JEDO Members Question Future Of Heartland Visioning

By: WIBW (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
By: WIBW (Posted by Melissa Brunner)

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Comments from public officials at a meeting Thursday night called the future of Heartland Visioning into question.

Heartland Visioning director William Beteta updated the Joint Economic Development Organization on the project's first six years. He then looked ahead to what's next for the visioning process.

Beteta said he plans a new round of meetings to learn where the community would like the focus to be for the next three to five years. He says the first is Aug. 22 with the Chamber of Commerce's Fast Forward group. Other sessions are planned with teens at the public library, Washburn University and the HiCrest Net Reach program.

Beteta says Heartland Visioning is now an LLC, or limited liability corporation. However, it is still a non-profit organization, funded through fundraising efforts Beteta says he is launching another fundraising effort to secure finances for the next three years.

Beteta's presentation drew mixed reaction from JEDO members.

Shawnee County Commissioner Bob Archer questioned if the group has outlived its usefulness. He suggested the city and county stop contributing tax dollars to it.

While Heartland Visioning raises its funding, contributions have come from public and private entities. The city and county have contributed $30,000 a year.

Councilwoman Sylvia Ortiz agreed with Archer. She also said she didn't feel like Beteta had done a good enough job of bringing together all segments of the community, particularly her constituents. Councilman Chad Manspeaker added that, at some point, "visioning has to turn into action." He said he felt some of the successes for which visioning takes credit already had the wheels in motion.

But Councilwoman Karen Hiller defended Heartland Visioning. She said it brought many people together and created common goals for the community. She said progress was made as a result of the relationships formed. Mayor Larry Wolgast also said he believed the visioning process brought results. He said the top two priorities identified were downtown improvements and developing an arts district, both of which he says have seen movement.

However, both Hiller and Wolgast also acknowledged it is time to take a fresh look at the process and decide how it should play out moving forward.

In other presentations, JEDO heard an update on the Chamber's Entrepreneurial and Minority business development program. Chamber president Doug Kinsinger says the program has created more than 325 small business jobs over the past four years. He says more than 3400 people have been served by the program.


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