By Cole Parkinson
With their current strategic plan expiring last year, Vauxhall town council is beginning the process of developing a new version.
Town council has several new councillors at the table following the fall’s municipal election and first discussions around the plan started at their Nov. 15 meeting.
“The development of a new strategic plan was delayed due to pandemic interferences and allowing decision in its development for the council beginning in 2021,” explained administration’s report to council. “The strategic plan will help council and administration in planning and developing long-term budgets.”
So far, the town has acquired two early quotes to do a strategic plan.
“The extensive one was $25,000 — that was based on what we did originally with our previous strategic plan,” explained Coun. Margaret Plumtree, who also explained the other would see a cost of $1,000 per day and an additional $1,000 for a writeup. “If we’re interested in getting her, we could ask if we could do two half days. So, she does a half-day with the community and then a half-day just with us. That would be $1,000 plus another $1,000 for the writeup.”
She also stated it would be her preference to include the community in strategic plan discussions to gauge their feedback on what they want to see the town do over the next several years.
“I really like involving the community because as much as there are seven of us at the council table, and we have a fairly good representation of different people, if we add in those few extra people from the community, we make sure we have a really good handle on what our community is made of and where we want to go,” said Plumtree.
While council’s reception was positive, there were concerns around the high cost presented.
“That ($25,000) is cost-prohibitive for our community,” added Plumtree.
“We need to do something,” confirmed Mayor Ray Coad.
With the need for a new plan, Plumtree highlighted the fact she was excited to develop a new one after expressing dissatisfaction with the previous version.
“We need to do something and the one we did last time for free was a crappy plan. And I knew it right from the start when she allowed us to say ‘we are a community that is good for everyone.’ When you’re in business, your target market is not everyone,” said Plumtree.
“If you say everyone is your target, your advertising costs are incredible and you get no one. You have to figure out who your target market is. That is something we have to decide — is it seniors, is it families, is it youth? What are we looking for? We’ve got all of that land to sell — who are we trying to sell that to? And it doesn’t mean that if we say ‘we’re for seniors’, it doesn’t mean we don’t attract families and young couples and things like that — it just means that is our primary focus,” she continued. “The strategic plan is basically like your business plan — it’s a roadmap.”
“The plan is a pretty high-level project. It will identify lots, but not your marketing plan. That might be an outcome, but that plan will be developed separately to your strategic plan,” added Coad.
With only a three to four year plan being discussed, Coun. Kim Egeland asked if it would be more beneficial to have a longer-term plan.
“If you have your mini one, two, three, four (year plans) — during one, two, three, four you could be planning for five, six, seven. You would be saving money throughout and when the new council did come in, they would have some sort of direction. As a newbie, I think that would be a good thing,” she said.
“Through the MGA, Municipal Affairs, and the Alberta government, they want us to do bigger, longer-term plans. The only thing is, the longer you go, the more unknowns there are,” replied Plumtree. “If our strategic plan went into this year — we had COVID and every business out there needs to redo their business plan because it is obsolete. We just had a pandemic and we’re not even through it yet, and it has changed everything. I think it is good to have an idea of where you want to go when you build them, but if you go too long-term, it won’t be valid. The world is changing so much.”
Egeland also asked about the scope of the project.
“Besides getting everyone here, (I see) it as more of as maintenance,” she added.
“It’s bigger than that,” responded Plumtree.
“We’ve completed five years of the current plan and most of the action statements contained in that document have been completed. Now is the time to update it,” confirmed Coad.
He also explained how it was hard to project the future and going past four years for a strategic plan may not be ideal as things can change fast throughout Alberta and the world in general.
“I don’t see any point in looking at anything more than five years because in three years, it will probably be thrown out the window anyway. To take a look at the previous five years, take a look at what needs to be done in the next five years, and go from there.”
A question was posed by Coun. Shelley Deleeuw around why there was such a drastic difference in prices between the two.
“Qualifications and what they have previously gotten,” responded Plumtree.
She also said the fact the cheaper option was from Calgary where competition was high compared to the more expensive one being located in Lethbridge where there wasn’t as much competition was a factor.
“I think it would be worthwhile contacting both of these ladies again and asking for updated pricing. Also, a timeline and their availability,” added Deputy Mayor Kim Cawley.
A motion to reach out to both quotes and bring back information to council was carried.