Editor’s note: We have made this story free to read in hopes that you will see firsthand our dedication to keeping our community informed and connected. Will you consider now? For just $1 a week, you will support non-editorial local news and be up to date on what’s happening in the community. Consider reading more by clicking here.
James City County is looking to hear from residents on a variety of topics through the new Community Conversations program.
Residents can gather Tuesday for the first meeting of a new series that will provide them with a chance to interact and discuss topics regarding the county.
Latara Rouse, the county’s communications manager, said the program is similar to the Neighborhood Forum series the county previously hosted.
“This is sort of an evolution of [neighborhood forum],” she said. “It’s meant to be an informal conversation between county residents and staff about various topics.”
Rouse said the name and formatting of the program changed because residents had previously believed it was for homeowners who lived in neighborhoods with Home Owner Associations. However, the meetings are available to all residents who want to discuss and share ideas.
Changing the name from using the language “neighborhood” to “community” would hopefully help people realize the events are open to everyone, she added.
While Neighborhood Forums only occurred at the James City County Recreation Center, Community Conversations will rotate to different locations throughout the county.
Rouse said the changing location will hopefully provide residents with more opportunity and accessibility to attend the meetings.
Part of the goal behind the program is to help make county staff more informed on local opinion when making decisions for the area. Residents can chat with staff more comfortably through the informal forum than they might at a Board of Supervisors meeting or other county meetings.
“Not everyone is comfortable standing up during a public meeting,” Rouse said. “Some people like to do face-to-face interaction and we want to accommodate that through various options for people to stay informed and engaged with local government.”
Each meeting’s format will be different based on community feedback. Guests will fill out surveys during the meeting about information and topics they would like to see covered in future events and county staff will format the next Community Conversation based on those responses.
“If there is something that’s a timely issue, we want it to be largely informed by the participants themselves,” she said.
The first meeting will have a different structure.
Around the parameter of the room, there will be stations from various county departments that will provide information on topics such as the Census, the comprehensive plan and the recycling program. There will also be guests from the county’s fire and police departments and elected officials.
“If you are looking for a way to stay in the know about what’s happening with your local government, this is your opportunity to talk with county staff and elected officials in an informal setting,” Rouse wrote in an email.
The first Community Conversation will be at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Legacy Hall, 4301 New Town Ave. Registration is not required but is encouraged.
For more information, visit James City County online.