A Wichita State University study about the positive and negative aspects of Wellington held no surprises for the crowd at a community meeting held at the Sumner Cowley College campus.
On the positive side, people here view Wellington as a close knit community with a small town feel, but on the more problematic side, they see it as stagnant and lacking in growth, economic diversity and lacking in jobs.
Matt Stiles, program manager for the Public Policy and Management Center (PPMC) at WSU presented a powerpoint Thursday evening in the Community Room of the Sumner Short General Education campus. Stiles’ display included data and the results of interviews with community leaders, feedback from focus groups and a survey of city employees.
A primary asset of Wellington, based on feedback from individuals, is that people are generous and pull together to help those in need. Challenges or concerns listed were high taxes and utility rates, negativity of a vocal minority, lack of growth, homes and infrastructure deteriorating and increased drug and crime activity.
Following Stiles’ presentation, people in the audience talked about the positive and negative aspects of Wellington and ways to resolve the problems and bring growth to the city.
The meeting was arranged by the Steering Committee working with the PPMC to develop a five-year strategic plan for Wellington. The city signed an agreement with the PPMC last December to develop a plan not to exceed $27,300. It is estimated that the plan will be completed around May.
Stiles said there would be another community meeting in which a draft for the five-year plan will be presented and people can agree to add and take away things.
The study showed that five years from now, people would like to see such things as: growth, while maintaining the small town feel; a growing, thriving taxbase and population; diverse economy; cleaned up buildings and homes; and an affordable cost of living.
People in the audience asked questions and offered their opinions on bringing growth to Wellington.
Anarose White said she thinks if the town can be a place people want to visit and spend time in, people will want to live here and businesses will grow.
White said, later, "Essentially, you can’t just get a bunch of jobs in a town and expect people will move there. So many from plants and school districts commute to Wellington to work now."
People talked about a housing shortage. Realtor Cathy Sheets said there are only 32 houses listed on the market right now in Wellington.
White said, "We don’t even have enough housing availability for people to move here. We need more places for people to buy or rent."
Various audience members noted the golf course, recreation center and medical community to be strong amenities or resources that would drive people into town.
Daniel YoNash asked Stiles how specifically Wellington should be marketed. By TV ads? Through social media? Other ways?
"Think of your target audience," Stiles said, adding, "Signage is always a good thing. It’s a low cost investment."
The lack of sidewalks from the roundabout to the bridge on the Eastern Corridor - making it more difficult for people with disabilities - was also brought up. The topic had come up the previous evening at a city Park Board meeting.
White, a member of the park board, said the bridge alone would cost $80,000, having to be widened to meet ADA requirements.
At the community meeting, audience member Missy Curry said the city’s leadership works hard to solve any problems the community has.
"Wellington is hard on itself," she said.