PEPPERELL -- Two weeks after sending out a survey with the census to gauge residents' desires and concerns regarding the town's economy, the Economic Development Advisory Committee has already heard back from 197 people. Although the results of the survey have not been analyzed, the committee is encouraged by the amount of responses thus far.
The nine-person committee did not reach a quorum for its Tuesday evening meeting, but the members who were present briefly discussed the incoming surveys.
Town Administrator John Moak, acting chairman of the committee, said the timely responses may have something to do with the town's demographic.
"Our population has changed," said Moak. "We're seeing the 30 to 40 (year-olds) drop off and we're much stronger in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s. Also being in that younger age group, people are not as great about getting their census in early."
Ultimately, said Moak, he would like to see a response in the range of 400 to 500 people.
The committee mailed out the survey as a way to connect with residents about what they would like to see from the town. Questions were asked on a variety of subjects ranging from business development and local services to bylaws to the beautification and walkability of the town.
In addition to mailing them back to the committee, residents may also fill out the surveys online at SurveyMonkey.com.
"I don't know what we're going to get out of this but we're definitely going to get some answers," said Moak.
The idea for the survey came from the group's public relations subcommittee.
"We asked ourselves, how do we get residents involved? We ask them what's important to them. We let them know their opinions are crucial," said committee member Diane Cronin.
The EDAC Committee, which was formed by the Board of Selectmen and the Planning Board, is celebrating its one year anniversary this month. Its goal is ultimately to advise the town in creating a sustainable economy within the community, said Moak. The committee has three focus areas: business development, public relations and town beautification.
One item that members had identified as an important focal point was developing the town's walkability, thus being able to bring attention to local businesses.
It was the volunteer efforts of the committee members that produced a visitor's guide for the town this past summer. The members mapped out a downtown area of Pepperell from Town Hall to the Rail Trail to Pepperell Skydiving, and listed businesses that sold consumable items to people walking through town.
"Those things people might take advantage of when they're here," said Moak.
Although the committee has received feedback from residents about revamping the guide to compile a list of all of the businesses in town, the members are concerned about their lack of resources and manpower.
"We're an advisory committee, so our hope is to start that momentum but we're hoping that someone other than (EDAC) would take the visitor's guide in its conceptual form and take it to the next level," said Cronin.