H2O-20 Update

Whats next for H2O-20?

H2O-20 Implementation Committee members take that question seriously and began diving into the answer last week as they met to discuss Watertown’s recent wins, challenges and continuing hopes for its future.

Chairs of each of the five focus areas first gave updates on their committees progress. Most Watertown residents would likely cite the multi-purpose facility as the major accomplishment their June vote proved that. However, there were many more successes. Among them were: The implementation of Middle College at Watertown High School, a Parent University as well as Community U, two new certified industrial parks, an Angel Fund to assist incoming businesses, establishment of a Watertown 311 website, community beautification projects, an ArtWalk, a plan to improve uptown alleyways and enhance the City’s gateways, plans for new softball diamond complex and sheets of ice, enhancements to the bike trail, and establishing more community-wide events like the Homecoming 5K, Family Zoofari, and Winter Fest.

That’s a mouthful, but only the tip of the iceberg.There are more wins, but there’s still more to be done in all of the five focus areas: 1. Commitment to Public Education, 2. Diversity of Employment Opportunities, 3. Safe & Attractive Neighborhoods & Business Districts; 4. Vibrant Cultural & Recreation Amenities; and 5. Welcoming, Family-Friendly, & Appealing to All Ages.

While the group acknowledged H2O-20 successes, they recognized that some things could have been done better throughout the process. Last weeks meeting, however, was mainly meant to begin planning the next steps in propelling the H2O-20 team into a new phase.

Some things have grown legs and are going on their own, which is exactly what you hope for said Robb Peterson, H2O-20 leader. For example, the recreational trails team meets regularly and has implemented many great things in our trails system and they are done. That group, as well as others, has developed a life of their own, and that the community acting together on its own behalf.  Also, the multi-purpose center has been taken over by the City and continues to move forward.  Some priorities got side barred due to addressing other ones, but now we are at the point that the implementation committee needs to meet with chairs and sub-chairs to ask: What are the open projects? Are there some that need to be cut? What are the top priorities now and what do you need to get it done?

The committee acknowledged financial support from various entities. The major contributors were the City of Watertown, Prairie Lakes Healthcare Center, Watertown Development Company and the Watertown Community Foundation, which also provided administrative support. That, along with the dedication of the chairs and a lot of “race horses” who ran with their projects created a community-wide team second to none, said Jo Vitek, committee member.

In fact, perhaps the overall biggest win was community involvement, the group agreed. Some committees may consolidate, update priorities and involve different members. However, engaging the community in the effort is one area the implementation committee isn’t worried about. Time and again, Watertown impressed its consulting firm, MarketStreet, with sheer numbers of community involvement. It began in the planning stages with dedicated leadership, broke records with 2,400 survey respondents and continued full-steam ahead with 700+ residents involved in the committees going forward.

If you stop and think about what has been accomplished in the past three years, it is really amazing exclaimed Deb Shephard, the meeting facilitator.

People outside the community are noticing, too, added Don Roby, committee member and City Councilman. Watertown has some things going on and people believe we can do it.

You hear from people, I just feel better about where the community is going, Roby added.

“Do you realize how big that is to change perception? pointed out Shephard. This community feels different than it did four or five years ago.

I would like to thank the community for the support given to the H2O-20 effort,  Peterson said. The incredible efforts from the people involved, directly and indirectly, is a testament to the greatness of the city we live in.

Just because H2O-20 has accomplished a few things, doesn’t mean it’s over, added Roby. It’s not going away.The plan doesn’t go in the drawer, it’s ongoing.

The strategic plan will lead the community-wide H2O-20 team into the new phase soon. If you aren’t already involved in H2O-20 but would like to be, please let us know your interest. Please contact the Watertown Community Foundation at 211 E. Kemp or phone: (605) 882-3731 or email: H2O-20@watertowncommunityfoundation.org