JOPLIN — A vision for what Joplin and Duquesne should look like after rebuilding from the devastating May 22 tornado has begun to emerge from comments gathered at two public hearings organized by an advisory team leading the rebuilding effort.
One of the meetings conducted by the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team happened Tuesday. Some of the most popular ideas suggested were sidewalks, underground utilities, and walking and biking paths. Others suggested more public transportation, a shopping center and a memorial to the 159 people killed in the tornado, The Joplin Globe reported.
The advisory team, which includes business leaders, officials from both cities and representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will consider the comments. Residents will be invited to a later meeting to discuss designating the top priorities, which will be relayed to city and school district officials.
About 200 people attended one of the meetings on Tuesday.
Suggestions included constructing neighborhoods in pods with a variety of housing types. Dog parks and green spaces or more neighborhood parks also were suggested by several residents. Others wanted access to medical care on the north side of the city.
Several people suggested that the school district build two high schools to replace the one that was destroyed in the tornado and build storm-safe school buildings, or buildings with storm shelters for 10 of the district's buildings that were destroyed or damaged.
"I think the turnout has been very good," said Rob O'Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, who leads the advisory team. "The committee felt that if there were 100 people at the first session, that would be good, and we are well over that. There are a great cross-section of ideas."
Steve Castaner, a long-term recovery planner for FEMA, said the public meetings give residents a way to communicate their priorities, which helps government officials determine how to use recovery funds.
Disagreements are likely and were evident on a board where comments related to "community vision" could be posted, the Globe reported. One resident said Joplin should just look like itself again. But another person favored looking to other cities for ideas, saying it was Joplin's chance to look to the future.
FEMA staff will organize the public comments and hold another public session in about three weeks to discuss them, agency spokesman John Mills said.