Residents show interest in helping neighborhoods

February 12, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Residents show interest in helping neighborhoods

Some Hagerstown residents will have a chance to get involved in improving their neighborhoods through associations to be formed by the city.

Last summer, roughly 6,700 survey forms were distributed to city residents asking them to identify problems facing their neighborhoods and whether they'd be willing to join a group to help fix them.

Of the 2,547 surveys returned, 990 people indicated a willingness to join a neighborhood association, said Larry Bayer, chairman of the Neighborhoods First committee in charge of the survey. Committee members are city employees who work with the public on a daily basis.


One committee goal is to establish three neighborhood associations by the end of the year, Bayer said.

The three areas haven't been chosen yet, he said.

This spring, after the areas are chosen based on which gave the most feedback, committee members will begin contacting residents there, he said.

"We're not going to tell them what to do," Bayer said.

Instead, residents will identify problems in their neighborhoods, and plan and institute improvements.

"The city would be one of the tools that could be used, but we wouldn't be the do-all for them," Bayer said.

Those who indicated a willingness in the survey to participate in a neighborhood association will receive postcards acknowledging their interest and telling them the city is compiling survey results, Bayer said.

The committee is moving ahead cautiously because members want the Neighborhoods First initiative to be a lasting cooperative effort to improve city neighborhoods, said committee member Mike Weller.

Neighborhoods First was born out of a desire to improve the city's homeownership rate, which is roughly 40 percent, said committee member Kim Kautz.

It's difficult for neighbors to get to know one another when many residents are renters who don't stay long, Kautz said.

The city inspection office referees many complaints because neighbors who don't know each other often don't talk, Kautz said. The associations could remedy that by giving neighbors a chance to get to know each other.

Associations would give residents a chance to establish practices in their neighborhoods, such as watching over homes when neighbors are on vacation or looking out for children walking to the bus stop, Kautz said.

They also could reinforce city ordinances, such as the one barring trash from being set out before 4 p.m. on pickup day, she said.

The associations could distribute information packages and welcome new residents, she said.

Association members will be given detailed city directories that list common residential concerns, and the telephone extensions of those to contact about specific problems.

Each association will have a city employee as a liaison who can help ensure the association is contacting the proper department, Kautz said.

Eventually, each association would have a few members trained to know who to contact about specific problems, eliminating the need for a liaison, Bayer said.

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