\'Dialogue to action:\' Residents discuss how to improve their neighbor

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COLUMBIA - Residents from all over the community gathered at Hickman High School Tuesday night to discuss their concerns with the Central Neighborhood.      

The city of Columbia held the public meeting as part of the 2016-2019 Strategic Plan. The Columbia City Council approved the 2016-2019 Strategic Plan in the fall of 2015, according to its website. 

The meeting was open to everyone who lives in the Central Neighborhood. Residents were also invited for a meal before the meeting. COMO Connect offered free rides from bus stops in the Central Neighborhood before and after the meeting.    

According to a release, the “plan is dedicated to making Columbia the best place for everyone to live, work, learn and play.” The plan focuses on five specific areas: social equity, economy, public safety, infrastructure and operational excellence.   

The city hired consultants to facilitate the neighborhood meetings. 

Diversity Awareness Partnership Regional Manager Nikki McGruder is one of those consultants. She said they are there to help the community identify the top concerns. 

“We want to talk with the neighbors about concerns as we start our transition from dialogue to action,” McGruder said.  

There are a total of three meetings for each neighborhood the consultants visit. The first meeting on Tuesday consisted of putting residents into groups at a table. Each table had a leader to facilitate the conversation. 

“It’s just more user friendly because it gives everyone a voice,” McGruder said. “Each table will have a table host that will facilitate a question, and then each neighbor has an opportunity to share his or her ideas.”

One resident said she attended the meeting to show her support. 

“I want the neighbors in this area to know that they matter,” Leslie Rigdon said.

Rigdon said affordable housing in the area is a big concern and should be looked at more. She also said community officers are making a huge impact on the area.  

“I think they’ve done a good job with the youth around here, and I think that’s what this area needs is to help those youth,” Rigdon said. 

A resident from the North Neighborhood said she was there to support the Central Neighborhood as well. 

“We want to be supportive,” Sophia Smith said. “We want to make sure the people's voices are being heard. We want to see what the changes are that they need here in the central Columbia area as well.”  

The city will have follow-up meetings in the Central Neighborhood on April 6 and April 25.