The creation of a new strategic plan for the City of Swift Current will take place over the next few months to set goals and priorities for the community’s future development.
Councillors approved an allocation of $60,000 from the 2021 budget for the development of a new strategic plan during a regular council meeting, March 8.
This was the first in-person council meeting held in council chambers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago. The ongoing public health regulations meant the meeting was not open to the public, but people had the option to watch proceedings online.
City Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Tim Marcus said administration received a request for the development of a new strategic plan during a council planning session in early January.
Thereafter the City administration committee held a virtual meeting with the proposed consultants, Laura Soparlo Consulting and Penny Popp Consulting, to discuss the details of their proposal, including the community engagement process, to create the new plan.
“Both consultants came highly recommended and we believe that based on that, council, the City of Swift Current and administration will end up with a solid strategic plan that would provide everyone with a complete set of goals, plans and timelines to move the City forward,” Marcus told the meeting.
Councillors expressed their support for the development of a new strategic plan to guide the City into the future.
“If you don't know where you're going, you'll never get there,” Councillor Pat Friesen said. “So I think it's important that we do have ourselves a plan and for me personally it's very important to see that there was plenty of public engagement. And so I would just encourage our citizens when the time comes, if they get a call or if they get an opportunity to answer a survey, that they please take part, because it's important that we get everyone's feedback in order to build a plan that's truly part of our community.”
Councillor Ryan Plewis, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Al Bridal, felt the engagement of the community and the use of the expertise of consultants are both important aspects of the process to create a new strategic plan.
“The key take-away for me is the community engagement piece and it was for the rest of council when we talked about it as well,” Plewis said. “While council is elected to represent the community, we're looking for maybe some more detailed feedback and we're looking for feedback from people who are experts in this area who can really hopefully search out and find the right information for us to be able to make this plan.”
Marcus and Plewis spoke to media during an online briefing after the meeting. Marcus said the previous strategic plan ended around 2017.
“It's not that the general directives or ideas in the plan ended, but the actual action steps that we had to move that plan forward have come and gone,” he explained. “And as well, that plan was originated in 2012 and as times have changed some of those things are no longer in place.”
A key aspect of the previous strategic plan was the goal to grow Swift Current’s population to 25,000 people by the year 2025.
“The tag line in the old plan was 25 by 25, and here we are in 2021,” he said. “That 25 by 25 was derived 10 years ago, and now we can take a forward look to 2035 or 2040 and based on that forward look we can put some action steps in that we want to accomplish towards that plan during the term of this council over the next four years, which we don't really have at this point in time.”
Plewis noted the duration of a strategic plan is not linked to the duration of a council’s term, and the document’s goal is to set a vision for the future.
“I think as long as council still likes that vision and it remains practical and remains reflective of where you want to go, the plan doesn't necessarily need to change and as they get dated of course, you start tweaking things more and more,” he said. “Eventually you just go so far into the tweaks that a new plan is needed and that's where we find ourselves now and that's why council decided we want to have that refocused plan, sort of a long-term vision. … And it's not in legislation that we have to have this plan in place. It's something that council decides to do for the community, and for us we just thought it was time to put our eye that far down the road and start putting some plans in place for where we want to be in future.”
Council will have to make decisions about recreation and other facilities in the community, and public input will therefore be useful during the creation of the new strategic plan.
“We want to hear from people what they think that should look like and what sorts of things they would want to see,” he said. “With our unsuccessful attempt at grant funding last time for an integrated facility, we just want to start looking at all of our options, taking things back a step and revisiting the public, whether that's still something they want to see or whether there's maybe more piecemeal things that we can do to accomplish those goals. But recreation is just one of the many, many facets of a plan.”
Plewis felt it is sensible to use consultants to create the new plan, because the City does not have the in-house knowledge to do that.
“Part of the benefit of having somebody from outside of the community or having an expert in this area is that they ask different questions,” he said. “I'm a big believer in expertise and this is an area that we want to make sure that we get it right and we want to make sure we get it right by talking to the key stakeholders and the public in different ways.”