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    Tuesday, July 16, 2024

    Norwich launches online community engagement site

    Norwich ― The City Council and other city agencies often address key issues to a nearly empty meeting room, so to boost public participation, the city has launched a new public engagement website to spark interest and solicit comments on city projects and to seek new ideas from residents and visitors.

    The new CitizenLab page for Norwich has been activated and will be available through a link on the city website, www.norwichct.org, and is posted on the Norwich Community Development Corp. site, www.askncdc.com. Or residents can reach the page by searching for Norwich.citizenlab.co.

    There, viewers will see an aerial view of the city waterfront and part of downtown with the banner, “Envision Norwich 06360,” the city’s main Zip Code, with the 06 smaller and faded to emphasize “Norwich 360,” a full-circle examination of the city, NCDC President Kevin Brown told the City Council Monday during an informational session about the new site.

    “The City of Norwich wants to hear from you,” the site reads beneath the banner. “Your voice is important. Share your thoughts, give your opinion, support ideas, suggest changes, and notify us of what you want to see happen in our community.”

    Participants are asked to register their names, email addresses, passwords and answers to several questions.

    To start the conversation, the site’s main designers, City Planner Dan Daniska and NCDC Community Manager Mary Riley, posted five key areas for residents to provide input: general ideas, the Plan of Conservation and Development — which includes a link to a survey — the marina, the new state Community Investment Fund grant and the planned lower Broadway redesign.

    In each category, residents can provide comments or offer suggestions. The list of topics will expand to include interactive maps, surveys and priority rankings. It can be viewed in English and Spanish for now, with more languages to come.

    In the box for the state Community Investment Fund, viewers can read how the state has set up the $875 million, five-year program to help distressed municipalities fund capital projects and assist businesses. A dozen potential uses for the grants are listed, including the marina, cleanup of the decaying Capehart Mill in Greeneville and a new police station. There is a button to submit new ideas.

    Norwich last week was awarded a $550,000 grant to assist with the proposed $4.9 million renovation of the Reid & Hughes building on Main Street.

    Dan Keane, online engagement manager for CitizenLab, said the company is based in Europe and active in 18 countries, expanding to the United States a year ago. He encouraged city leaders to be creative and to engage with residents in fun ways, such as creating an virtual bulletin board where residents post ideas on “sticky notes.”

    “We can do things like quick polling and advanced surveying, yes, absolutely. But now you have options to run other tools that are more fun and interactive for the community,” Keane said, “things like interactive mapping, online ideation, sharing and crowd-sourcing ideas.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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