July 2 last day to offer input on city needs surveyWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Tom Konecny, Toledo Free Press Staff Writer
The final push is on for residents to participate in Toledo’s online survey, which will provide direction for the five-year CONPLAN (Consolidated Plan). The survey began June 2 and remains open until July 2. It will help shape the 2015-20 federal funds the city receives through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The survey is conducted through the City’s Department of Neighborhoods to identify needs for the next five years, and is open to anyone, even nonresidents who are knowledgeable about the issues facing Toledo.
“This is really the cookbook of what you want to do,” said Tom Kroma, director of the Department of Neighborhoods. “I want to have a tuned cookbook and dial in on the plan with the dollars that we have. The block grant continues to decline so we need to make the best value of those dollars and get the best outcome.”
This is the first time the survey is being conducted online. Feedback has not only been strong – over 1,000 have already responded, compared to about 200 five years ago – but Kroma said HUD believes Toledo’s response has exceeded other communities comparable in size.
“Actually, it has picked up in the last few days because of our efforts to let people know there’s only a few days left,” said Melva Wagner, administrative analyst at the Department of Neighborhoods. “It’s on the city’s Facebook page. We just keep sending reminders as much as we can that they still have a chance to fill out the survey.”
“By doing this online it opens up a lot of doors and information,” Kroma said. “It’s really good, thoughtful stuff.”
The city had used a consultant to conduct the survey in the past, but now handles the work in-house. Doing so was not only a cost-cutting move, said Kroma, but also because city staff know the community better than anyone, and know where to go to get input. Wagner said staff has visited Job and Family Services, senior centers and mental health boards.
The city also held nine neighborhood public forums throughout Toledo during June, where residents could vocally express their wants and needs. Only about 60 attended all nine forums combined, which Wagner doesn’t attribute to disinterest, but rather that the online survey saves time and is easy to use.
Survey results specifically help to identify community needs via housing, neighborhood and economic development, homelessness, social and human services, public services and transportation/infrastructure. A 29-member committee will then interpret the results to identify funding priorities in the areas of community, economic and housing development and in the fight against homelessness.
The committee is comprised of various community members who have expertise in the areas of education, health care, housing, social services and others.
“We rounded it out get a good sampling of folks that know the community,” Kroma said. “No one was put on the community just because they knew someone. We really wanted people that are involved and know what’s going on. We’ve never had a steering committee of this magnitude before.”
Wagner indicated there is no minimum number of surveys required in order receive funding, but the larger the survey sampling size, the truer the representation of the whole.
Toledo has been receiving HUD funding since 1974. HUD began requiring five-year plans in 1995, at which point the city began conducting surveys.
The online survey may be accessed on the front page of toledo.oh.gov by clicking the button “My voice matters in Toledo.” Paper copies of the survey are available upon request by calling the Department of Neighborhoods at 419-245-1400.