Last week, the Kentucky League of Cities has been working closely with Hazard city officials and organizations to form a plan to better the future. On March 19, a Community Listening and Design Session was held at the Hazard High School, providing community members an opportunity to get involved in the process.
To start the evening off, Tad Long and Bobbie Bryant, facilitators for the Kentucky League of Cities, asked community members to discuss what they value about Hazard in general. Many of the participants shared similar opinions, including outdoor recreation, school tradition and spirit, helpful and hospitable citizens, access to quality healthcare and education access and a growing youth involvement. Some people also stated that they valued having an organized city government and that Hazard is lucky to have it.
“To me our city government is vital. And we have a county government now that works with us, that is a big plus,” said Susan Brotherton, one of Hazard’s city commissioners.
The facilitators also had community members work in groups for two sessions, a listening session and a design session.
“You have a mayor and commissioners that really want to do some things, and you know how limited resources are,” said Long. “They’re trying. It takes a community to lift up a community.”
In the listening session, community members discussed strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats Hazard has or faces. Many of the categories overlapped in some areas, and Long said it was part of the process and was important in seeing all aspects of the factors.
Some of the strengths many groups said Hazard has include infrastructure, education opportunities, a strong non-profit community, strong community support, a variety of food options, an economic diversity, resiliency, a full range of services (police, fire, water, gas) and outdoor recreation activities.
The main weaknesses and challenges groups felt Hazard faced were a lack of organized recreation, capitalism, lack of transportation, dilapidated areas, groups working separately instead of together, a lack of community involvement, loss of and lack of jobs, lack of adequate housing and a weak tax base.
The participants said that Hazard had many opportunities available to better the quality of the city. Some of the biggest opportunities discussed were empowering the youth and proving opportunities for them to return, adventure tourism, downtown revitalization, the Drone Port, the parking structure, expanding the arts and entertainment options, healthcare, housing development and the possibility of spanning the community college to a four-year university.
Community members also recognized a lot of threats the city is currently facing that, if continued, could prevent them from bettering the future. These threats included stereotyping, a small workforce, the ongoing drug problems, young people leaving the area, a lack of cultural diversity, a lack of good paying jobs and a lack of trades people. Additionally, they said, downtown development raises issues due to being located on the river, bringing massive challenges to rebuild.
After the listening session, the facilitators had groups participate in a design session, where they used maps, markers, tape, photographs and other items to describe their thoughts about the future and help visualize the plans. The groups took their notes and ideas from the listening session and applied them to the maps, recreating their visions of what Hazard should look like in a few years.
“I like the energy we’ve seen the last couple of days,” said Long, stating he believes the group will be successful in creating a plan for the future. The community, he said, has been very open and involved in the sessions.
City officials present at the session said they were impressed with the involvement as well.
“This is a good thing. What we’re trying to do, we just want to try to bring energy back to the city,” said Hazard Mayor Donald “Happy” Mobelini.
The KLC said they will continue to work with the city in the upcoming weeks.