By: Lily Nickel | Shared via The Vindicator, view original story

STRUTHERS — Three women are at the helm of Struthers’ comprehensive plan to revitalize the city both for its residents, and with its residents.

Discover Struthers, an online community engagement platform, is the brainchild of Mayor Catherine Cercone Miller and Samantha Yannucci and Kristen Olmi of KO Consulting, a Struthers firm the city brought on to help form the plan and secure funding. Cost for the plan is $139,000, which will be paid by grants over multiple years.

Miller wanted community input in the plan and Yannucci, KO Consulting’s director of planning and community development, came up with the idea of creating a virtual, interactive space for residents to voice their opinions and ideas of what they want to see in their city.

“It’s become so accepted that development happens to you, and we want people to know this is happening with you, because that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the county,” Yannucci said.

The site launched Jan. 31 and has garnered more than 200 participants with 36 unique ideas. Participants can up-vote, down-vote and comment on other ideas. Some of the most popular ideas are walking and bike paths, green spaces, downtown activities, a community center and a dog park.

“The people who live here are going to be the ones using the amenities, so they have to have a buy-in,” Kristen Olmi, managing member and grant writer of KO Consulting, said. “People who live here have to have a stake in the economic development, because if they don’t, they’re not going to use the restaurants, the amenities and the things that are put in the city.”

The comprehensive plan, which will establish a framework to guide growth and development in the city over the next 10 years, is projected to take one year to complete. The first phase was the existing conditions analysis to first figure out what the city is working with, and now the city has entered the second phase of community engagement. Miller said it’s important that community members of all ages have an input on the future of the city.

“We want everyone to have a voice in this plan; we want people who are older to want to stay here and make the community what they need it to be, and the same thing with younger people, parents and businesses,” Miller said. “We want everybody’s input to make sure it’s as comprehensive as we can make it.”

Miller said the need for a plan came from a lack of cohesion. When she came into office, there was no framework in place.

“There was nothing in place, everything was just sporadic,” Miller said. “We had businesses coming into the city and we don’t know who they are, we don’t know what’s going on, so we just want to have a better plan and a better pathway to success.”

Yannucci said a lack of planning is not specific to Struthers, and she sees it throughout the Valley. She said most municipalities have a reactive approach to planning, which leads to status quo planning and a lack of community identity.

“There’s a lot of options to create a more livable, walkable and bikeable city where the community can really get together and participate in their own city,” Yannucci said.

The plan is expected to take a year to complete, but it will project five to 10 years into the future. Residents have until March 28 to share their ideas, and then the second phase, the ideas analysis, will start and last until April 4.

From there, residents will be able to vote on their top priorities that will be included in the plan. Engagement activities will be added incrementally, including surveys, polls and mapping activities to collect feedback on various topics, including parks and greenspace, transportation and mobility and the future of downtown. Yannucci said she plans on having the website up for a year. Residents who want to participate can visit