Altoona residents will get the chance this evening to tell the city's Act 47 team what they think about the recovery plan the team is putting together to help the city out of financial distress.
"We truly want to hear what the folks have to say," said team leader John Espenshade of Stevens & Lee, a consulting firm that is working on the plan with subcontractors Financial S&Lutions LLC and DSI Civic.
The session will begin with an explanation of the Act 47 process "to give folks coming in for the first time perspective," continue with an update on the status quo - to show what will happen if nothing is done to help the city - and conclude with the main event: public comment, according to Espenshade.
"It's for us to learn," Espenshade said. "We find that citizens have some good ideas."
Speakers should limit statements to about three minutes, and groups with a single message should designate a spokesperson, Espenshade suggested. He said those speaking will be asked to give their name and address.
Residents "can really talk about anything regarding the budget, income, expenses, assets," health care, pensions and the Water Authority," said Mayor Bill Schirf.
"Someone out there may have something no one has thought of," he said. "It's wide open. Everything is on the table."
Actually, not everything: It won't make sense to object to the city's being in the Act 47 program, because that's a done deal, Schirf said. Nor will the team take questions or debate with residents, he said.
The meeting is nonmandated, meaning it's not required of the coordinator by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
Act 47 coordinators in other municipalities have held similar nonmandated meetings "in an effort to be transparent," said Steve Kratz, spokesman for DCED, which will have a presence at the meeting.
"I give them [the team] credit," for holding the meeting when the contract doesn't require it, Schirf said. "If we work together, good things can happen."
There will be a mandated public hearing Nov. 28, after the team presents the plan to the city.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.