There was plenty of praise for the County of Renfrew’s first-ever strategic plan, which was presented to the Feb. 28 session of county council.
CAO presents strategic plan.
Renfrew County chief administrative officer Jim Hutton listens to feedback on the county’s strategic plan, which he presented to the Feb. 28 session of county council.
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
Entitled Strategic Plan and Council Priorities 2013-2018, the document was developed from a two-day September 2012 consultation workshop for county councillors and staff members.
Renfrew County chief administrative officer Jim Hutton, who was the major author, presented the document and spoke about the seven priority strategies.
Several strategies were identified during the workshop, but the document says these seven priority are to be dealt with before all others.
The Group of Seven list starts with promotion of an expanded four-lane Highway 17 into Highway 417, or four-laning of the Trans-Canada Highway.
The next strategies, listed in order of priority, are
• enhance the (mandated) long-term asset management program;
• develop a linked trail system;
• promote active transportation;
• launch an economic development roundtable;
• create a small business investment fund; and
• foster health promotion and disease prevention programs.
“We had business plans that focused on budget numbers. But we wanted to do a strategic plan. It gives focus to our staff because it includes our mission, vision and values,” said Hutton.
“It tells our staff that we deliver services that we want delivered in an efficient and cost-effective manner. So it gives direction and buy-in for staff, and for the elected officials it sets priorities.”
Warden Peter Emon’s message in the 18-page document calls the strategic plan a “very important document in outlining the future direction and priorities for a municipality. The consultation sessions last September were very helpful and thought-provoking as we worked toward stating our priorities for the term of council and beyond.”
In the same document, past warden Bob Sweet’s message says the strategic plan demonstrates council’s “leadership and commitment to improving the quality of the life of the residents of the County of Renfrew.”
Hutton said the strategic plan will be reviewed annually.
“This document is very straightforward, and we can amend it in the future very easily to reflect the priorities of council, as new councils come forward,” said Hutton.
The plan’s strategies have been aligned along three key themes — community well-being, economic opportunities and community sustainability or viability. The latter includes the stipulation that at least five per cent of the county budget be set aside for new infrastructure.
The county isn’t technically required to have a strategic plan, but several county departments are, including the long-term care facilities at Bonnechere Manor and Miramichi Lodge, as well as emergency services, Ontario Works, child care and the Renfrew County Housing Corporation.
Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Mayor Janice Visneskie said her only criticism of the document was the need for a cover that represented all 17 municipalities. The released document had photos of two unnamed municipalities in the county.
“This is a very important document for showing leadership and where the county is going in the future,” said Visneskie.
Overall, Arnprior Reeve Walter Stack said the strategic plan was good work: “This is really well packaged. It’s an easy read.”
Regarding the development of a linked trail system, Stack said the linkage must be made, but not at the expense of one group, while referring to such potential users as snowmobilers, ATV operators, bikers and walkers.
“All those interests need to be considered,” said Stack.
The document shows that action plans in 2013 include acquisition of the discontinued Canadian Pacific rail corridor, seeking partners such as the Physical Activity Network, and confirming a vision of trail links with both public and private stakeholders.
The goal of this strategy is to create a linked and integrated trail system that extends through the county within five years.
Hutton pointed out that the system isn’t just the abandoned CP line, but also the K& P corridor in Greater Madawaska and Admaston-Bromley, and trails in other municipalities. The idea is to use the trail system to attract people to the area and improve local residents’ health profile.
Laurentian Valley Mayor Jack Wilson, who says he hasn’t been a fan of other strategic plans he has seen, called the document a good start.
Highway 17 expansion
The expansion of Highway 17 is even more critical, given the recent abandonment of the CP rail corridor, said Hutton.
“That is our main transportation system, our main connection to the world, so it’s very important,” added Hutton, knowing this priority has a bearing on many economic issues within the county.
Actions planned for 2013 include completion of an Economic Development Action Plan Assessment (EDIA), meeting with the Ministry of Transportation officials to review EDIA findings, and attending Team Highway 17 meetings to identify high-accident areas on the highway corridor and feasible operational improvements.
The seventh of the strategies focuses on health promotion and disease prevention.
With health statistics that are far worse than the provincial average, the county needs to become healthier, said Hutton.
The leader on this strategy would be the county’s emergency services department, as the county strives to reduce chronic disease levels to the provincial average within five years.
Other facilitators, which are listed in the document, include social services, health units, boards of education, First Nations, and private and public donors.