Ideas brewed and citizens debated Thursday, when Councilman Wes Meiss held the first evening meeting of a downtown workshop and was surprised at the turn-out. He said, "The official count tonight is 40."



Meiss set up the meeting with break-out groups of eight to ten members. Attendees were forced to communicate with potential strangers since they were organized by colored stickers received upon arrival.



Meiss said these topics the workshop covered were facade improvements to help local business downtown, infrastructure improvements, events and festivals, which businesses should go downtown to improve the area, utilization of the river, and what should be done with the courthouse if Santa Rosa County decides to move it this fall.



Roy Oberto, education coordinator at Arcadia Mill said, "I think it's good. Community involvement is key. The people feel like they're not heard. Credit goes to Councilman Meiss. To me, this is what government is all about." Oberto also said, "Everyone got to air their grievances.



Patty Briggs, owner of the Danish Princess Beads and Jewelry shop on Elmira Street said, "I was very happy for the large turnout. They should do it on a regular basis. This needs to happen more often."



Meiss said he heard from some attendees this was the first time they felt comfortable collaborating like this. However, he said, "The ideas generated could happen but they're not set in stone. They'll have to go to the city council." Meiss said one of the hottest topics was what to do with the courthouse if it moves. "One group pushed for the courthouse to remain where it is," he said. Others suggested a library or a cultural center. Meiss said, "We need to be progressive. We have to have a plan in place for what to do if the courthouse moves." Meiss said he'd like to have a meeting at this time every month. "We're thinking the second Thursday of every month." As far as topics, Meiss said they may cover the new Sportsplex or issues related to senior citizens.