EARLY —Residents in Early who want to learn more about how their city works can do that at the city’s first Smart City Expo.
The come-and-go event will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Early Visitors and Events Center.
There is no charge to attend. Some of the city’s newer equipment will be on the site so citizens can see where some of their tax dollars are going in the way of equipment, City Administrator Tony Aaron said.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done this,” Aaron said. “This year we were looking for creative ways to engage our citizens and educate them about what’s going on in their community. We came up with an idea to host what we’re titling the City of Early Smart City Expo.”
“We will have different booths set up that will feature departments within the city. There will be everything from fire department, police department …it will be an opportunity for people to come in and engage with those department heads or employees that work in those departments and learn more about the operations of the city of Early.”
For example, Aaron said, a citizen can visit the water department booth and learn how water bills are calculated and how the smart meters work.
Citizens might also want to learn about street improvements, how streets are elected and the costs, Aaron said.
The idea for the Smart City Expo came out a community planning session held last year.
“In that planning session we discussed a lot of different things about the city and what could be done better,” Aaron said. “It was brought to our attention that we should do more to engage the public and give them ways to learn more about what we do.
“A lot of people who attended that event thought that event was really good and wanted to see something like that more often. I think it will be a good event.”
In another matter, Aaron said he had no information to release about Friday’s joint meeting of the Early City Council and Early Municipal Development District.
Discussion related to economic development took place in executive session and is expected to generate council action later, Aaron said.
Aaron summarized other projects including:
• Starbucks — construction continues on Early Boulevard. “They are actually framing the building,” Aaron said. “They’re anticipating to have the outside of the building, the parking lot, all of the outside yard work completed sometime in April. And then at that point Starbucks will send their contractors in to come in to complete the interior of the building with the expectations of opening in the summer.”
• MC Bank’s 3,000-square-foot expansion, also on Early Boulevard, is under way. “They have framed in and just about got their addition dried in,” Aaron said. “We don’t have an opening date but that is adding a considerable amount of employees and square footage to the bank here in Early and we’re happy to have them.”
• Family Dollar, in the former Big G grocery store — a grand open was scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday.
• Demo of a 1.5-acre lot lot the municipal development district owns at 405 Early Boulevard is complete. “It was purchased as a redevelopment opportunity,” Aaron said. “We’ll be listing that for sale with the hopes of getting a retail sales tax producing business to come in and build there.”
• The contractor has competed the demo on Garmon Drive next to the First Baptist Church of a mobile home park. “It was kind of a blighted area that we’ve abated,” Aaron said.
• Demo continues at the old water treatment plant demo, which was decommissioned in January 2015. “We have some future plans that we’re looking at for that property,’ Aaron said.
• We’re in the process of rebuilding one of our softball parks,” Aaron said. “We’ve put new dugouts, a new spectator area and some new walkways.”
The project is being accomplished through a partnership between the city and softball and baseball associations, Aaron said.
“They’ve done really well at raising money above what it takes to put on the league for the year,” Aaron said. “They’re putting that back into the field. We’ve added money with the money they’ve donated. It’s going to end up being a really nice field. We expect that to be completed by March in time for the season.”