Apply now to join our next cohort of Community Science Fellows and Community Leaders!

Assessing the Quality-of-Life Impacts of Municipal Assets, Resources, and Services in Montevallo, AL

Montevallo, Alabama

Featured image for the project, Assessing the Quality-of-Life Impacts of Municipal Assets, Resources, and Services in Montevallo, AL

Image Courtesy of Montevallo AL

We aim to establish a Quality-of-Life Assessment (QOLA) and data collection process for our community. This assessment will determine the health impacts and financial benefits of community assets (safety, citizen engagement, etc.), resources (Montevallo Main Street organization, Arbor & Beautification Board, etc.) and services (park development, sidewalk maintenance, library programing, etc.)

Assessment results may lead to the creation of impactful programs and the allocation of funding to strategically address known or assessment-identified community needs. Future potential outcomes may include increased disposable income for residents, lower rates of violence, lower rates of substance abuse, and an increased sense of community.

Description

The City of Montevallo, Alabama has been one of our state’s most diverse and progressive cities. The City of Montevallo’s total population is approximately 6,626 people. 15.1% of the population are under the age of 18 and 16.4% of citizens are over the age of 60. The City of Montevallo’s median income is $37,929 with 22.3% of the population living in poverty. 87.6% of Montevallo residents are high school graduates and 26.5% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (US Census Bureau 2013-2017 American Community Survey Estimate).

We are a community which understands and appreciates how important it is to balance our need for progress with our need to preserve and protect that which gives Montevallo its uniqueness. Throughout our 200-year history, Montevallo has been a community which has continued to move forward and adapt to changes, without sacrificing its character or integrity. The City of Montevallo is constantly making strides to enhance the quality of life for all its residents through public improvement projects. These include Main Street sidewalk and streetscape investments, a designated Alabama Communities of Excellence Community, and establishing a local Main Street program.

 

Priority Question: How do we collect necessary evidence, and then use it to assess and communicate the Quality-of-Life of our community?

We aim to quantify the health impacts and financial benefits of community assets, resources, and services. Community assets are characteristics that influence Quality-of-Life such as safety. Community resources are provided to citizens through volunteer services and committees, while community services are provided to citizens through tax-payer funds. We think community resources directly impact community assets and consequentially our community’s Quality-of-Life. However, we don’t have a way to measure and assess this impact.

Our community does not have a Quality-of-Life Assessment, nor do we possess necessary data concerning the use or benefits of our community’s assets, resources, and services.

 

Relevant Resources

 

The Project

This project will involve learning how to collect data about our community’s assets, resources, and services with regards to Quality-of-Life. Once these data are collected, we would like our scientist to use it to conduct a QOLA for our community.

  • Key Stakeholders: Other city boards (i.e., Arbor and Beautification Board or Main St. Board). This is variable as it depends on QOLA implementation and results.
  • Target audience: Current and future City Council Members, the Mayor, and the entire community
    • Primary Audience: Community (Interested in QOLA)
    • Secondary Audience: City Council and Mayor (Interested in Financial Benefits)

Expected Outputs:

In generating the QOLA, the scientist will create and deliver user-friendly calculation tools that will be used by community leaders overtime. These calculation tools will determine the health impacts and economic benefits of a variety of community assets, resources, and services including our recreational opportunities and future financial investments into community resources. This project will also generate a valuation of the financial savings from completing these objectives through a Thriving Earth Partnership instead of rendering services.

Expected Outcomes:

The QOLA will be used as talking points and evidence to inform city officials, city department heads, and community residents about the community’s QOL.

Expected Impact:

We will use the QOLA for talking points and as evidence to inform city officials’ decision making. Our work may lead to the creation of more impactful community programs and the allocation of funding to address specific community needs previously known or newly revealed by the QOLA. Skills and knowledge gained during this project will allow us to track changes regarding QOL and create benchmarks (e.g., 5 years goals). Our QOLA may serve as inspiration for other communities who may benefit from developing their own QOLA. This project will benefit science by serving as a model for quantifying the health impacts and financial benefits of community assets, resources, and services in a small, southern, and rural community.

Timeline: 

This project does not have a defined deadline; thus, its duration depends on the process that the scientist come up with. The new fiscal year (FY22) starts in October. If this project takes a year or slightly longer, the financial outcomes may be included in the FY22 budget. It is preferred to be included in the FY22 budget as opposed to the FY23 budget.

The project will begin as soon as a scientist is selected.

Project Team

Community Leads

Olivia Barone Olivia Barone is the City of Montevallo’s first-ever sustainability coordinator! Montevallo has always been committed to sustainability. The city takes pride in its parks, walkable downtown, and public art. Montevallo also hosts a local farmers market and has the oldest bike share program in the state.

As the City’s sustainability coordinator, the most visible part of Olivia’s job is Montevallo’s Recycling Center. Since starting in November 2019, Olivia was able to streamline the process to single stream recycling and add electronic recycling, thrift store donation bins, and plastic film recycling. Education and outreach are the cornerstone for recycling efforts. Specifically, Olivia focuses a lot of her time on reducing, reusing, and refusing as well as recycling. When not working on waste reduction, the sustainability office also tries to find opportunities for state and federal grants. Montevallo has already been awarded over $100,000 in grants for sustainability programs.

Olivia received her Environmental Studies degree from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Rider has been named by Princeton Review a Green College 10 years in a row! Though it is her job to make Montevallo a green leader in the county and state, Olivia also practices living a sustainable life on her own time. She loves finding environmentally friendly alternatives to single-use items such as produce and plastic bags, cotton balls, and plastic straws! In her free time, she loves the beach, gardening, and running in the outdoors!

 

Sarah Hogan

Sarah Hogan earned a B.S. in Psychology and M.Ed. in Counseling at her beloved alma mater, the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Alabama. During her tenure as a student, she developed a passion for the Montevallo community and is happy to call Montevallo her home. She has had the pleasure of working in the field of higher education, event management, local government, marketing, non-profit organization, counseling, and secondary education. She led the initiative to obtain the Main Street Alabama designation for the Montevallo community and currently serves as the Program Director of Impact Montevallo, a federal drug-free communities support grant program focused on reducing youth substance use. The experience and knowledge she has achieved throughout these positions has provided proficiencies in administrative operations, fiscal management, relationship cultivation, volunteer management, public relations and strategic organization. Amplifying her skills in communication, multi-tasking and collaboration. Sarah is an enthusiastic life-long learner, resiliently committed to excellence and devoted to contributing to the achievement of others.

 

Community Science Fellow

Lauren Prox is excited to serve as a Community Science Fellow and to support community science efforts. Over the years, Lauren has participated in citizen science projects concerning water quality, rainforest growth, and even koala bear populations. In her spare time, Lauren currently volunteers with the Department of State’s Greening Diplomacy Initiative and serves as a Global Ambassador for Peace First. Lauren is from Virginia and holds a BS in Atmospheric Science with a minor in Systems Engineering and Operations Research. She is currently a PhD student studying Earth and Ocean Science, with an emphasis on air quality and human health.

Scientist Wanted

The goal of this project is to create a Quality-of-Life Assessment (QOLA) specific to our community

We seek a scientist to contribute toward three primary goals:

  1. Teach our project leaders how to collect data on our community’s assets (e.g., safety), resources (e.g., Arbor & Beautification Board), and services (e.g., library programing)
  2. Teach us how to collect data on how to increase our community’s Quality-of-Life (e.g., reducing energy burden of residents)
  3. Work with the community leaders to collaboratively compute Quality-Of-Life values, the impacts, and the benefits of our community’s assets, resources, and services
    1. Valuation should emphasize health impacts and financial benefits
    2. User-friendly calculation tools should be developed to allow stakeholders to continue evaluating how a community resource or asset impacts the community’s Quality-of-Life in the future (e.g., establishing a free mental health clinic)
    3. Assessment results will need to be translated into layman’s terms

 

Desired skills and qualifications:

  • Comfortable navigating politically tense conversations and focusing on areas of common ground. For example, any discussion of the anthropogenic impacts on the environment or Earth is best avoided
  • Knowledge and respect for our Southern Culture
  • Financial and health modeling experience
  • Transdisciplinary Knowledge (Population science, municipal finances, etc.)
  • Experience with community science and teaching the scientific method to non-scientists
  • Strong listening and collaboration skills
  • Community is open to working with students

*This is an unpaid, volunteer position, but Thriving Earth Exchange may provide limited support for project materials

Thriving Earth Exchange asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact to which they can contribute as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators. This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage.

Interested in volunteering as a scientist? Apply now!