Anticipation immersed the Millersville Borough council chambers as wide-eyed community members witnessed leaders signing Millersville’s Vision 2020 statement.

Millersville Business Association, the Millersville Borough council, Penn Manor School District, Millersville University and the Millersville ministerial group have collaborated to bring the vision to fruition, which sets goals for Millersville to reach its full potential as a vibrant community and thriving college town.

The vision includes a partnership with civic, religious, and volunteer organizations,and is comprised of students, merchants, and residents. President of Millersville’s Borough council, Scott Bailey, welcomed everyone as stakeholders in the Millersville community, not accounting just for registered voters, but for all of the community.

“This is an exciting time,” said Millersville’s Mayor Richard Moriarty, who explained how the collaboration began one evening in President Francine McNairy’s office by attributing the initiation to Vice President of University Advancement Jerry Eckert’s question, “how can we fix the sign in front of the cemetery?”

“One question led to another and we all realized that we each had our individual plans,” said Moriarty. “We thought that there should be one main vehicle where all of us can bring our ideas together. As such, Millersville 2020 as a concept was born.”

The signing of the vision 2020 was “Truly a day for celebration,” according to Millersville University President Francine McNairy, “we want to be good neighbors.”

Moriarty introduced key members, who played an integral part including, Julie Fitzpatrick, who was hired to help facilitate the vision in association with PA Downtown, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing hundreds of central business districts.

Millersville leaders sign the Vision 2020 statement. Photo by Christian Shuts.
Millersville leaders sign the Vision 2020 statement. Photo by Christian Shuts.

State Representative (Rep.) Scott Boyd supported the efforts as a businessman before signing the statement, while State Senator (Rep.) Lloyd Smucker praised the unity of civic, business, and government groups and encouraged them that “such a coalition will be a backbone.”

Junior Social Studies Education major Daniel Bezek said, “It would be good to have more student representation because there are so many students that come and live in Millersville.”

Bezek, who is a volunteer for the Millersville fire station, has attended all the Vision 2020 planning meetings, and plans to continue to serve on a committee.

The vision statement was divided into five program areas including organizational development, physical improvements, asset development and enhancement, community marketing, and establishing a safe, clean, and green community. After the signing and refreshments, community leaders and members, broke out into committees to plan initial objectives in implementing the goals of the vision.

One of the first objectives of “organizational development” is to gain IRS 501(c)3 status to help further the goals of other program areas and committees.

The future goals of “asset development and enhancement” committee begin with improving the Millersville borough website and adding public events.

Stuck on the practicality of regulatory aesthetics versus persuasion when involving homeowners in the vision, committee member’s “physical improvement” plans face the challenge of funding. Still, Fitzpatrick suggested offering low interest loans and grants to homeowners.

The “community marketing” committee, created a separate commission for the arts and entertainment aspect of promoting Millersville. Also, McNairy suggested utilizing the talent of MU students and high school students; who could benefit from cooperation with businesses in doing a market analysis to determine what businesses would thrive.

President of Millersville’s Business Association, David Peterson, said, “Almost one of the goals is to be patient. This doesn’t happen overnight.”

Jack Gardner, Vice-president of Millersville Bureau Council, who has been a member for 27 years, explained how Millersville has developed as a community over the years, including the introduction of sidewalks, which originally faced some opposition due to funding.

Garner said, “We started a comprehensive plan years ago, but we always need money. In this year, we were set back once again with budget cuts.”

Still after more planning on what the community wants, Garner said, “Hopefully, one of these days we will succeed.”

In lieu of the Borough’s residential rental tax, which was recently ruled unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Robert Slabinski, CEO and President of Student Lodging Inc. (SLI) and Student Services Inc. (SSI), presented a check for 10,000 dollars to the bureau from (SLI), a-nonprofit University affiliate during the signing. This gift is in addition to the yearly contribution of over $400,000 from (SSI).

“I have had a great relationship with Bob and I know that starts with President McNairy,” said Moriarty, who has had a rapport with Slabinski since his days as treasurer for the Millersville fire department.

“We’re glad to be of assistance,” said Slabinski. “It’s important to support the Borough with this difficult situation. We will continue to assist the Borough as much as we can, given the state of the economy and the limitations placed on the University by state laws.”