Community Update: Discuss Triangle Project with prospective redevelopment partner, Police Department “Trunk or Treat” Offers Halloween Fun and Games

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All invited to discuss Triangle Project with prospective redevelopment partner

Area residents and business owners are invited to learn about and discuss the residential/commercial space redevelopment opportunities at the Downtown Triangle site. Representatives from prospective developer Gorman & Company, Inc.  will join City officials to lead the conversation.

The event takes place today, Monday, October 23, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Karen’s Wines and Steins, 160 1st Street North.

Headquartered in the Madison-area Village of Oregon, Gorman & Company has worked since 1984 to specialize in downtown revitalization, the preservation of affordable housing, workforce housing and the adaptive reuse of significant historic buildings. Gorman redevelopment projects include partnerships with Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Madison, Portage, Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Janesville and Wisconsin Dells.

The Triangle Area – located on the block bounded by 1st Street North (west and north), East Jackson Street (south) and Market Street (east) – serves as the northeast gateway to the Downtown Riverfront area, overlooking the Wisconsin River and our public park spaces. The initiative to redevelop this area was jumpstarted when the City purchased the former Spath and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) buildings, along with land on the other side of the block that included the former Labor Temple/Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar, and cleared the buildings. The resulting space is ideally suited for a mixed-use development with underground parking. The potential exists for residential, office, retail, restaurant and other uses.

We are excited by this partnership opportunity with an experienced community revitalization partner. We welcome your presence and input regarding our shared vision of sustainable residential, commercial and retail redevelopment.

Police Department “Trunk or Treat” Offers Halloween Fun and Games

I encourage individuals, businesses and organizations to enjoy an evening of family fun, while also engaging with our local law enforcement community.

Wisconsin Rapids Police Department’s (WRPD) first “Trunk or Treat” event takes place on Tuesday, October 31, from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m., at the Rapids Mall Parking Lot (Farmers Market location).

Trunk or Treat is a way for “kids” of all ages to celebrate a safe Halloween, with games, contests and assorted treats handed out by participants who fill the trunks of their vehicles, decorated in fall splendor.

All are invited to show up in costume to share in the festive gathering, and there will be free hot dogs and chips for kids in costume. Awards will be given for best decorated car and best costume.

We also advise citizens to check out helpful tips for safe trick-or-treating from the WRPD Facebook page  and watch this video from Wisconsin Rapids Community Media (WRCM).

Halloween is a colorful and enjoyable occasion. Let’s work together to keep it safe.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update – Update on Downtown revitalization, MC Sports project moves ahead

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Community Update – MC Sports project moves ahead, Update on Downtown revitalization

IMG_2567Tangible progress to revitalize the Wisconsin Rapids Downtown District manifested itself on Monday, February 29. That’s when City crews started demolished the former Spath and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) office buildings.

Spath Demolition

Along with other City and Wood County representatives. I took a ceremonial sledgehammer swing to signify the beginning of the end for these buildings, which were dilapidated and had outlived their useful life.

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Watch a time lapse of the demolition.

The work will clear space on a triangle-shaped block near the corner of First Street North and Market Street, across from the Wood County Courthouse. Last year, the City bought the Spath and USDA buildings, along with land on the other side of the block, which includes the former Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar.

We don’t want to be landlords, or to own the site; we want to get it in the hands of developers who will commit to building a multi-story, multi-use structure that might possibly hold apartments, offices, retail space and restaurants. This summer, we will begin in earnest to recruit a potential developer, as well as identify potential tenants.

In the meantime, work will continue on several fronts to make Downtown redevelopment a reality:

  • City crews have completed cleaning up the Spath and USDA building.
  • Environmental issues posed by an underground storage tank will be identified.
  • Adam Tegen, Director of Planning & Economic Development, has submitted a Site Assessment Grant request in the amount of $160,000 to support the demolition and environmental assessment of the Good Time Charlie’s building. We expect to hear a response by mid-April.
  • Closing on Good Time Charlie’s should take place in May. After that will seek proposals from contractors to demolish the building. Once the building has been removed, full-service engineering consultant Robert E. Lee & Associates will perform an environmental assessment.
  • Continue negotiations with the County for the acquisition of the former County Annex property.
  • We will continue to pursue purchase of the 4 Stools and Geibert Building properties.
  • The Comprehensive Housing Study now under way will be completed over the next 30 days to identify the potential for housing downtown.

image1[1]This Downtown District revitalization project fits into the long-term plans that previous Wisconsin Rapids administrations had developed for the city. It’s up to us as current leaders to make those plans a reality. Without our stepping in, these buildings would have been on the market for years, maintaining a look of yesterday and decline. Taking over and tearing down these properties literally clears the way to foster development in the area. This helps the City, and current and potential employers, to attract the rowing number of people who desire more urban areas where they can walk to get the goods and services they need.

I would love to hear from anyone who has an interest in developing the Downtown District area, renting space for a business or renting an apartment. Reply to this email, call or visit my office.

MC Sports project moves ahead

As your mayor, I was pleased to share in the news that Wisconsin Rapids will soon welcome merchandiser MC Sports to the community.

Equally gratifying, is that the store will be located at 2211 Eighth Street S., in the former Staples building that had been vacant since May of 2014. This property covers Staplesapproximately 24,000 square feet.

MC Sports contractors have submitted permit applications for the building and electrical work, which were issued as of March 1. Combined cost of work to be performed under the two permits is estimated at around $400,000. The company has not provided a time frame for completing the work at this point, but will rely on local review and inspections to help facilitate the process.

MC Sports furnishes quality sports equipment, footwear and apparel, at 75 stores throughout Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Illinois. As I noted at the time of the announcement, we are very pleased that a gap in our retail options will now be filled. MC Sports will be a welcome tenant and addition to our Eighth Street business corridor. We are also excited by the knowledge that MC Sports is a “good sport” when it come to supporting the communities where it does business, through team sponsorships, fund raising programs, team and group discounts, and a long-standing commitment to the Children’s Miracle Network.

Thank you for reading.

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update – Zoning Code Guides Growth and Development; Aquatics Update; Community Tree Sale

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Community Update – Zoning Code Guides Growth and Development; Aquatics Update; Community Tree Sale

Zoning Code Guides Growth and Development

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Civi Tek Consulting reps lead Planning Commission members through early steps at a meeting on Feb. 15, 2016.

With a view to adopting best practices to make our community an attractive and welcoming partner for residents, newcomers and businesses, the City of Wisconsin Rapids over the past few months has begun the process of rewriting its zoning code to make it more modern and user friendly. To expedite building and landscaping decisions, the new zoning code will be readable and understandable, with no overlapping or contradictory provisions. Photos, graphics and drawings will be used as much as possible to increase user comprehension so residents and business people can be fully cued into provisions and standards.

Part of the rewrite process has involved gathering input from you, our citizens. During a two-hour workshop at City Hall on November 3, 2015, our consultant, Civi Tek Consulting, facilitated a dialogue among members of the Planning Commission, the Zoning Code Rewrite Task Force and invited residents to identify general and specific major policy issues the new zoning code should address. The ultimate goal was to develop consensus on what construction, landscaping and parking standards should be addressed in the rewrite, and to gain sufficient direction to begin drafting the updated zoning ordinance.

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Video: Planning Commission Meeting 2-15-16

On February 16, 2016 Civi Tek Consulting representatives shared with the Planning Commission the results from the November 3, 2015 dialogue session. They actively engaged Commission members to determine their views on the degree of flexibility a new code should have; their confidence in how well the current code answers potential development questions; and how frequently they reference the current code.

The representatives also provided a blueprint for how they would prioritize issues in putting together a draft proposal, expected within 14 to 16 months. Considerations would include: identification of priority zoning districts (e.g., Downtown Riverfront, 8th Street, etc.); procedures and standards related to granting permits; and identifying how the Planning Commission and the Common Council share administrative and appeals authority.

This draft ordinance will be reviewed and refined by the Commission and City officials. Residents also will have opportunities to weigh in with comments, at public meetings and online before we go forward with the final updated ordinance.

Along the path to a zoning ordinance that meets the needs of a growing and progressive community, we continue to post updates at the City website. We also encourage you to call Adam Tegen, Director of Planning & Economic Development, at 715-421-8225, or email ategen@wirapids.org.

Aquatics Survey Update

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A telephone survey was conducted recently about Mead Pool and other potential aquatic facilities in Wisconsin Rapids.

A big “Thank You” goes out to residents who have responded to the “call” for feedback on our community’s recreational aquatics needs. To gauge your thoughts and desires on the best course of action, the City, through a partner researcher, conducted a telephone survey about Mead Pool and other potential aquatic facilities in Wisconsin Rapids.

The survey was designed to help provide insight into the community’s aquatics needs in terms of facilities and programs; the amount of money people would be willing to pay for a new aquatics center; and views on collaborating with partners.

Options under consideration include:

  • Build a outdoor new pool with features at a cost of $3.5 to $5 million, while considering installation splash pads in neighborhood parks; or
  • Partner with the South Wood County YMCA to construct a regional public aquatics center; or
  • A combination of both.

To further ensure public input, we will also conduct an email survey, focus groups and a community forum to report findings. I encourage you to continue making your voice heard-the City Council and I are relying on public feedback to make our decisions on the future of aquatics in our city.

Community Tree Sale

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Video: Learn more about purchasing a tree for your property.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 12.04.34 PMThe Mayor’s Council on Beautification is offering another opportunity for citizens to spruce up and add color to their properties, as well as their neighborhoods. Starting right now, residents can select from three varieties of six-foot, bare-root flowering crab apple trees for just $55 apiece, with pick-up in early May. You can also order a tree in remembrance of a special loved one – memorial plaques are available for an additional $35. For more information and to order, please contact Sue Winch at 715-213-1747, or email swinch9@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading.

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update – City awarded DNR Stewardship grant; Aquatics offering study update; Housing Needs/Assessment Questionnaire deadline

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Community Update – City awarded $545,974 DNR Stewardship grant; Aquatics offering survey update; Housing Needs/Assessment Questionnaire deadline

Wisconsin Rapids awarded DNR Stewardship grant

I am excited to announce that we were successful in our pursuit of a DNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grant in the amount of $545,974! This grant makes a bold statement toward supporting our long-range East River Bank improvement project. We will strategically apply these grant funds to the first phase of the improvements, currently under consideration.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 10.21.02 AMThe Wisconsin Legislature created the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in 1989 to preserve valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, protect water quality and fisheries, and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation.

As residents of this community, we should all be proud that the State of Wisconsin has chosen to award Wisconsin Rapids this grant. Our selection strongly indicates that our plans for growth, development and prosperity in the Downtown Waterfront District are recognized far beyond our borders.

Answer the call for Aquatics Survey

Due to the well-documented challenges of reopening Mead Pool for another season in 2016, your City leaders are looking to you, our citizens, to help guide us toward the best course of action to meet our community’s recreational aquatics needs.

To gauge your thoughts and desires, the City will conduct a telephone survey about Mead Pool and other potential aquatic facilities in Wisconsin Rapids.  Scheduled to begin the third week of January, the survey will call randomized households in Wisconsin Rapids as well as an online survey will be available.

We hope that this survey will inform and drive the decision-making process, by providing insight into the community’s aquatics needs in terms of facilities and programs; the amount of money people would be willing to pay for a new aquatics center; and views on collaborating with partners.

Options under consideration right now include:

  • Build a new pool at a cost of $3.5 to $5 million, while considering installation of splash pads in neighborhood parks; and/or
  • Partner with the South Wood County YMCA to construct a regional public aquatics center.
  • Options to consider both within a reasonable amount of capital expenditure.

To further ensure public input, we will also conduct focus groups and a community forum. In the meantime, I encourage residents to “answer the call” and give voice to their feelings when called by a survey representative. We plan to report Initial survey results in February.

Reminder: Residents invited to complete Housing Needs/Assessment Questionnaire

If you live, work, and play in the City of Wisconsin Rapids and surrounding communities have not yet had the opportunity to complete and submit the housing study and needs assessment, please take a few minutes to do so by the deadline January 22. We truly seek as much citizen input as possible in order to accurately identify how our existing housing stock meets current housing demand and what changes may be necessary to meet future needs.Housing Survey I strongly encourage residents to please take 10-15 minutes to fill out the survey, which you can access by clicking web link: http://goo.gl/U0McEm.

While electronic surveys are preferred, paper copies also are available at various locations in and around the Wisconsin Rapids area.

For more information, please call 715-421-8225.

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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COMMUNITY UPDATE – Housing Survey, Christmas Tree Walk

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Community Update – Housing Survey, Christmas Tree Walk

Area residents invited to complete Housing Survey

In order to identify our community’s current and future housing needs, the City has contracted with Wisconsin-based planning and community development consultant Vierbicher Associates to conduct a housing study and needs assessment. The purpose of this study is to evaluate how our existing housing stock meets current housing demand and what changes are necessary to meet future needs by filling housing gaps and establishing priorities for project funding.

I strongly encourage residents who live, work, and play in the City of Wisconsin Rapids and surrounding communities to please take 10-15 minutes to fill out the survey, which you can access by clicking web link: http://wisrapidshousingstudy.questionpro.com.

Housing SurveyWhile electronic surveys are preferred, paper copies are available at City Hall, McMillan Memorial Library, Aging & Disability Resource Center, River Cities Community Access Media, Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, Mid-State Technical College, and the village and town halls of Grand Rapids, Nekoosa, Port Edwards, Rome and Vesper.

Paper copies should be turned in to the City of Wisconsin Rapids, attention of Adam Tegen, Director of Planning and Economic Development at Wisconsin Rapids City Hall, 444 W. Grand Avenue; or in designated drop boxes at any of the locations listed above. For more information, please call 715-421-8225.

 Christmas Tree Walk

Looking for something festive to do this weekend? Celebrate the holiday season with more color and glitter for the Inaugural Christmas Tree Walk at South Wood County Museum, 540 3rd Street S., in Wisconsin Rapids. This year’s festivities take place this Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 6, from 1:00-5:00 p.m.

Christmas Tree Walk at South Wood County Museum, 540 3rd Street S., in Wisconsin Rapids.

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Video: Watch a sneak peak of this weekends event.

Those who attend will be treated to the sight of 16 Christmas trees, lovingly designed and decorated for the season by a variety of individuals and local organizations. You also will enjoy complimentary refreshments, and live entertainment provided by talented vocalists and instrumentalists. This event is sponsored by South Wood County Historical Corporation, Mayor’s Council on Beautification and supported by an Incourage Community Foundation ‘What If’ grant.

Thanks for reading!

Mayor Zach Vrwuink

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COMMUNITY UPDATE – Thanksgiving, Rekindle the Spirit, 2016 City Budget, American Heroes Café

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Community Update – 2016 City Budget, Thanksgiving, Rekindle the Spirit 

Recap of 2016 Wisconsin Rapids budget

On November 17, 2015  the formal presentation and public hearing of the 2016 City of Wisconsin Rapids budget to the City Council for discussion and action was held. With the hard work and dedication of the city staff, a budget that encompasses our operations was presented. In accordance with state law on tax increases, the tax payer affect will be the smallest within our taxing authorities- State, School District, Technical College and County . The 2016 budget passed with a unanimous 8-0 vote.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 1.03.08 PMAfter a few years of being involved in the budget process, I have come to view our budget as an opportunity for our organization to set goals and work to achieve them. The 2016 budget has been prepared with the objective of no layoffs and no reduction in City services while addressing our needs in infrastructure, community development, public safety and overall well-being. It is a privilege to help guide our staff through this process. Much lies on the horizon for 2016 – challenges of which I am confident we can address and opportunity to make our city an even better place to live, work and raise a family.

I am mindful that you, just as I, are committed to putting the citizens of the City of Wisconsin Rapids first when making any and all budget considerations. I truly believe that this budget represents the best intentions of fulfilling my promise to do just that, while placing the most critical needs of our community in priority.

Rekindle the Spirit Holiday Lighting and Parade

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 12.59.37 PMTonight from 5:30-7:30 p.m. the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce will host our annual Rekindle the Spirit Holiday Parade and Celebration in downtown Wisconsin Rapids. It all begins with a lighting ceremony at Veteran’s Park @ 5:45pm. A parade to follow that begins in the Rapids Mall parking lot traveling across Grand Avenue bridge ending at 4th Street. Make your way to Hotel Mead after the parade for hot chocolate, cookies and a visit from Santa! I look forward to seeing you there!

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time when we offer thanks. A time when we sit down at our tables with those we love we not only reflect on what it means to be grateful, but also how we can give thanks by giving back to our community. The commitment, generosity, and compassion of the residents of Wisconsin Rapids who selflessly volunteer their time each day is truly something to be thankful for. In particular, I’d like to recognize those at St. Luke’s Church and its partners, as an example of our community’s outstanding local charitable organizations, who will ensure – for the 16th year- this Thanksgiving season that those in need will have a warm, home cooked meal to enjoy. I, myself will be volunteering for the Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day from Noon-1:30 p.m. at 2011 10Th Street South, Wisconsin Rapids, WI.  There is no charge for the meal.

Heroes Café

In honor of Veterans Day, I had the privilege of sharing time with some Central Wisconsin veterans, police officers and firefighters, at the American Heroes Café Central Wisconsin at the Lowell Senior Center.  Since September 23, the café has been a place for active and retired service people to get free coffee and donuts – and a way to connect with their brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.20.50 AMBill Haack, who served in the U.S. Navy for some 20 years, brought this concept to our community from the original American Heroes Café in Kenosha. I was proud to talk with Bill and others about their experiences, and to learn how much this gathering point means to them.

May we salute every day of the year the brave men and women who help to ensure our freedom and safety!

Veterans Day programs from the area are filmed and produced by RCCA Media volunteers and their staff.

Veterans Day at the Wood County Courthouse

Veterans Day in Veterans Park in Wisconsin Rapids

Veterans Day activities in Port Edwards

Thank you for reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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COMMUNITY UPDATE – Streamlining Development, Wisconsin Rapids to host a Veterans Stand Down and an online survey offers a chance to display our sense of community

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Another effort to streamline future development and land-use.

How we position ourselves to support development can mean the difference between a successful project in our city and no project. This is the reason why we have continuously focused on the way we interact with developers, investors, and business people. Cumbersome or outdated rules and regulations often times found in our city’s Ordinances can be an impediment to development resulting in lost time or worse, lost projects/opportunities. Our present zoning code- the document that sets forth what development and use of land is appropriate hasn’t seen a substantial update since the early 1980s. As we all know, a lot has changed in the world and our city since then. TO this end, the City of Wisconsin Rapids is setting forth with a major project to rewrite its zoning code to make it more modern and user friendly. In order to gather valuable input that reflects the concerns and needs of our residents, we have invited selected citizen shareholders to be part of this important project and encourage anyone else interested in participating to join us during a two-hour workshop at City Hall on Tuesday, November 3, beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 2.55.01 PMOur consultant, Civi Tek Consulting, will facilitate a dialogue among members of the Planning Commission, the Zoning Code Rewrite Task Force and invited residents designed to identify general and specific major policy issues the new zoning code should address in new or different ways. We’ll be seeking feedback regarding the current code and its administration, and we will then collaborate with workshop participants to identify and evaluate alternative solutions to the key issues. Our ultimate goal is to develop consensus on what needs to be addressed in the rewrite and gain sufficient direction to begin drafting the updated zoning ordinance.

We are look forward to workshop participants taking full advantage to engage in this unique opportunity. When completed, the new zoning code will be readable and understandable. It will be integrated into other land-use regulations and be internally consistent, with no overlapping or contradictory provisions. Graphics and drawings will be used to increase reader comprehension to be more user-friendly.

Of course, we want this process to be transparent to all our citizens. As we continue along the path to a zoning ordinance that meets the needs of a growing and progressive community, we will post updates at the City website www.wisconsin-rapids-zoning.civitekprojects.com. We also encourage you to call Adam Tegen, Director of Planning & Economic Development, at 715-421-8225, or email ategen@wirapids.org to RSVP for this important project.

Wisconsin Rapids Veterans Stand Down

I am pleased that Wisconsin Rapids will again host an event to provide support to our nation’s military people. This year’s Wisconsin Rapids Stand Down will be held on Thursday, November 5, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Centralia Center.Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 10.26.51 AM During the Stand Down, veterans will be able to learn about resources offered by the Veterans Administration (VA) and a host of other community agencies: VA benefits and enrollment, employment programs, credit counseling, Social Security, health screenings, post-traumatic stress syndrome, drug and alcohol treatment, financial counseling, housing and shelter information/referrals, and legal aid through community partnerships. Homeless and at-risk Veterans will have the opportunity to receive food, clothing and other resource assistance.

I urge you to encourage military family and acquaintances to attend. You can also help by personally donating items for attendees. For additional information, contact Wood County Veterans Service Officer Rock Larson at 715-421-8420; or the Tomah VA at 800-872-8662, ext. 64201.  To learn more what a Stand Down event is about, visit Wisconsin Rapids 2014 Stand Down event video from RCCA Media: https://youtu.be/re8_MyBXEvg.

Online survey offers a chance to display our sense of community

In my 2015 State of the City address I focused on citizen engagement as a key to building a healthy community. Having continued to emphasize this theme throughout the year, I acknowledge that personal feelings about families, friends, neighbors, co-workers and local government can influence the degree to which our residents are willing to become more involved in the well being of their community.

So, how do south Wood County residents feel about their community? What ‘attaches’ you to living here? You can help to answer this question, while helping a native of our community. Kristi Anderson, a 2007 graduate of Lincoln High School and current graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is working on a research project designed to measure the feelings of community attachment in the south Wood County area.

All current residents of the south Wood County area who are at least 18 years of age are invited to share their thoughts by completing a short 15-minute survey. To take the survey, click on the link here: https://goo.gl/YeiIjE.

In order to provide Kristi with as much feedback as possible, I am also requesting that you please share this survey with others in your work and social networks.

Once the data has been collected and analyzed, Kristi looks forward to sharing her findings with local residents and community organizations. For more information, contact Kristi directly here.

Many thanks for participating in and sharing this opportunity!

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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