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Thrive Hempstead County’s August meeting included wide-ranging discussion

Thrive Hempstead County volunteers meeting in Hempstead Hall last evening.

Thrive Hempstead County met last evening at UAHT’s Hempstead Hall to work toward ways to supply the county’s needs and wants in several areas of concern.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m. 14 volunteers convened with Hope City Director Steve Montgomery setting the agenda. He charged committees, on Tourism, Public Priorities, Economic Development, Quality of Life and Education to meet among themselves to talk about ideas for improving the county in their respective areas. He said that recent news might cause some matters “to be prioritized a little higher,” and referred to the example of the recent discussion of teacher pay raises.

After an hour of the committees meeting in break-out sessions in separate rooms, the volunteers reconvened to share the ideas mentioned in those sessions. About an hour and 20 minutes was spent in doing so. As the chairs of the committees presented what their committees discussed, cross-talk often arose among the committees as members realized that their goals and methods could benefit from working together.

Among the subjects discussed:

  • Tourism: an upcoming visitors’ guide, the recent attempt to place a decision as to whether Hempstead County will continue to be a dry county on the ballot, the need to increase the county’s rate of voter registration, means of guiding tourists to the hopeusa.com website, new and improved signage.
  • Public Priorities: pursuing the long-term goal of building an activities center, code enforcement, connecting the estimated 15 percent of county households with no running water to rural water systems, finding more funding for Hope’s Streetscape and Sixth Street projects, creating an education-based juvenile behavioral health center at the old migrant center.
  • Economic Development: creating a business incubator, continuing to increase membership of students and businesses in Bobcats works, an economic development website, promoting the quarter cent economic development sales tax approved for inclusion as a yes/no vote on the November 8 ballot, making clear what the funds collected can and cannot be used for.
  • Quality of Life: developing a downtown art district, starting community theater, community gardens, promoting the Spanish Heritage Festival (October 8), research on whether proceeds from the quarter-cent can be used to finance workforce housing.
  • Education: increasing funding from grants, establishing goals for what a Hope Public Schools graduate ought to be able to do, financing teacher raises, recruiting parent volunteers, involving students in extracurricular activities since those involved in at least one have been shown to have a 95 percent rate of graduation.

One member said it would be important to develop a set of actions that could be taken by the group to pursue its goals of improving the county. This was adopted as the purpose of the next meeting, which was agreed to take place in Hempstead Hall Thursday September 22.

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