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Hooksett seeking ways to boost community profile

HOOKSETT — Hooksett town officials are searching for ways to improve the community and have been actively seeking the input of residents on potential initiatives to make Hooksett one of New Hampshire’s top towns to live in.

As part of that effort, the Hooksett Town Council agreed this week to accept outside professional assistance from the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

Town Council Chairman James Sullivan explained that his board voted to support the community profile project partnership, which he said will cost the town a minimum of $2,500. The allocation is being incorporated into the administrative portion of the council’s proposed 2014-’15 budget, which residents will vote on at Town Meeting on April 5.

“We’re looking at this partnership with the purpose of community building, and we plan to work with them on a recent survey we conducted with residents on the different aspects of what people like about the town and what they’d like to see improved,” said Sullivan. “We’ve essentially hired them to come in and assist us on implementing these ideas.”

As part of the agreement, Hooksett will form a Community Profile Steering Committee responsible for organizing and conducting a community profile event and support activities including any necessary fundraising efforts.

“The community profile is a longstanding program of the cooperative extension that’s been in place for more than 10 years, possibly closer to 20 years, and basically we work with communities that would like to go through the process of creating a vision for the future,” said Molly Donovan, Extension Specialist Community & Economic Development for the UNH Cooperative Extension. “Typically, communities organize an event, usually on a Friday night and Saturday, and invite everyone in to begin to identify priorities and move to create an action plan,” she continued. “So this is very community based and the goal is to get as many voices into the process as possible.”

The UNH Cooperative Extension, as part of the agreement, provides the committee with: adequate information, training and assistance; a trained facilitator to create a community profile through large group sessions and small group discussion leader training; a copy of the complete community profile report; and appropriate follow-up assistance.

“One of the things that came out of the survey we conducted is that people didn’t feel that we have enough ways for them to get involved, and one of the great things about this partnership is it will bring people together to help benefit the community,” said Hooksett Town Administrator Dr. Dean Shankle. “We did this with (UNH Cooperative Extension) in 2001 and it pulled a lot of people together and helped lead to the 2004 Master Plan. We’re hoping to go through the same process this time around and bring as many people and input together as we look to update the Master Plan.”

The Town Council and Hooksett officials have been placing a heavy emphasis on community relations. Among the initiatives being undertaken, in addition to the survey, is a booth at Hooksett Old Home Day in September.

Sullivan said he and his fellow council members have enjoyed kicking around ideas with residents. One such idea is creating a town motto or town slogan.

“That’s one of the things the (UNH Cooperative Extension) can help us with,” said Sullivan, “but there are really quite a few things they offer that could really benefit Hooksett.”

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