Oneonta begins ACE assessment process

Community leaders gathered last Thursday at Oneonta City Hall to participate in the assessment phase of the ACE process.

Community leaders gathered last Thursday at Oneonta City Hall to participate in the assessment phase of the ACE process.

Oneonta proceeded further into Phase I of its Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) process last Thursday evening with a meeting at city hall to review and collect additional survey information that is the central part of the assessment phase.

The operative word in that sentence is “process.” Oneonta has qualified with seven other towns to be an ACE community.

But it does not become an ACE community until it completes a three-phase process that will take more than a year of intensive data collection/evaluation, problem solving, and strategic planning.

Once completed, the city will be designated an official Alabama Community of Excellence. At that point, it will receive official signage for posting at city gateways, as well as other ACE-related marketing materials. Also included will be a provision for city-specific information associated with the ACE official website.

Thursday night agenda

The Thursday night agenda included presentations by local leaders having to do with community infrastructure and other resources. Appropriate leaders reported on 11 subject matter areas: public safety; police and fire departments; water, gas, and power utilities; the school system; health care; the business environment; quality of life; and economic and workforce development efforts.

Survey information collected to date was evaluated in the main part of the meeting before breaking the group up into breakout sessions to collect additional survey information on the extent and adequacy of resources in several areas.

Responses to about 100 questionnaires covering approximately 30 variables related to community leadership, municipal performance, civic life, and community/ economic attributes were presented. Three outstanding problem areas clearly emerged, according to responses given: (1) adequacy of retail shopping opportunities, (2) limited attractiveness and vibrancy of the downtown area, and (3) inadequate access to high-speed Internet. Other relatively low-scoring areas were: encouraging young people to participate in community life; having a defined, strategic process to bring people together to resolve divisive issues; and inadequacy of communication across racial/ethic lines. Responses to about 80 percent of the variable categories were satisfactory to good.

All survey information will be evaluated by ACE subject matter experts to identify strengths and weaknesses and an assessment report will be delivered shortly, providing recommendations for corrective action before the city will receive an invitation to proceed into Phase II implementation.

The mission of Phase II is to develop a formal leadership program, develop a strategic plan, and form or designate a nonprofit development organization. The business of Phase III is to implement the strategic plan (covering 3-5 years) and initiate and institutionalize a comprehensive planning process (covering 10 to 20 years).

The Blount Countian will report periodically on the ACE process as further developments occur.