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WAUPUN — The city of Waupun is looking to both the past and the present as it plans for growth and to serve its aging population.

Kathy Schlieve, who is in charge of these efforts, was hired by the city as an economic planner. A short time later she took on the added role of city administrator.

“The focus on economic development started when I came to the city in 2016,” said Kathy Schlieve. “At that point the city said economic development matters, and if it matters we have to commit resources to it.”

Progress has been made, with several new developments planned or already completed. They include construction (still in progress) of a replacement for the Christian Home assisted living facility, expansion and renovation of district school facilities and a number of steps in downtown revitalization.

Progress has also been made in developing a strategic plan.

“In our strategic plan we looked at all the major initiatives that we have either started or need to get working on,” Schlieve said. “... we realized that I could not do it all by myself. Actually the council approached me and asked if I needed some help in the economic development task, and we included a new part-time position into the 2018 budget. When my role changed it meant more work. It’s fine because I love challenges, but I also don’t want to be the road block because I don’t have the capacity to get everything done.”

Schlieve and the city clarified what the new person will do.

Last week, the economic development position was formalized, making sure those duties are not lost in the shuffle of other responsibilities.

“This new position will focus on the growth portion of economic development,” Schlieve said.

One of the challenges will be to better communicate with citizens and upgrade the city’s website for better interaction and to accept online payments.

Schlieve also sees improving downtown as an important goal. She believes collaboration is the key to supporting existing businesses, beautify downtown and attract new businesses.

“As many organizations as I can get to buy into this idea the better,” she said. “So we’re working hard on partnerships with the chamber, we have a BID (Business Improvement District) and a CDA (Community Development Authority) and we’re working with them to get united behind this.”

A streetscape plan is in the works to help visualize what downtown might eventually become.

Another significant boost for the Waupun area is the recent award of a $15,000 Rural Health Aging in Place Grant to help meet the needs of aging residents.

According to the 2010 census, 32 percent of the population was 50 or older. That figure jumped to nearly 35 percent in the 2017 census, with the number expected to reach 36 percent in 2022. At the same time the city notes a decrease in the share of households with residents age 65 or older.

The city is partnering with the Waupun Community Hospital to create the Waupun Coalition on Aging. The coalition includes the police and fire departments, city administration, the city library, the chamber of commerce and the senior center. Its purpose is to assess the needs and assets related to older residents, and to help insure that both new and existing and assets are readily available to the people who need them.

The grant will be used to develop a plan to help increase the number of older adults who are able to remain independent and in their homes, while supporting the caregivers who are essential to making that happen.

“Our older residents are an asset and this grant gives us access to state resources and tools to identify local, projects and programs for those residents,” Schlieve said. “With that in place we can address the things we need to help older residents and caregivers remain as independent as possible in the community they call home.

For more informration about the grant, or the local coalition, call Schlieve at (920) 324-7910.