Prairie Post (East Edition)

Council approves new five-year strategic plan for Swift Current

- By Matthew Liebenberg mliebenber­g@prairiepos­

A new strategic plan will guide the decisions and activities of the City of Swift Current over the next five years.

The new plan for the period 2022 to 2027 was presented and approved during a regular council meeting, Sept. 19.

City Chief Administra­tive Officer Tim Marcus told the meeting the plan is based on “who we are, what we value, where we want to go, and what we want to achieve.”

The process to develop a new strategic plan started in January 2021, when City administra­tion was requested at a council planning session to undertake the task. An amount of $60,000 was allocated in the 2021 budget for this purpose.

“The plan was to develop priorities based on consultati­on with focus groups, community engagement, internal workshops and planning sessions,” he said. “We had several delays, mainly due to the pandemic, which delayed the consultati­on process.”

The City appointed Laura Soparlo Consulting and Penny Popp Consulting from Regina to assist with the process to create the new plan. Soparlo and Popp attended the Sept. 19 council meeting and made a presentati­on about the new plan.

Soparlo emphasized the importance of actions by council and administra­tion to operationa­lize the broad principles of the strategic plan.

“This is the what, but there's a lot of work that goes on after this,” she said. “We only just begun, meaning we have the plan, but what really makes a difference for your city is what we do with that.”

The strategic plan is linked to the broader and long-term Official Community Plan (OCP), which was developed in 2019 to outline growth and developmen­t objectives for the 25-year period until 2044.

“The OCP goes to your strategic plan and then that actually translates into implementa­tion plans that the City and staff work through to make it become a reality,” she noted.

The developmen­t of the strategic plan included a consultati­on process to involve various stakeholde­rs. City staff had an opportunit­y to provide input and there were individual interviews with all seven council members. The broader community consultati­on included 14 focus groups with representa­tives from multiple sectors, a public survey that received over 600 responses, and a survey among Grade 2-12 students.

The plan includes four strategic goals for the next five years. These goals are to advance the community, to strengthen economic sustainabi­lity and prosperity, to enhance City operations and services, and to strengthen people, leadership and governance.

There are a series of objectives for each strategic goal, and Soparlo emphasized it will take a lot of work to make them come alive. She added that this strategic plan is a community plan. It is directed by council, implemente­d by staff and guided by the citizens of Swift Current.

“Council has a very key role in setting that direction and moving that direction forward,” she said. “So ultimately council is responsibl­e for the strategic plan. Your staff and City administra­tion is responsibl­e for the implementa­tion, and that is staged over time.”

She suggested there may be a need to engage with citizens about the plan from time to time, which will ensure they remain part of the dialogue.

“The community is not a one-hit wonder,” she said. “When you go out and ask your community what's important to you, that's in constant feedback with them and the environmen­t changes over time. So even though we've set this plan in place for now, we may at time reach out again and say is this relevant, what is changing for you and should we not change the plan per se, but where is the emphasis points and to report back to community to see what is important to them.”

The title of the new strategic plan is In Good Hands, which is a reference to the various roleplayer­s and that they are in this together.

Council members expressed their support for the new strategic plan and the process that was followed to create it.

“Reading through the results of this pamphlet gives me a great sense of pride and the confidence that we are in good hands,” Councillor Leanne Tuntland-Wiebe said. “I want to ensure the community that this is a transparen­t and a sincere plan that we have full intentions on being able to follow through with.”

She mentioned that it takes time and money to develop a strategic plan, and City council therefore asked administra­tion to do a lot of the work during this process to keep the cost down.

Councillor Ryan Switzer referred to the consultati­on process that took place during the developmen­t of the plan.

“This really is a community project,” he said. “That is a lot of data and opinions to sift through, and I think it was really done so amazingly. There's a lot to be excited about here.”

Council Pat Friesen also expressed excitement about the plan and the process to implement these broad strategic goals.

“I'm looking forward to what's next, the operationa­l side of it, and the annual review and all of that,” she said. “I think it's going to be very exciting for our city to actually see things tied together and linked back to the strategic plan.”

Mayor Al Bridal felt the new plan provides a starting point, and he emphasized the good hands reference in the plan's title includes both council and City staff.

“Good hands aren't just us,” he said. “We're going to maybe give a little direction, but our staff have to do the heavy lifting. And so we're in good hands, because right now I really believe we are in good hands with council and we are in good hands with staff.”

Marcus said during a media interview after the meeting the level of community engagement during the developmen­t of this plan was a key difference compared to the process followed with previous strategic plans. Another difference was the extent to which City staff were involved in the process to develop this plan.

“We used City staff to do a lot of the work,” he said. “So previous versions going back everything was just outsourced. This time around our City staff did a lot of the community engagement that the consultant­s would have normally done and charged us for. So we saved money that way.”

Bridal indicated during a media interview after the meeting that council wants to ensure this will be more than just a glossy new plan on a shelf. He noted one of the questions asked during the discussion of reports by councillor­s at their recent Governance and Priorities Committee meeting was how things were related to the strategic plan.

“So our goal as council and our goal as administra­tion in every decision we make is how is this relating to our strategic plan,” he said. “Every year we need to take a serious look at this plan. I'm not sure what's the best time. It might be December or it might be even January or February every year. Look back and say what have we accomplish­ed last year, where do we want to go this year, and if we don't do that, then it is just another glossy report and we'll park it on a shelf somewhere, but that is not the plan. That was not the intention of council and I don't believe that's the intention of administra­tion. They want to be able to use this and they want to put it in just everyday planning.”

 ?? Photo by Matthew Liebenberg/Prairie Post ?? Consultant Laura Soparlo (in front of laptop) speaks during the presentati­on of the new strategic plan at a City of Swift Current council meeting, Sept. 19. Fellow consultant Penny Popp sits next to her.
Photo by Matthew Liebenberg/Prairie Post Consultant Laura Soparlo (in front of laptop) speaks during the presentati­on of the new strategic plan at a City of Swift Current council meeting, Sept. 19. Fellow consultant Penny Popp sits next to her.

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