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In formulating a long-range plan for what they want Deltona to become, people who live in the 25-year-old city are saying what they want — and what they don’t want.

One of the top items on the wish list of those who cared to show up? A more responsive city government.

“How would you like to see Deltona described in the future?” Herb Marlowe, a facilitator hired by the city to develop its strategic plan, asked the audience.

About 40 people showed up at City Hall April 26 to listen and share their views on how to improve Deltona.

Reaction to the City Commission’s 4-3 vote April 19 to approve a controversial rezoning to allow a subdivision in a rural area — over the vociferous objections of scores of people on hand — colored the discussion.

“When you get this place filled up with people who are against an agenda item, and the majority sits up there and votes against them, we’ve got a problem,” a man who identified himself as “Liberty” told Marlowe and everyone listening.

Neither Mayor Heidi Herzberg nor any of the city commissioners were on hand for the listening session on Deltona’s strategic plan.

The feeling of alienation from elected leaders resonated with the audience.

“Why come to the commission meeting when they’re going to do what they’re going to do anyway?” another person asked.

“There’s a lot of apathy in this city, and a lot of apathy toward the commission,” yet another said.

Other complaints dealt with basic public services.

“I’d like to see better roads,” a resident said.

“The water is really bad … not drinkable,” another person noted, getting agreement from others.

“We drink bottled water,” was a follow-up comment.

Not all the comments were negative, however.

“I think Deltona has great potential,” Terri Ellis, a founding member of Deltona Strong, said. “I wish Deltona would go on a promotion. … A lot of people don’t know how to be citizens, how to be a neighbor.”

That deficiency may be corrected, she added, if Deltona would tap a pool of talent readily available.

“There are a lot of retirees in Deltona willing to help, but there’s no place to go,” Ellis said.

Others suggested the city set up a sort of registry of volunteers eager to help.

Ellis, too, lamented the apathy and the seeming unwillingness of many “to make this a better city.”

As with other past public meetings on the needs and desires of Deltona’s people, there were familiar longings for a more vibrant commercial base, without having to drive to Orange City or Sanford.

“More restaurants that are not fast-food, and more retail — and I don’t mean dollar stores, nothing with ‘dollar’ in it,” Tara D’Errico said. “I want a place where I can spend my money in my own city.”

As city officials talk about cracking down on blighted properties, Carolyn Jenkins voiced concern about the appearance of what was once Deltona’s gateway.

“Does it mean that the boarded-up buildings and the boarded-up gas stations on Deltona Boulevard are still going to be there 10 years from now?” she asked.

Another public meeting on Deltona’s strategic plan is set for 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, May 8, at City Hall, 2345 Providence Blvd. The meeting, billed as Community Vision Day, is open to the public.

Deltona is paying Marlowe $32,000 for his assistance in developing the strategic plan.

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