In reiterating some of the pressing goals that should be addressed by Sullivan County officials if possible, legislator Kitty Vetter said one of her priorities was expanding broadband internet throughout the county.
When asked about the county’s transportation needs, Edward McAndrew, commissioner of the Division of Public Works, noted, “We need to pave approximately 200 miles of county roads right now, out of 385 miles.”
Legislator Gene Benson, who was chairing the meeting of the Strategic Plan Subcommittee at the government center on September 3, said one of his goals would be the creation of an industrial park at the Sullivan County International Airport in Bethel. He said there are shovel-ready sites there now because of the recent addition of a municipal water supply.
But the conversation soon turned away from specific goals of a strategic plan to the question of whether the committee was pursuing the creation of the plan in the best and most efficient way.
Legislator Cindy Gieger said before setting goals, the group should first formulate a “mission.” She said that she had studied the comprehensive 2020 Plan that was created by the county planning department seven or eight years ago, and she thought the committee could benefit from the presence of a facilitator at the meetings, someone who could guide them through the process.
Benson said that he was attempting to reach an expert on the process, but he said he didn’t know what the cost would be.
Jill Weyer, the acting commissioner of planning, said, “This is what, I would say, the planning department is for: to help you with that strategic process, I mean we do it for the towns.”
Gieger, who said she had done some research on the matter, responded, “Are there steps to the process that are spelled out like in this document?”
Weyer answered, “Those are all standard planning techniques....”
Benson said, “You have to have a goal before you can get to that process. You need a goal so you can figure out the exact process you need to get to that goal.”
County legislature chairman Scott Samuelson said, “I think what Cindy is referring to is a facilitator to get us to the appropriate goal, to identify the goals that would be good and attainable for us.”
Gieger said, “The strategic planning process itself is not just us coming together and saying we need to fix roads and bridges, and do sewer and water at the airport. It’s a process where we gather the information that the county has already collected and… then we need to set a vision and mission going forward.”
Benson reiterated his goal of an industrial park at the airport.
Vetter said, “That’s a short term goal… we need to establish our mission, to make use of natural resources of a beautiful county while allowing for economic growth. You need to have a mission statement.”
Gieger referred to her notes about strategic plans and said, “In step five you’re developing goals, but there are four steps prior to that.” Those steps involved gathering and analyzing information and determining critical issues and challenges. She said following the process would “make it easier for us to get through these meetings without getting too frustrated.”
Samuelson said, “I think a facilitator at this point would be a really big help.”
Benson said he would check with various organizations to see who might be available, but he also asked, “Why do we always need to bring somebody from the outside in to tell us how to run our county?”
Samuelson said, “I would vote to say let’s give it a shot and let Jill (Weyer) put a program together for the next strategic plan meeting, with a white board or flip pad, and start putting all the information down and try to get to a resolution.”
The next meeting of the subcommittee is on September 17. A video of the meeting can be viewed at tinyurl.com/l8zf4uo.