Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington urged people to stay engaged.
Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington held up a thick binder in front of about 50 people at the start of the OB Life program summary meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
"This is the voice of the people," he said. "This book represents a compilation of about nine months of work."
The binder contained upwards of 500 pages of feedback gathered from the six OB Life workshops. The OB Life initiative began back in June 2018, and meetings were held every month on different topics, like community development, the environment and leisure. The feedback from the six workshops, which featured 17 speakers and answered over 600 questions both in person and online, will be used to help the City Commission update its strategic plan this year.
The seven meetings, including the program summary meeting, are projected to cost the city about $35,000. This included renting the space inside the Calvary Christian Academy Kids Center, tables, chairs and the cost of the program's moderator, Rafael Montalvo, from the University of Central Florida.
Partington said that never before has a commission seen the level of citizen engagement brought on by OB Life. He said that for the next few years before the city's next strategic planning update, the commission and city staff will refer to the binder for direction.
“Please continue to stay engaged," Partington said. "It will only make Ormond Beach better.”
On a scale from one to five, workshop participants who filled out evaluations at the end of each workshop gave presentations a 4.37 rating. Overall satisfaction came in at about 4.3, Montalvo said. On average, 49% of workshop attendees filled out these evaluations.
"I can tell you as someone who does a lot of these, that's an extraordinary response rate on meeting evaluations," Montalvo said. He explained some meetings saw 44% of people filling out the evaluations, while others jumped up to 70%.
This is indicative of an engaged audience, he said.
To summarize the six workshops, word clouds were generated to reflect the most common themes. For the first meeting, which dived into community development, words like "small," "town" and "nature" made up sections of the diagram reflecting what people valued most about living in the city. The findings from that meeting, according to the OB Life summary of themes, included that the theme tying all community development issues was "protecting and enhancing the things that contribute most to Ormond Beach's small-town character, closeness to nature and quality of life.
This workshop was the most attended, drawing a crowd of about 250 people. The three takeaways were protecting the character of the city by finding the right balance of preservation and growth, focusing on infrastructure and redevelopment, and planning wisely.
The fourth workshop, attended by about 57 people, determined that participants expressed a "high degree of satisfaction" with police, fire and emergency preparedness services in the city. However, suggestions for improvement included the city undertaking a bigger role in emergency transport.
Septic to sewer conversions, the Hand Avenue Extension, new bike paths and trails and redeveloping vacant properties were among the other suggestions in the six workshops.
The City Commission will hold a workshop for updating the strategic plan on Wednesday, Feb. 27. It will be facilitated by Marilyn Crotty, also from UCF.
Also, the city announced that it will be launching a new financial transparency website on Feb. 15, that will allow people to see financial data much quicker than its current format. Finance Director Kelly McGuire said that this website will be updated weekly. Certain city financial "transparency reports" haven't been updated on the web since 2017.
City Manager Joyce Shanahan said this is part of a transition to a new software system for the city. It has been a big undertaking, she said, as the city's previous software was 20 years old.
“It really is as transparent as you can get," Shanahan said.
Gabriel Menendez, city director of public works, spoke about the continuation of the Open Gov software, which the city used for the OB Life series. Open Gov will be used to increase communication, highlight important issues and events, gather opinions and ideas and share feedback.
Five years ago, Shanahan said the city held two workshops in which 100 people participated to update the strategic plan. Total attendance for the OB Life workshops was over 667 people — there were people who attended every meeting.
Shanahan said the central point for this workshop was for people's opinions to be heard, and she thanked the commission for its vision of this initiative.
“They wanted a community outreach where we went to the people, talked about issues that they were concerned about, and I think we did an amazing job at that," Shanahan said.