CRESWELL – The ad hoc committee in Creswell is making headway on a town hall to address the past, present and future of the Fourth of July events.
“Our intention … is centered in positive forward momentum, building partnerships, demystifying processes and procedures, promoting communication, answering questions, and providing space for our community to come together,” said Shelly Clark, who is a city councilor and treasurer for the committee.
The town hall will tentatively be held on the evening of Thursday, March 10 at a local church. More details will be released as they become available.
This town hall has been a long time coming, having been a point of discussion among city council since its Aug. 9 meeting last year, often a topic championed by councilor Alonzo Costilla. But 2021 was full of vicissitudes for the City; less than a week after the town hall discussion was broached, on Aug. 13, mayor Amy Knudsen resigned. By the end of the year, two other councilors, JoeRell Medina and Jerri Hutchinson, had resigned.
“The turnover with the mayor last year put some of that work on pause,” said Kevin Prociw, the council president and a committee member.
But in 2022 – with a full set of councilors and a new (sort of) mayor, Dave Stram – Prociw said that the city is better poised to have this community conversation.
Additionally, the Chamber, now back from a hiatus, will host the parade and the fireworks display this year.
With the Chamber again assuming responsibility for the events, it eliminates the opportunity for community members taking it into their own hands.
The Chamber was unable to host the parade in light of Covid restrictions last year. Instead, community members filled the void and planned the parade themselves, but did not file for permits. What resulted were traffic and safety concerns, citations, and a clamor among community members and national, regional and local media for the presence of a hate group, of which one of the parade organizers was a member of.
While the Chamber was unable to pull off the monumental task of hosting the parade that year, it did manage to pull off a fireworks display, but with burning effects.
The school district last year was unable to host the fireworks display due to liability issues. The Chamber scrambled to find an alternate location. It ultimately used the old Bald Knob site, but that event resulted in a fire after a dud firework landed in some blackberry bushes nearby.
It was the type of day that neither the City nor Chamber want to see repeated.
Joining the conversation at the town hall will be the key partners for the annual celebration, the police sergeant, a school district representative, and the chamber president. Sgt. Denham, Joel Higdon and Bobby Ladley will serve as panelists. The town hall will also include a moderator.
“There is value in demonstrating that the city, the council, the chamber, LCSO, and the school district are working together in partnership,” Prociw said.
Two timelines are being drafted for use at the town hall: what did happen, and what should have happened. Council president Prociw drafted one dating back to April 2020.
“However, we don’t want to dwell on the things that didn’t go as well,” he said. “To that end, we talked again about getting a survey out soon that will help us to gather some of the questions in advance.”
The other is “a parallel timeline of milestone events that would have happened … if the Chamber had been up and running, and if we weren’t under Covid restrictions,” Clark said.
Prociw said it could also be an opportunity to generate interest for potential volunteers for the upcoming festivities.
The next public discussion will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17 at City Hall.