Berea City Council members met last week to discuss their long-term goals for the community. In a brainstorming session with facilitators from the Kentucky League of Cities, council members responded to questions about their respective visions for the city, including:
What Do You Want to See Accomplished in Berea?
Bruce Fraley cited diversified economic development as one of his top priorities. Fraley hopes the city will strive to meet the needs of existing employers while seeking new economic development opportunities, including jobs in the information technology field. Additionally, Fraley hopes to promote community unity, as well as transparency in local government.
Jim Davis said securing an expanded supply of clean water for the city is one of his top goals, in addition to economic development.
Jerry Little wants to continue building the city’s financial reserves, but he also believes the city needs to insure a secure transition to a new electric provider. Expanding the city’s water supply was also one of Little’s concerns.
Ronnie Terrill expressed his view that the city needs to adjust its strategy regarding tourism, relying less on crafts, expanding parks, and promoting sports tourism.
Cora Jane Wilson cited the need for a new vocational center, noting it would help give young people in the area more positive direction and promote economic opportunity for a diverse cross-section of Berea residents.
Steve Caudill agreed economic development is key, but he also cited a need for local government to promote better communication and transparency with the public.
Billy Wooten expressed hope the city would launch a local public relations campaign to inform Berea residents about attractions and cultural assets in town. Wooten also cited the need for a conference center, a beautification project at the city’s interstate exits, and the formation of a drug abuse task force.
Tom Schultz suggested the city needs an events center, and he expressed hope the city would make efforts to establish a better rapport with the college.
What Should Berea’s Brand Be?
Bruce Fraley said he does not want the city to be totally dependent on the craft industry. Instead he suggested Berea’s economy should be a mix of various elements like hospitality, retail, college-related opportunities and industry.
Jim Davis said one important element of Berea’s brand is a community that has clean water. He also cited Berea’s identity as a college town as a great asset along with the city’s superior local schools.
Steve Caudill noted that Berea is a small city, yet it has done things larger towns have not, such as creating shared-use trails and paths. Because Berea already has an established identity as Kentucky’s folk arts and crafts capital, Caudill said he is hesitant to discard that when other cities would like to have that kind of well-established brand.
Cora Jane Wilson cited her experience in the antique business, noting that markets change, and that the city should adapt when needed. As such, she doesn’t believe the city’s brand as the arts and crafts capital should be discarded, but she did suggest it should be supplemented.
Billy Wooten stated arts and crafts alone can’t sustain the city, and he, too, thinks the city’s brand should be augmented. He suggested, for example, cross-promoting the arts and the city’s biking and hiking opportunities as one possibility.
What Services Should the City Promote or Improve?
Bruce Fraley said adding firefighters and police was a top priority.
Jim Davis agreed that first responders should be added.
Ronnie Terrill said the city needs to expand its volunteer firefighter program, and he wants Berea to establish an assisted living community. Terrill also noted he would like a see a program in which retirees have employment opportunities to supplement their income, and to give them new opportunities for playing a role in the local economy.
Steve Caudill suggested the city needs to begin working toward a long-term electric plan to insure a smooth transition that won’t hurt consumers when the current electric contract expires in 2024.
Billy Wooten suggested more staff should be dedicated to assisting Danny Isaacs to promote economic development. Wooten also cited a need to tackle the drug problem in Berea, which was a concern among voters during the last election.
KLC staff will condense the priorities discussed at last Tuesday’s strategic planning meeting, followed by additional discussions with council members.