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Peterson eyes strategic plan

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Jan 24th, 2014
Posted in Peterson Progress Edition

As a large-scale County 25 reconstruction looms on the horizon of 2015 for Peterson, the city has been whittling down the scope of the project. During that process, the strong need for a city-wide strategic plan has come into play on more than one occasion.

“It’s really been pushed along by the fact that we have to do County 25, but we need to develop long-term goals and plans,” noted Peterson Mayor Jennifer Wood. “It’s been mentioned, but there wasn’t a lot of interest. This council is really open to the idea.” Wood also attributes recent fiscal impact studies and opportunities for grant funding as another factor in the city’s desire to plan with a broad, well-thought vision. She also partially credits a professional services firm with continuing to spur on the notion.

When the city was in the initial stages of the County 25 Project, the idea of securing grant funding for portions was often mentioned. However, in order to garner that funding, many of the grants required a more thorough and strategic plan that what the city currently had available. The city was told, “You need to think differently about the approach. If you have a plan for the future, for more than just this project, you can take the projects and make them fundable and look at all sorts of funding agencies for workable options. You want to be proactive and to have project thought out to fit the program.”

“We might perhaps define the scope of project differently if a grant was available and could include other things. It might even make it more feasible to get grants if certain aspects of the project are included,” said Councilor Dick Lee last November.

It was decided, at that time, to focus solely on the creation of a master plan for the County 25 project. and revisit the idea of a more encompassing strategic plan at a later date. Grant funding would certainly be an appreciated assistance for the city, but essentially, the city would have to have the plan first and that would take considerable time and they were already under the gun to nail down the road project. “We have to have a plan, something to present,” noted Wood at the November 18 meeting.

The need for a comprehensive plan is clear to the city. “It gives you an ongoing goal of where the city is going,” noted City Clerk Megan Grebe last fall. “It’s a fluid document that can be updated as things happen.”

Now, as the scope of that project has been reviewed and revised by subcommittee, the city has once again turned its attention towards the creation of the larger plan. At the end of last year, the city hired the firm of David Drown Associates, a consultant firm specializing financial planning, to assist in the process. The work will include a basic review and recommendation of the city’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Given the firm’s past fiscal planning with the city, it seemed a good place to start.

“We see this happening in other communities,” said Wood of the innovative planning. “We need to throw out and look at all ideas any time we can get funding to help. We need to look at this to have improvements within the city that won’t come directly from the tax payer base.

“We need 2014 to get everything in a row,” stressed Wood. “One thing that’s very important. A part of our reason for doing this is to keep all of our great businesses and increase tourism. It’s not a win unless all of them win and prosper.”

The first of two scheduled meetings was held at city hall, with both the city and David Drown Associates, January 15. Following a tri-city meeting on January 22, the city will pick up its second strategic planning meeting the following Wednesday, January 29. The meeting is expected to last at least four hours and include the full city council, including newly appointed councilor Will Guise.

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