Survey seeks input on neighbor groups

Bryn Keplinger (left), assistant director of the Huntington Countywide Department of Community Development, and Marla Stambazze, the DCD’s subdivision coordinator, point out the area in Huntington that will be surveyed April 18.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Do you know your neighbor?

If not, the Huntington Countywide Department of Community Development (DCD) would like to introduce you.

DCD Assistant Director Bryn Keplinger and Subdivision Coordinator Marla Stambazze say they'd like to do that by stimulating the formation of neighborhood associations.

Several target areas for neighborhood associations have been selected, and the DCD will be working first in a neighborhood just east of downtown Huntington.

That's because, Stambazze explains, "We've already had people express interest in it there, so we thought that was a good area."

The neighborhood that will be targeted initially is bounded on the west by Byron Street, on the south by the railroad tracks, on the east by Briant Street and on the north by Tipton Street. Its 544 properties include 230 owner-occupied homes, 48 commercial properties and 266 properties that are either rentals or vacant, Keplinger says.

Volunteers from Huntington University will flood that neighborhood on Saturday, April 18, distributing surveys designed to gauge interest of residents and business owners in forming a neighborhood association. Recipients will be asked to list any concerns they have about their neighborhood - including crime, poorly maintained homes, noise, traffic, animals running loose and other annoyances - and will also be asked if they would be willing to serve on a neighborhood association committee.

Anyone who does not receive a survey, as well as anyone with questions about the project, should call the DCD at 358-4836.

Completed surveys must be returned by the end of April, either by mailing them to or dropping them off at the DCD, Room 204 of the Courthouse, 201 N. Jefferson St., Huntington, IN 46750. Surveys may also be dropped off at the Senior Center, 354 N. Jefferson St.; the Water Department billing office at the City Building, 300 Cherry St.; or in the Water Department drop box at the front entrance of the police station in the City Building.

Keplinger and Stambazze plan to compile the results of the survey, then set a meeting in May for people who have shown an interest in the neighborhood association program.

The neighborhood association surveys are being distributed on the same day and by the same volunteers that another organization - Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities - is surveying Senior Citizens in a neighborhood in the same area, but the two surveys are not otherwise connected, Stambazze says.

Stambazze says the DCD is modeling the local neighborhood association program after one already in existence in Marion, which has 27 neighborhood associations and a neighborhood association director employed by the city.

A neighborhood association, Keplinger explains, "would be kind of a mixture between a social group and a lobbying group. As a group, they've got a larger voice to make officials listen."

A neighborhood association, Stambazze adds, could organize crime watch and "safe place" programs, as well as raise funds through events such as rummage sales and association fees to help clean up the neighborhood.

"The goal is to try to help your neighbors," she says.
Once established, Keplinger says, the neighborhood associations will be self-sustaining, with DCD staff available to provide assistance if requested.

"The neighborhood itself will benefit," Stambazze says. "It's about pride in where you live."

Residents who have pride in and take control of their neighborhoods can also help spur investment in the city, Keplinger says, as businesses considering locating in Huntington see that pride and control.

There's also a benefit in people living in the same neighborhood actually getting to know each other, he says.

"The neighborly feeling is gone from most neighborhoods," Keplinger says.

"I don't want people to be afraid to go to their neighbors for help," Stambazze adds.