Gardner has been in the throes of extreme growing pains for the last several years, perhaps for more than a decade. With the newly-opened intermodal, citizens can expect even more drastic changes in the community’s appearance as well as in the atmosphere at the community’s core.
For those of us who’ve made Gardner our homes for several years, these changes will be painful. For those who moved to Gardner seeking a small town, the changes will be a disappointment.
And in the midst of it all, there are sure to be a lot of orange traffic barrels and torn up sidewalks as city staff and newcomers add infrastructure and new businesses to the community.
City staff has a sterling opportunity to both greet the newcomers with welcoming arms while actively and continually meeting the needs of the existing residents and business owners. But to do both will require thoughtful and careful communication from the city.
As the city grows and changes, city staff working on projects from street overlay improvements to possible bridge shutdown and rebuilds, should work diligently to keep the community informed on a personal level when at all possible.
That often means a little more time from a city staff prospective – instead of whipping off a form letter about a brief road closure on a particular street at a particular time, those who will be personally affected should be briefed as personally as possible.
It appears this has been happening recently, and we applaud the efforts of city staff beating the streets to talk to downtown business owners.
It’s as simple as a few hours on the phone explaining to business owners what the project is, how it will affect them – detailing both the challenges and the rewards when a project concludes.
The personal touch does two things: It alleviates rumors. This is still a small town with an impressive networking rumor mill. And it allows city staff to counter negative reactions with a little of the good news at the very outset.
Even when the news to be shared is bad news, most business owners would rather be notified as quickly as possible about a street being closed or orange cones to be popping up around their entrance.
Those extra weeks before every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘I’ is dotted, but before construction begins on a project, might just be the difference between a business owner figuring out how to last during the hard times, and closing the doors. Even if all of the information on a project hasn’t been quite detailed yet, an affected owner will have extra time to consider what they can do to ease the transition before and during a construction project.
The personal touch has another added benefit – it maintains the neighborly appeal of the community. It shows that the city of Gardner isn’t being run by impersonal bureaucrats but by our neighbors.
And that goes a long way.