The COVID-19 pandemic has taken many victims – from those who have contracted the coronavirus to businesses that have been forced to close to schools being shut down.
Not all victims of the pandemic are obvious. One is the Central Mississippi River Regional Planning Partnership (CMRP), a regional partnership made up of cities and townships in Wright and Sherburne counties located along the Mississippi River. CMRP kicked off its Framework 2030 initiative earlier this year before COVID-19 and had planned to spend much of the spring and summer doing research and community engagement.
Clearly, those plans have temporarily been put on hold as both counties have devoted most of their time to dealing with COVID-19. Commissioner Darek Vetsch, who is the chair of CMRP, said the initial plans for rolling out Framework 2030 have hit an unforeseen detour because of COVID-19.
“Last week, we had a CMRP meeting and it was the first time we’ve met in more than 60 days,” Vetsch said. “We’re still trying to move forward, but we’re trying to decide if we need to make some accommodations or a shift in scope trying to decide if this pandemic will have a long-lasting socioeconomic change that may need to be considered when looking at this plan.”
With concerns that a long-term slowing of the economy could have a devastating impact, the CMRP needs to factor that potential into its thinking process about the future of the region because COVID-19 has changed how daily life is being conducted on many fronts.
“We’re taking a little bit of a side step and we’re going to look to see if we need to change some of the questioning and the data that we collect to account for the potential shift in how people shop and how things could be developed in the future given this pandemic and will it change or not change,” Vetsch said. “There are a lot of unknowns, so we want to kind of tap the brakes a little bit and see what happens when the smoke clears.”
The work of CMRP hasn’t stopped, it has been diverted. However, Vetsch said the planning is going forward and that, despite the setback, the original vision will continue to keep CMRP engaged with the community.
“We’re trying to keep the group better communicated together by sending out more briefings and trying to bullet-point out what we’re working on to keep everyone up to date,” Vetsch said. “We’re going to have some surveys on our website that we will be asking people to fill out to get some feedback. When that is up and running, we will let people know and we will encourage people to fill out the questionnaire.”
A key component of Framework 2030 is to secure federal funding for a bridge crossing over the Mississippi River and Commissioner Mike Potter said he will do his part to assist with the CMRP’s goals.
Potter, the president of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance, was scheduled to attend the annual fly-in to Washington D.C. later this month to discuss transportation issues with Congress. As with many scheduled events, the fly-in has been postponed, which Potter said can give the CMRP more information to share with the decision makers in Washington.
“The Transportation Alliance Fly-In got moved from a couple of weeks from now to September,” Potter said. “If we can get all your questions and concerns, we can reinforce that when I go out there. If we make sure that we can get any reports or documentation you have, I will flood them with everything possible so we can plant that seed.”
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on many elements of society and groups like the CMRP are among those. It won’t stop what the group is looking to accomplish, but has slowed down the early momentum Framework 2030 was building.
“We’re just slowing down a bit to assess where we’re heading moving forward,” Vetsch said. “We’re going to keep pressing ahead, but we have to factor in how a pandemic is going impact long-term planning.”