‘A period of transition’: Wellington North updating municipal strategic plan

WELLINGTON NORTH – Where does Wellington North fit into an ever-changing world?

How do we address challenges and find common ground?

Is the township in a position to meet future demands?

Those are some of the crucial questions an update to the township’s strategic plan will address and hopefully answer in months to come.

“The strategic plan covers everything,” CAO Brooke Lambert told the Advertiser by phone.

Being constructed over the next seven months or so, the plan will examine services and how the community and township want to change in the years ahead, guiding and instructing the work that needs to be done.

The CAO takes the lead, but a project team, composed of township staff, and a steering committee, made of senior management, have also been assembled.

Guelph-based consultant Kris Cummings has also been hired at a cost of around $20,000 to advise and assist with engagement and consolidating feedback gleaned throughout the process.

Hired as Wellington North’s CAO last September, one of Lambert’s first ventures was evaluating progress from the previous strategic plan.

“I actually love this work, this is where I learn the most about the community, and as a new CAO, this is just the perfect timing for me,” Lambert remarked.

Around 80 per cent of the former plan’s action items were accomplished or started, according to Lambert, who said its foundations will be carried forward.

“The big difference between the last plan and the plan that we’re going to build, is the other one was more of an administrative tool, and we’d like this one to be more of a tool that allows for more conversation and community engagement, and staff engagement,” she explained.

“There was a lot of work done on how we can collaborate with different organizations, so that’s all going to continue, it’s just the specifics of how and what we do,” Lambert said, providing the shared fire services agreement between Wellington North and Minto as an example.

But challenges still lie ahead in drafting a new plan.

“Council is a key stakeholder, we want to hear from the public … and we need to engage staff as well, and so we need to establish that common vision and direction — and that’s the first challenge,” Lambert said.

“It can be a lot of fun,” she added, but arriving at a tangible plan council can endorse brings with it “lots of different perspectives [and] lots of different, competing interests.”

Residents will have a key role in bringing those perspectives and interests. The entire process, Lambert emphasized, is “definitely a collaborative approach.”

Public consultation has already begun and will be ongoing.

Deloitte Canada, with which Lambert has previous experience working, was hired by the township for nearly $13,000 to conduct phone and online surveys.

One hundred calls displaying the name “Township of WN” are currently being made to Wellington North residents until March 10, to gauge community satisfaction and identify where there are gaps in township services.

According to Deloitte, landline numbers are pulled from a Canadian database and randomized with listed and non-listed numbers. Cellphone numbers are also used, based on where phones are registered.

The digital survey, also handled by Deloitte, will come online on the township’s website from Feb. 21 to March 10.

Collected data will be aggregated with no identifying information presented in results, according to the township, with questions focusing on service satisfaction, property taxes, resource allocation, communication strategies, and residents’ priorities.

Conducting a satisfaction survey now gives the township insight into what residents aren’t happy with, Lambert said. Feedback establishes a baseline to measure future success, or lack thereof, and gives direction on where the township needs to focus its efforts.

“We’re in a period of transition and we’re trying to figure out where we’d like to go,” she said.

Last year, council approved $40,000 to be allotted in this year’s budget to the strategic plan process. It’s slightly behind schedule, but Lambert expects a draft will likely be ready this fall.

“We want as many responses as possible, that’s the best-case scenario,” Lambert said, adding feedback “will find a place to make an impact.”