ELIZABETHTOWN — What makes Bladen County a great place to live? What do residents see as challenges to the Mother County’s future? The answers to these and other questions are valuable pieces of information coveted by the Bladen County Board of Commissioners, and they are going out of their way to find out how county residents feel.
At a February board meeting, the commissioners unanimously agreed to move forward to develop a strategic plan for the county, something that had not been done since a 1997 effort called “Bring on Bladen.”
“The commissioners discussed the strategic plan as part of their planning process, but they really want it to be a citizen-led process,” said County Manager Greg Martin.
The board appointed a steering committee of 21 residents who represent geographic, racial, and socioeconomic diversity. The steering committee met with the commissioners in order to obtain direction and were charged with the task of gathering input from residents. Several subsequent meetings were held by the steering committee where methods, possibilities and ideas were tossed around and formulated.
The committee, with direction from the Lumber River Council of Governments, drafted a 2.5-page document asking thought-provoking questions such as “What would be one major reason you would recommend Bladen County to your family or friends as a good place to live?” and “What do you think are the three biggest threats/concerns to the future of Bladen County?” as well as overall satisfaction living in Bladen County and demographic information.
“The county really does want to make progress and wants to solicit feedback from the citizens about the direction they would like to go,” urged Martin. “This is a great opportunity for citizens to give input regarding the future of the county.”
“It’s important that we hear from everyone,” said County Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson. “We want to hear from the people in Kelly, the people in East Arcadia and the people in Ammon.”
In the past, community hearings were held to gather input, but it is unclear at this point whether it will be done again. The survey is, however, available online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XBFG9QF. Additionally, hard copies are being distributed throughout the county.
The data collection phase will continue until May 31, at which time the steering committee will assess the results and determine the greatest areas of concern. Task forces will be developed to address each area, and each team will be responsible for generating long-term goals and short-term objectives.
“It’s all for the betterment of the community,” Martin said.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.