Council and consulting firm remain engaged in year ahead

City Council and the city economic development consulting firm were not idle in terms of planning for the growth and improvement of neighborhoods and city park network in 2017.

“We’re going to see results because everyone has invested time and energy in a thoughtful and interconnected planning process,” said Council President Jonathan Williamson. “In 2018, expect to see the fruits of everyone’s labor begin to be revealed.

“That is consistent with a deliberate and thoughtful planning process that began a couple years ago, especially the planning process led by stakeholders,” Williamson said of the work done by the commission. The city stands ready to work with partners in the overall process, he said.

As for parks, quality of life needs to continue to be a priority, according to Councilwoman Liz Miele.

“We should refocus and complete the master parks vision,” she said. “We should build upon our assets such as the Memorial Park pool, Brandon Park, Memorial and Elm parks and continue to make gems within our neighborhoods such as Youngs Woods and Newberry parks,” she said.

Jason Fitzgerald, president of Penn Strategies, a city economic development consultant, said reinvestment in parks and the network that connects parks to businesses and residential areas is a must for the city. He suggested searching for funding to invest at least $1.5 million in grants and other funding sources to improve the city park network.

It already is happening, including a $500,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to be used for aesthetic and environmental improvements at Brandon Park, including a “Nature Play” educational area and more walking paths, to the continued rebirth of Way’s Garden, a park taken care of by a commission and city workers and volunteers.

“It should be — as the envisionment of founder J. Roman Way wanted more than 100 years ago for his wife — the park systems are the biggest attraction on weekends and throughout the days for residents and visitors alike,” Fitzgerald said.

Cities that invest more in parks and recreation are those that end up attracting professional and skilled workforces and make senior citizens more willing to want to live in them rather than flee to suburbs or boroughs and townships, Fitzgerald said.

More recently, Councilwoman Bonnie Katz noted during the budget work session meeting that Newberry’s residents should be engaged in a town hall meeting to determine what they want to see at their Phil Preziosi Community Park, formerly known as Newberry Park, on Linn Street.

Holding a town hall session was among the plans for Recreation Director Jessie Novinger in the new year, said Joseph Pawlak, city budget and fiscal officer.