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Tad Long, director of community development services for the Kentucky League of Cities, describes a "design session" exercise to the attendees of Thursday evening's listening event that was part of the process of developing a strategic plan for Glasgow. Continuing clockwise are Allen Riffle, John Doyle, Denisha Harper, Matt Keith and Terry Bunnell, chairman of the Glasgow Common Council Strategic Planning Committee.

GLASGOW – After a few months of planning how to plan for Glasgow's future, this week, the planning started getting real.

Three listening sessions took place to which the community was invited to share ideas and perspectives on what things they value about the city, its opportunities for improvement, and challenges and threats to its success it may face. Finally, those attending were asked to provide suggestions on the elements they would like to see here – not just physical items but concepts as well. Many of the same items were listed at each session over the course of the three nights.

The discussions were led by Bobbie Bryant and Tad Long, community development staff members of the Kentucky League of Cities, contracted by the city to facilitate the process and create a written plan.

The first session was Monday at the T.J. Health Pavilion, with roughly 40 people in attendance. Fewer, around 20, were at the second on Tuesday at Lera B. Mitchell Clubhouse, but only a handful of people other than the KLC representatives, council members and Joint City-County Planning Commission of Barren County staff members were present Thursday evening at the Housing Authority of Glasgow's HERO Center.

At each event, detailed notes were taken that were provided to the Strategic Planning Committee of the council and those who have been helping with the process.

A few of the valued things, based on KLC's notes primarily, include the people, schools, cost of living, medical facilities, community activities, family, safety and overall location.

Opportunities included more adult classes and other educational options, providing incubator options for startup companies, quality of utilities, niche markets, Blue Zones healthy living program, better marketing and branding of the community and taking better advantage of programs offered through the Kentucky Career Center.

One of the first challenges mentioned was a “hesitation to dream big and take risks,” while an inability to get a consensus due to a lack of putting individual agendas ahead of focusing on the big picture came right after that. Other challenges discussed were a lack of cultural understanding, good-paying jobs, lack of substance abuse recovery programs, domestic violence, obesity, the need for second- and third-shift childcare and housing for the low- to middle-income population. Lack of national-chain retail stores and skilled labor were also among the things mentioned.

Discussion of threats brought up perceptions of image, run-down housing, perpetual negative vision, drug traffic, misinformation, being dependent on factories for jobs and a “race to the bottom” in terms of salary levels.

During the “design session” portions, a host of suggestions were made, some of which have been discussed from time to time already, and some new.

Recurring ones included better navigation signage and welcome signs, for example.

One of the suggestions from the second evening was to, using the same concept as quilt patterns painted on barns, create a “tartan trail.” Another from Tuesday to define the community with public art projects.

Thursday night, John Doyle suggested Glasgow needed more branding and activities related to its Scottish heritage, for example, because in this area, to celebrate that, “We are THE place to go.” Discussion followed that about how more of the events for the Glasgow Highland Games should be in town rather than at the Barren River Lake State Resort Park.

One of Doyle's other suggestions was to encourage a buildup of hemp production and processing to bring back some of the agricultural and industrial opportunities the county has lost through the years.

One of Matt Keith's suggestions was, “Don't let everything build up too much and spread out,” in terms of property development.

“Amen to what you just said,” Doyle said, noting a need to fill existing gaps before extending farther outward.

Long asked Glasgow Police Department Officer Allen Riffle, who said he was there initially because he was assigned to it, but he also was enjoying hearing others' feedback, to participate and talk about what he likes here.

Riffle said he grew up in Horse Cave and still lives in Hart County, but he doesn't just work in Glasgow.

“Anytime we do anything, we come to Glasgow,” he said of his family, noting that Elizabethtown is just about as close for them, but they like the smaller-town environment and friendliness here better.

Long said that, using the information collected from these sessions and some one-to-one interviews he and Bryant are doing, three to five priorities will be chosen as things anticipated “to really move the city forward” and then we will build it out from there.

“We will build a framework and we will come back and – it will probably be at a city council meeting or we can do a public meeting if you want – and we are really just checking in with folks. 'These are the things we're seeing. Are we on the right track?' And then after that, if we've got the approval to move forward, then we will finish the plan,” he said at the conclusion of Thursday's meeting.

He said he hopes to have it finalized in the spring.

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