private meeting at Magnolia Civic Center, Monday, August 14, 2017:  http://nanewsweb.com/private-meeting-discuss-new-albany-business/

Link to story about Dec. 5, 2017 city board meeting: http://nanewsweb.com/city-board-december-city-planner-restrooms/

Link to June 5, 2018 city board meeting: http://nanewsweb.com/city-board-6-5-18-hearing-sign-ordinance/

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