Citizens Academy begins Feb. 28

Beginning Feb. 28, a group of approximately 10 Vermillion residents will have a chance to learn first-hand how the various city offices work.

The city is offering Citizens Academy, a five-week program that offers a combination of tours and meetings with department heads that aim to give the participants a greater understanding of city government.

"The department heads will have the opportunity to give a presentation about what the day-to-day operations are in their department," said Jordan McQuillen, intern to the city manager. "They'll be able to give tours of their facilities, and they'll also answer questions the citizens will have."

Each session will be two to three hours long, and each week of the course will focus on a different office, McQuillen said.

"The first is about the city manager and the finance officer," he said. "The second is about law enforcement, and we're going to have the police, fire, EMS and communication. The third session is about the street department, the light department and engineering. The fourth session is about water and wastewater."

At the final session, participants will be presented with a certificate of completion and a "key to the city."

"It's a small pin they receive as a token of their participation," McQuillen explained.

There are several requirements participants must fulfill.

First, they have to be a citizen of Vermillion. They also will be asked about felony status.

"They are also required to explain their interest in local government and participating in the academy," McQuillen said.

The program is open only to citizens over the age of 18.

"We only have the age requirement because they might do a police ride-along among the other things they'll be doing," City Manager John Prescott explained at the Feb. 6 city council meeting.

Initially, the academy was set to begin Feb. 21, but the city had not received enough applications by that time, McQuillen said.

"We'd like to cap it around 10 (participants)," he said. "There are generally quite a few people who are really interested in learning more about the city. They might come because they've had interaction with the city, or maybe they're studying government and administration at the university."

The course has been held twice in the past, the most recent time being in 2010, McQuillen said.

"It's usually something that the interns head," he said. "It kind of depends on their schedules."

"We found the first two sessions we had to be a pretty favorable program," Prescott said at the city council meeting. "People enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about their city."

McQuillen said participants will receive a number of benefits from taking the course, including "the sense of being informed about what their city does so they can have a better understanding of what goes on at city hall. It should be a good class."

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