Andrew Smith, Listowel Banner
Perth County is hoping a new strategic plan will lead to more educated decisions in the future.
Trudy Parsons, director of development for Millier Dickinson Blais, the consulting firm hired to develop the plan, recently presented a draft strategic plan to county council.
The plan addresses areas of concerns identified by the public and municipal leaders and gives some direction to the county over the next five years.
Parson explained the strategic plan process started with discussion amongst all the lower-tier municipal CAOs. Those discussions led to the creation of a vision for Perth County which includes: a small town atmosphere, strong agricultural background, sustainable local businesses, and efficient government.
Parsons said the strategic plan further focuses on three key principles identified for the county: honest and accountable performance from council and staff, collaborative approaches and partnerships, and a clear and forward-looking plan.
Three priorities were also laid out for the county to follow over the next five years, starting with an efficient governance structure.
“Local municipalities will need to work together to find shared goals and achieve a common vision,” she said. “A service delivery and governance review could be completed in an attempt to increase efficiency and reduce duplication.”
The second priority addressed within the strategic plan stresses the need to support business development in order to revitalize downtown.
The third priority is preserving farm land. The county’s rural character was deemed important, as well.
Several other issues were identified through an online survey and telephone interviews, such as the need for better coordination of services between the county and its municipalities, maintenance of infrastructure, and the desire for diverse employment opportunities to retain population.
“Once we took all of that into account, there were four key goals and actions that were identified,” Parsons said.
The first goal of the plan is to ensure residents are served by a cohesive service delivery model, followed by creating an environment that supports a diverse range of business, strengthening the success of agri-business, and supporting existing and new opportunities to engage residents and visitors.
“Slow population growth and youth retention were mentioned repeatedly as threats to Perth County’s future,” Parsons noted. “The support of existing and new opportunities to engage residents and visitors was seen as an important strategy in order to ensure Perth County is on the map as an amazing place to live for people of all ages.”
The next steps in the strategic plan process is revising the draft and allowing for public review, as well as presenting the plan to lower tier municipalities.
“We thought it was important that municipalities had a clear understanding of what the actions were identified at the county level,” Parsons said. “They definitely have a role to play in supporting or informing what those particular directions may be.”
The plan is available for public review and input from now until July 11. It is accessible via the county website, www.perthcounty.ca/Strategic_Plan, or in paper copy at the county office.
Feedback must be received in writing no later than 5 p.m July 11.