Activities Commission sets ambitious 2014 work plan

February 6, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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As it wraps up its first year as the rebranded Community Activities Commission, the all-volunteer council advisory board is getting ready for a busy 2014.

The former Parks Commission received approval at the Dec. 17 City Council meeting for an action-packed 2014 work plan that includes organization of several city events and important policy updates.

The board went through some growing pains in the past year as it transitioned to an event-centric role and welcomed five new faces.

That led to some concerns from council members, after board Chairwoman Diane Lewis presented the full work plan at the meeting.

It’s different this year, though, Lewis said, with a new energy among the commissioners.

“We have basically five new members to the CAC and they’re pretty excited about actually being able to get their teeth into something, in getting some of these things done,” she said. “We may not accomplish everything, but we really have the heart of doing a lot of it.”

The duties of the commission did not change significantly, but as the new name suggests, coordination of community events is a priority, and that is reflected in the work plan.

Commissioners expect to have a hand in the planning of a city volunteer appreciation event, the Concerts in the Park series, the Fourth at the Lake celebration, Newcastle Days, an Arbor Day observance and a new, yet-to-be-determined wintertime event.

The work plan initially called for a more specific Christmas tree-lighting community event at Lake Boren Park, but Councilwoman Carol Simpson expressed concerns about the location and sensitivity.

“My only other concern is the city holding a Christmas event in the park, on government property,” she said. “I don’t want to get involved with what kind of pushback we might have on that.”

Deputy Mayor Lisa Jensen also mentioned the city event would compete with the highly successful Small Business Saturday gathering and tree-lighting ceremony the Newcastle Fruit & Produce stand held this year.

“I do believe that it belongs in the business district and let the businesses take the lead on it,” she said.

The commission is also expected to continue to solicit feedback about Lake Boren Park improvement plans, something that began at the City Council’s town hall meeting in the fall.

Additionally, members will look to update donation and park-naming policies within the city.

Councilman Bill Erxleben urged the board to focus on the marketing aspect of the city’s donation program, encouraging locals to buy commemorative plaques or benches for loved ones, as seen in neighboring cities, for example.

“We have a fairly wealthy community, in part, and we have just not developed any kind of program for donations that translates into actuality,” he said.

The commission also hopes to explore adding more youth and senior recreational programs, discuss plans for historical signage across the city, increase volunteerism and more.

Mayor Rich Crispo, who serves as the council liaison to the commission, and will continue to do so after his role was extended another three months, acknowledged that the plan looked like a lot of work, but he gave a vote of confidence to the reinvigorated group.

“Right now, you have an energy that we haven’t had in a long time, and the people really want to be involved,” he said. “This is what they wanted to see done, and I think we should give them a shot at it, personally.”

Newcastle residents Lewis, Angela Ursino, Linda Newing, Russ Segner, Victoria Hupf, Zaquis Ross and Jim Price serve on the seven-member Community Activities Commission.



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