EARLY —City of Early officials wanted the community’s input on the direction the city should go.

Tuesday night, that’s just what they got.

About 70 people attended at community planning workshop at the Early Visitors and Event Center, where each person was asked to complete a 65-question survey about the city and its services. Eleven breakout groups — each one consisting of guests seated at a round table — came up with priorities. A city council member or board member, along with a city employee, were seated at each table.

Corporate speaker Kevin Tutt, of Tuscola-based Tutt and Daggs, facilitated the event.

Attendees included volunteer firemen, school board members, chamber of commerce members and others “who just came on their own,” City Administrator Tony Aaron said.

He said the information received from citizens will be useful going into the 2019 and future budget years.

“It’s a whole lot more effective for us to make decisions when we have the voice of the public behind our decision making,” Aaron said.

“So what better way to get a diverse crowd representing our community and business leaders, and school board members, and just concerned citizens, than to put a bunch a questions in front of them.”

The question helps the city know “where they want us to go or what they want us to do better,” Aaron said.

Reoccurring themes included community pride, improving the commercial shopping areas, improving infrastructure and increasing retail development, Aaron said.

“And trying to do all of that while maintaining the small town charm and the character of our community that has made it what it is right now,” Aaron said. “The  convenience of a big city and the charm of a small one — that’s what makes our citizens happy to be living here.”

Additional priorities included taking care of the city’s police and fire departments and improving parks and recreation, Aaron said.

“I think if I summed it all up, it was all about quality of life,” Aaron said. I think people they want to live in a place that provides them a good quality of life and the most affordable way of doing so.

“Taking collective ideas and picking out the themes will help us move forward in decision making with this budget. Doesn’t mean if somebody brought up that they wanted a splash pad at the park, this budget year we’re going to do a splash pad. It’s a working document that carries us for several years.”