Leaders see ways to share solutions

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- When participants of the inaugural Monmouth-Independence Community Summit in 2004 were asked to name a long-term issue the cities should jointly work toward, most proposed bec

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- When participants of the inaugural Monmouth-Independence Community Summit in 2004 were asked to name a long-term issue the cities should jointly work toward, most proposed becoming a single city.

Consolidating the towns didn't dominate discussion at the second summit, held at Ash Creek Intermediate School on Oct. 28. But most of the 40 local government and civic representatives who attended said Monmouth and Independence should collaborate on common issues, projects and service needs whenever possible.

Another top priority was for the city councils to create an official board that could oversee events and volunteer activities.

"Two years ago, the No. 1 one thought was that there needed to be more consolidation," said Rick Igou, an Independence police officer. "We should be moving together as a single community instead of separate entities."

The meeting, sponsored by the Monmouth-Independence Community Foundation, was held to network different groups with similar goals and find grant funding sources for their ventures.

Ben Meyer, a Monmouth City Council candidate, said leaders should proactively identify needs that exist in both towns, then work together on solutions.

Development of a shared civic center was one item posed by participants. Monmouth and Independence are currently exploring options for new city halls.

"Both cities are never in the same position at the same time," he said. "We should identify projects now, so you don't have one supporting it later and another not."

"Lets keep the towns' names, identities and independent histories, because that seems to be the sticking point," he also said. But, he said, "We need to look at merging services.

"We're doing it with water, the school district and the fire district ... there are (more) things that we could be working on together that make sense."

Participants in the forum proposed several ways in which public and private groups could cooperate on education, environmental and other projects.

One suggestion was assigning senior projects for high school students within the context of locally owned businesses. Another idea called for allowing citizen groups to act as stewards who could do maintenance on sections of the Ash Creek Trail.

Ben Bobeda is a youth minister for First Baptist Church and is involved in an effort to create a youth center in Independence called The Gate. His organization might work with others in the area who need space for art programs.

"We can adapt our facility to meet their needs," he said. "We want to look at how we can help them get started now."

Many audience members said the communities need a way to attract and coordinate volunteers for activities.

They suggested a "volunteer database" that could be accessed online, or that the two city councils jointly form a board to oversee events and assign personnel where needed.

"We need an event consortium so things like our 24-Hour Relay doesn't fall through the cracks," said Independence City Councilor Marilyn Morton. This year, that fundraising event was canceled because it lacked a planning chairperson.

"If there was an entity to oversee it, that's a way to distribute those worker bees where you need them," Morton said.

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