BERLIN– Town officials agreed to move forward with the first phase of a strategic plan this week.
On Monday, the Berlin Town Council voted unanimously to spend $9,300 with Salisbury University’s Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) for the first phase of a strategic plan.
“A strategic plan helps get us closer to hopefully aligning our spending to our strategic outcomes,” Mayor Zack Tyndall said.
Tyndall said the town had an outdated strategic plan and in recognition of that, officials had designated a portion of the town’s ARPA funding to drafting a new document. He said a strategic plan could potentially help the town receive the Government Finance Officers Association’s distinguished budget award.
John Hickman, director of BEACON, told the council the organization had been helping municipalities with projects like strategic planning for decades. The program has a dual mission of community outreach and experiential learning and all projects are completed with teams of graduate and undergraduate students under faculty supervision.
Hickman told the council the purpose of the town’s strategic plan was to look at Berlin’s strengths and weaknesses as well as its opportunities. He said BEACON proposed a three-part process for the town’s plan. The first phase would include development of a survey for citizens and the collection of information from town officials. That information would be summarized and reported to officials.
The second phase of the strategic planning process would involved conducting a listening session and working with the mayor to develop a sub-group of officials to focus on the plan. that phase would also include a strategic planning retreat.
The third phase of the plan process would be a second retreat as well as development of an action plan of projects and initiatives for the town. The report would then be presented to officials.
Councilman Jack Orris asked about resident involvement in the process. Hickman said they would be asked to complete a survey, which could be provided online or on paper.
Orris also asked if the town should have issued a request for proposals from entities interested in doing the town’s strategic plan.
“I don’t want something like our town strategic plan to be a graduate student project,” he said.
Hickman assured officials that while students were part of BEACON’s labor force, they weren’t driving the project. He added that the price BEACON offered was made possible because part of its labor force was students.
Councilman Steve Green asked if the town would be receiving a document that would highlight key initiatives so they could, for example, be linked to items on meeting agendas.
Hickman said that while it might not be one page the town would be provided a document listing a handful of strategic initiatives and the associated action steps. He added the BEACON representatives would be presenting each phase of the project to the council so if there were concerns or adjustments needed to be made those could be addressed then.
Town Administrator Mary Bohlen said the three-phase strategic plan process was expected to cost $9,300 a phase. The town has allocated $28,000 for a strategic plan.
Tyndall, acknowledging that he worked for Salisbury University, made it clear that the payments would be directed to BEACON at the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business, not the part of the school where he was employed.
The council voted unanimously to proceed with the first phase of the strategic plan. The entire project, which will start in September, is expected to be complete by the end of May.