Wellington County Council adopts strategic action plan

GUELPH – Wellington County has adopted a strategic action plan that prioritizes provision of services, infrastructure planning and decision making, while making people the “main priority.”

On June 27 county council adopted the plan outlining the direction the corporation will take over the remaining term of council.

County officials state the plan, entitled Future Focused. People Invested, is “a product and true reflection of how the corporation works – in an environment that promotes openness, trust and collaboration.”

The county hired Ottawa-based firm McSweeney and Associates to create the strategic action plan.

“Members of council and the county’s senior management team contributed to the development of this plan by expressing their priorities in an open public forum and working as a team to help clarify the county’s strategic priorities,” stated Warden Kelly Linton.

“We know that there are great things taking place in the county and this strategic action plan will help us to continue to invest tax dollars in what matters most to our residents.“

The plan outlines four priority sectors with strategic actions in each:

– providing the highest level and best quality services;

– planning for and providing the best physical infrastructure;

– people are the main priority; and

– making the right decisions.

“As staff and council, we understand the need to serve our residents with dedication, progressive thinking and excellence,” said CAO Scott Wilson.

“We’re committed to building a prosperous future for our residents and strive to make the County of Wellington an even better place to live, work and invest.”

Corporate culture praised

At the meeting, consultant Ian Duff praised the county’s “corporate culture” during a presentation of the finished plan.

“If you could bottle it, I’d suggest you sell it. I don’t know how to say it other than you seem to get it right,” said Duff, adding the county provides a “very unique and a very amazing environment” in which to work.

“Your number one asset is the people working for you within this organization,” Duff stated.

While not designed to identify specific actions, the plan does identify the county’s “Top 5 Priority Activities”:

– continue engaging staff to craft a Wellington County Human Resource Plan;

– begin implementing the City of Guelph and Wellington County’s Our Food Future circular food economy initiative;

– create a long-term financial sustainability plan for the county; and

– enhance the county’s decision making process by providing council with information outlining why a specific project, opportunity or initiative is important.

Continuum of Care not addressed in plan

The strategic plan does not clarify council’s intention regarding the proposed Continuum of Care project.

In March, councillors agreed to consider an $88-million supportive seniors community on Wellington Place lands through the strategic planning process.

At the June 12 information heritage and seniors committee meeting the committee recommended completion of geotechnical and topographical surveys and a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment of the proposed site in Aboyne. The committee also recommended researching available funding and grants.

However, the committee recommended that issuing an RFP to retain an architect in a limited role to refine the project design and to retain a cost consultant be contingent on the approval of the strategic plan and the Continuum of Care being contained in it.

The plan, as presented on June 27, contains no mention of the project.

“I’m a little confused about the condition being put on it about approval of the strategic plan and the continuum being contained in it,” said councillor Campbell Cork.

“The Continuum of Care is not contained in the strategic plan. In fact the strategic plan is quite clear that specific projects aren’t part of it.”

Councillor Mary Lloyd, who chairs the committee, explained, “We didn’t know at the time … what was in the strategic plan.”

Lloyd explained the committee recommended proceeding only with site evaluation and preparation work that would be required regardless of what ended up being done with the proposed continuum site.

Linton clarified passage of the strategic plan is “not automatically an endorsement,” of the Continuum of Care project. He said council would have an opportunity for “a fullsome discussion” before deciding the fate of the project.

Provides focus

Councillor George Bridge said he is pleased with the priorities laid out in the strategic plan.

“I think that was the thing we were looking for in my mind was the focus; about what business we should be in, what we have to do to be in it, and how we create it.”

“The strategic plan is what should drive budget allocations and resource allocations, so it should be a living document,” Linton noted.

Councillor Diane Ballantyne expressed concern about some omissions from the plan.

“Diversity and inclusion was only mentioned once, and was only mentioned in relation to staff not to community or citizens,” she said.

She added, “I really think we’ve missed an opportunity by not ever mentioning the word environment, climate change, environmental stewardship, extreme weather, anything like that. It’s arguably the largest issue that’s facing us and we need to be proactive in addressing those issues and we have a document here that doesn’t mention it at all and I think that’s a lost opportunity.”

Duff noted the intent of including “diversity and inclusion” under the human resources section of the plan was for it to “filter down” to other areas of the corporation and the county, but he said “there’s no reason” the concepts couldn’t be utilized in other parts of the plan.

In regard to climate change, Linton stated, “I think personally that fits within a couple of these key areas, even in the top five.”

Council approved the strategic plan as amended. Among several amendments was a direction suggested by Linton to “put residents first whenever we’re dealing with residents.”