Before the Covid-19 pandemic swept through the area last March, the city of Auburn was gearing up for the start of the Auburn 2040 plan process, soliciting community members to serve on committees. All of that planning and work was put abruptly on hold.
With more people becoming vaccinated and safety restrictions easing in Alabama, the city has again begun discussing when the process could be started safely again.
The Auburn 2040 Plan, like the Auburn 2000 and 2020 plans before it, is a collaborative effort of the community to chart its course for the future. The process of creating the plan includes meetings of community teams that will research, discuss and recommend what the future of Auburn should look like. The committees cover topics like education, transportation, public safety, growth and development and family and community, among others.
Auburn Mayor Ron Anders said he recently met with Mayor Pro Tem Beth Witten and City Manager Megan McGowen Crouch to discuss the "realistic possibilities of getting 2040 done" this year.
"Really, by the end of the calendar year was my goal. We would like for that to happen," said Anders, who added that one of the catalysts for that will be the details of Gov. Kay Ivey's health order. "We believe that will signal where we all are as far as meeting in groups of people under roofs that don't live together, and how comfortable we are with that and what are the guidelines for those types of meetings."
Anders added that he would not want the 2040 plan process to be conducted over Zoom.
"It needs to occur in person," he said. "The premise of 2040 is you had eight identified teams. Those teams would have three captains and about 20 to 30 citizens on those teams, and they would meet anywhere between six and 10 times over multiple months to discuss different topics, as we try to put together a strategic plan for Auburn's future."
The best-case scenario would be for the 2040 plan process to begin this summer, added Anders.
"We're just watching and listening to our community and to the world to see when we feel that there's an opportunity to begin," he said. "I would tell you the best-case scenario we would start 2040 with a kickoff this summer and try to work towards finishing up by the end of this calendar year. It's somewhat fluid but it is something we're working towards."
The city has also resumed hosting events in a Covid-safe manner, like Empty Bowls in March, the Easter Egg Hunt last weekend, and the upcoming Auburn CityFest on April 24, all of which were, or will be held, at Kiesel Park. Residents will also be able to kick back and enjoy some tunes at 4 p.m. Sunday at Kiesel Park when the Auburn University Jazz Ensemble performs.
"Those kinds of events are getting back on the schedule," said Anders. "What I do believe is that the governor is going to challenge us as individuals to make our own minds up about what we feel comfortable doing and not doing. And that will mean that different organizations will have to make their mind up about what they want to do and what they're comfortable doing. Ultimately, there will be some liberty in how we go forth in operating in this post-Covid world that we'll be in.
"I'm very excited about the potentiality of these events coming back to Auburn's calendar. They mean a lot to us. It's fun for our citizens to gather at our parks and our downtown and do life together and raise support and awareness for different organizations. That's so important to our community."