Southwest Johnson County has been in the throes of extreme growing pains for the last several years, perhaps for more than a decade. With the intermodal building out, citizens can expect even more drastic changes in the community’s appearance as well as in the atmosphere in the core of the southwest communities.
For those of us who’ve made Gardner, Edgerton and Spring Hill our homes for several years, these changes will be painful. For those who moved to these communities seeking a small town, the changes will be a disappointment.
And in the midst of it all, there are sure to be a lot more orange traffic barrels and torn up sidewalks as city staffs and newcomers add infrastructure and new businesses to the community.
Community officials have 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 officials.
As the cities grow and change, staff working on projects from street overlay improvements to possible bridge shutdowns 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 staff prospective – instead of whipping off a form letter or Facebook post about a brief road closure on a particular street at a particular time, those who will be personally affected should be briefed in as personal a way as possible.
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. These are still small communities with an impressive networking rumor mill. The personal touch allows city employees 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 popping up around their entrance. Those extra weeks before every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘I’ is dotted, 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 our communities. It shows that the cities of Gardner, Edgerton and Spring Hill aren’t being run by impersonal bureaucrats but by our neighbors. And that goes a long way.