NORMAL — The Normal City Council wants to know whether it's in step or out of step with the community.
The town of Normal is hosting a citizens' summit at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Community Activity Center, 1110 Douglas St., Normal.
"It's a pulse check of the community ... to see if we're in line or completely out of line," Mayor Chris Koos told The Pantagraph on Tuesday. "It (participants' thoughts) will be helpful to us as we go through our decision-making processes."
But the summit, while open to the public, is not an open-mic night.
Instead, in a format suggested by a facilitator who works with the town on a contract basis, each member of the City Council has invited five to seven people to the summit, Koos explained.
Those participants will be split among seven to eight table-groups so there is a mix of people at each table, Koos said.
Council members will not participate in discussions but will observe and listen, Koos said.
"It's a public meeting," Koos said. "People can show up. They can go through the exercise if they wish. The idea is they can participate. But the ones invited is whose information will be taken by the council."
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Koos said consultant Lyle Sumek, president of Lyle Sumek Associates, who will facilitate the summit, has found that this approach has been valuable in other communities.
Council member Stan Nord, a conservative who has butted heads with Koos and some other council members since Nord's election in April, said "I think the summit is fantastic.
"When I was running, there was a big gripe from the community that their voice is not being heard and they are not always in agreement with town priorities," Nord said. "This lets community members have a say in the direction of our town."
"I hope the community gets involved and we can define Normal's priorities as to what the current community wants Normal to be," Nord said.
Koos said the summit is a first-time town event but is part of the town's annual strategic planning process.
Council members had strategic planning sessions earlier this fall to determine town goals for the next five years. While a growing and diverse economy, a financially strong town, strong community partners, uptown and quality neighborhoods were identified as priorities, there was some disagreement among council members, Koos said.
Sumek suggested the citizens' summit, Koos said.
"The summit came up because we had a heated discussion about community involvement," Nord said.
Invited summit participants will discuss town priorities, Koos said. The facilitator will gather the information, which will be used by council members as discussion topics at their council retreat beginning 8 a.m. Friday at the Normal Fire Department headquarters conference room, 606 S. Main St.
Contact Paul Swiech at 309-820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech.