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Citizens Academy gives residents a peek at city’s workings
by Sarah Cooper
Mar 05, 2008 | 1037 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The city of Sparks youth academy has grown up.

The program was previously an all-day learning tool for school children that the City of Sparks sponsored once a year.

The city is now accepting applications for the adult Citizens Academy, scheduled for May 2 and May 16.

From 8 in the morning until 5 in the evening, Sparks adults will be able to look through the sights of city planning and development and tour some of the more controversial projects on the city’s agenda.

“This is not only a time to showcase what we do and what our tax dollars do but to also clear up misconceptions about what might be going on in the city,” Marc De La Torre, citizen services coordinator for the city of Sparks said. “So when they are dealing with the city again they will have a leg up.”

The academy will begin on May 2 at the City Council chambers. After that, the class of no more than 25 people will tour the Sparks Police department. There, they will look through the sights of a radar gun and see a demonstration from the canine unit.

Next on the agenda will be a guided tour of Victorian Square redevelopment.

De La Torre is inviting all the City Council members to attend the day’s events.

“Really we want to make it an education process, too,” De La Torre said of the council member’s involvement.

A tour of the waste water treatment facility and an expedition into the Legends construction site is also on the agenda for the first day.

“They will be the first handful of citizens to go onto (the Legends) site,” De La Torre said.

The Legends tour had to meet the requirements of the city’s risk manager to see if the construction site was safe enough to take citizens through. De La Torre said that since the idea has been approved he is scrambling to find 25 hard hats.

The tour will begin inside the Scheel’s All-Sports, after which the academy participants will get the lay of the Legends land. That will finish off the first day.

The second day, May 16, will also begin at the City Council Chambers but will then move to the Sparks Fire Department for a tour and some demonstrations. From there, De La Torre hopes to give the citizens a better understanding of the Public Works Department by taking them to the Public Works maintenance yard.

“Whether it’s the slurry seals or something else, they will have a better understanding of why their roads are being blocked,” De La Torre said. “We hope to better educate the public on why their roads are being blocked.”

After a quick stop at the Lary D. Johnson Community Center for lunch, the group will sit in on a court proceeding at the Sparks Municipal Court. Judge Barbara McCarthy will preside over a video hearing and academy members will have the chance to see what the marshals do. They will also be experimenting with intoxication goggles, which give the wearer an understanding of the visual impairments possible when someone is drunk.

The final event of the second day will be tour of the Golden Eagle park.

Citizens will leave the final day with a certificate of completion and memories from their first-hand look at the Sparks community.

“I hope that citizens feel that we are not this big bureaucratic entity,” De La Torre said. “We want the people to know that the government is here to open its doors. We are working for them and we don’t want them to be intimidated. We want citizens to know what is going on.”

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