Lebanon ‘Academy’ To School Residents
Lebanon — The city manager’s office has received applications from more than 20 people who have signed up to enroll in the recently announced Lebanon Citizens Academy aimed at engaging residents and encouraging participation in civic government.
“It’s kind of a good place to nurture relationships, and hopefully it will feed persons into (public) office and help get them more involved in their community,” City Manager Greg Lewis said on Tuesday of the new educational initiative, which he plans to make an annual occurrence. The three two-hour classes on Thursday evenings this fall will be free of charge.
Aside from engaging city residents, Lewis hopes the academy will rally the Lebanon community around various challenges facing the city and form a group of citizens with a “deeper understanding” of operational and fiscal constraints. City officials are hoping to attract resident input and build support on issues such as the state of city infrastructure (from roads, to bridges, to sewer networks, to wastewater and water treatment plants), traffic and public transit, the city airport and changes in climate — just to name a handful.
So far, about 21 people have signed up. There are up to 30 spots available for the fall term.
“We’re really pleased we have citizens stepping up to the plate to get involved with this,” Lewis said.
Lucy McLellan, who lives on Bank Street, has lived in Lebanon for 10 years. She attended her first city government meetings over the summer when the Zoning Board of Adjustment deliberated over whether to approve a plan to renovate the nearby junior high school into apartment buildings and an accompanying restaurant, which has since been dashed by city officials.
McLellan said she wouldn’t be able to clear time in her schedule for the two-hour citizens academy classes, which would take place on Thursday evenings, but she said the idea was “awesome.
“Not enough people know anything about what these meetings are actually like and how few people run the city,” McLellan said.
As for the zoning board meetings she attended, McLellan said it “took longer than I thought to hash it all out,” but she didn’t regret attending because she felt that her voice was heard.
“It was worth it,” said McLellan. “Going to the meeting makes me feel like one person absolutely can make a difference.”
Applications for the fall term are being accepted until Friday. The term is scheduled to consist of three courses covering city management, public safety and neighborhood preservation.
Lewis said those who participate in the fall semester will need to participate in an additional three classes next spring to receive a certificate of completion.
Ben Conarck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3213