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Assessment team will visit Harlem

The city of Harlem is next on the list of area communities that are getting a low-cost professional assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.

A team organized by the Montana Economic Developers Association will tour Harlem on Tuesday and Wednesday, asking different groups three questions: What are the challenges and problems in the community? What are the strengths and resources of the community? What projects would people like to see finished in two, five and 10 years?

The project will cost the community about $1,000 for room and board for the members of the team, who are donating their time to tour the community and write a report. Craig Erickson, community planner for Bear Paw Development Corp., said it would have cost Harlem about $24,000 to $45,000 to hire a consultant to write the same report.

The team will present a report Wednesday night on what it heard from community members during the visit. Then each team member will write a section of the report, including suggestions, contacts for technical assistance and possible funding sources for projects.

The report will be presented about six weeks later in a meeting to prioritize the projects in the report.

Erickson said the report will basically be a "how-to manual" to successfully complete projects and initiate change in Harlem.

The community assessments are modeled on programs in other states, including Texas and Wyoming. The first Montana assessment sessions were held in Cut Bank in January 2002, and more than a dozen reports were completed before Havre and Hill County were assessed by a team last week.

Other area communities that have been assessed are Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, Liberty County, Big Sandy and Chinook.

Erickson said the more people who attend the meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, the better the report will be.

He said that at previous assessments he has worked on, he saw people who have lived in the community all their lives go to multiple sessions and find out new things about their community and also offer new ideas.

Erickson recommended that people attend as many sessions as they can, even if it is with a group or on a topic they don't think applies to them.

The team will start with lunch and orientation Tuesday at Deb's Diner in Harlem, followed by a tour of the community from 1 to 3 p.m.

The first listening session will be with local government from 3:10 to 4 p.m. at Harlem City Hall, followed by a meeting with representatives of business and utilities from 4:10 to 5 p.m., also at City Hall.

After dinner, the team will hold a session with the general public from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Wednesday starts at City Hall with a session to listen to representatives of agriculture from 7:40 to 8:30 a.m., followed by churches from 8:40 to 9:30 a.m. and civic clubs from 9:40 to 10:30 a.m.

The team will move to Harlem High School next to listen to youths from 11 to 11:40 a.m.

After lunch, the team will meet with senior citizens at the Little Rockies Senior Citizen Center from 12:30 to 1:20 p.m., with renters and property owners at City Hall from 1:30 to 2:20 p.m., with representatives of the banking and financial communities at City Hall from 2:30 to 3:20 p.m., and with educators at Harlem High School from 3:30 to 4:20 p.m.

The town meeting will be held at Harlem High School from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

For more information, contact Erickson at 265-9226, ext. 27, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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