WATSEKA — A state agency is working to give Watseka the information needed to apply for grants and other funding to help advance the city.

In partnership with the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the city is undertaking a planning effort for development. Thursday saw the kickoff of the Community Revitalization Strategy process in which the public was invited to the first set of community meetings.

The goal of these meetings is to help the city strategize for future planning and investment and identify community needs and goals.

The meeting — held at Watseka City Hall — shared results from the Community Needs Assessment Survey, the Housing Stock Survey and gave residents an opportunity to share their thoughts.

All of this information will be put into a “plan” document made by IHDA that can be used by the city to create an incentive for developers and grant councils to provide resources to Watseka. IHDA operates as a free service to communities in Illinois.

Meghan Cuneo, IHDA’s revitalization planner, said that in an area like Watseka, it is competitive to get the tax credits to receive the funding and resources for development.

“Do we have the funds to rebuild your downtown? No, but we’re hoping that some developer who does is going to see this incentive to come and actually build your elderly housing or a new downtown multi-use building,” Cuneo said.

While acknowledging the competitiveness of these situations, Cuneo did share that the Community Needs Assessment Survey — which was open throughout the summer to both residents and business owners — was “one of the most successful surveys” and received “the highest response rate” of surveys conducted by IHDA.

A total of 402 respondents anonymously answered the survey, which looked at issues such as housing, the economy and the effects of COVID-19.

After the survey results were presented, the floor was open for attendees to share their thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of their community. Many agreed that community involvement — as evidenced by the local volunteers who helped collect survey and data results — was among the strengths.

Weaknesses included poverty and lack of good-paying jobs. Some of the dozen or so community members gathered at the meeting also argued that there’s planning but no action. A proposed grant-funded project at Orland Park was brought up as an example.

“Everything we put in our plan is going to give you all the information you need to apply [for grants],” said Cuneo, who noted that “communities who plan should be prioritized.”

For more information and responses to the survey, go to menti.com and enter code 6739 0303. The survey will be open to residents for the next few days.