Improvement ideas offered for discussion

Thursday, June 24, 2004

"Anybody have any ideas?"

That question -- posed by Doug Stephens in an Open Forum letter in Wednesday's Gazette -- could be the start of an organized Community Improvement effort in McCook and the other communities of Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas.

Doug was motivated to speak out after reading Monday's editorial, which urged towns to form committees to upgrade their communities.

"Not so fast." In essence, that was what Doug was saying when he called upon his fellow citizens to help develop a firm plan of action. He explained his rationale this way: " ... without a specific plan of action, or even concrete goals, it's just a lot shouting and arm waving."

Well said, Doug. Maybe we have gotten the cart before the horse. So let's take a step back, and begin anew with your question: "Anybody have any ideas?"

You bet we do. In fact, we have so many ideas that one of the hardest jobs of the Community Improvement committees will be deciding what to do first, and second, and third, and on and on into the 21st century.

Where do we start in the development of ideas? The best place is right here at home -- listening to community discussion. Ideas flow all the time, including these projects recently brought to the attention of the publisher, the editor and members of the news staff:

* Tear down the Romanoff Building on the northwest corner of the Norris and B intersection and replace it with a "Welcome Center" for McCook and Southwest Nebraska;

* Raise money to renovate the Fox Theater, turning it into a cultural arts center and concert hall for the community;

* Look at ways to expand True Hall Gymnasium at McCook Community College, using the existing structure and adding on to it for additional seating and space for health and physical education training and classrooms;

* Create distinctive welcome signs for all four highway entrances to McCook, showing visitors from far and near that we are glad they included our town in their travels;

* Commission sculptures memorializing U.S. Sen. George W. Norris and Nebraska Gov. Frank B. Morrison, giving future generations visual inspiration for public service;

* Build a monument or a memorial in McCook to call attention to the great importance of Rural Electrification, a life-changing movement for rural America led by Sen. Norris.

Some of these are big projects. Really big projects. But, perhaps even more important at the beginning, are the dozens of smaller, doable projects possible through small donations, volunteer labor and combined community action. One possibility is the welcome signs. Those could be ... and should be ... done. So should the statues of Norris and Morrison.

And, then, always, there are the clean-up, paint-up, fix-up efforts which are greatly enhanced by community-wide participation. Already, the housing director for the McCook EDC, Denise Ringenberg, is working on a grant to help with the renovation of older homes. Just as Habitat for Humanity helps on a widespread basis, more could be done locally and regionally to update houses which have fallen into disrepair.

Thanks for your question, Doug. The dialogue has begun. Let's keep it going. By sharing our ideas, we could launch a Community Improvement Program unequaled anywhere in America.

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