Town councillors recognize the need to update Ponoka’s 1997 municipal development plan (MDP) but they think there’s got to be cheaper way to do it.
Administration recommended recently that council transfer $60,000 to its 2011 capital budget that had been earmarked to draft a now postponed intermunicipal development plan with Ponoka County. Council has another $15,000 set aside for planning.
Hoskin Planning and Development, with Lovatt Planning Consultants, bid $75,000 to do the work. ParioPlan Inc. (formerly Armin A. Preiksaitis & Associates) prepared the 1997 plan and worked on Ponoka’s growth study and annexation proposal, bid $85,000.
“It’s a vision and development strategy that municipalities are required to have as a statutory document for the next 10-year period,” CAO Brad Watson told council recently. “It’s a council planning document on where is the community going.”
Surveys, workshops, public meetings and meetings with stakeholders would be held to get insights into the community’s direction for Ponoka into the next decade.
But Coun. Rick Bonnett doesn’t want planners to “re-invent the wheel” when they come to town. There’s lots of information in the current MDP, the growth study, council’s strategic plan and other documents to draw upon, he added.
Bonnett wondered how much of the new document would be copied and pasted into a new MDP. The price could come down to $25,000 to $30,000 if councillors held a few special meetings to review and update the plan themselves before passing it off to the consultants.
Watson said “cut and paste” work is clerical time and would be minimal.
“That’s not where the big bucks are.”
Coun. Doug Gill wants to see consultants fully involved in the process but agreed perhaps the price could be negotiated down.
“This is a process that involves the business community and residents. It draws everybody together,” he said. “It’s more of a consultation and of course that means meetings and providing us with a final document that looks really good.”
Gill agreed the 1997 MDP does a good job of detailing Ponoka’s past and enabling sound planning decisions for the future, the new document needs to take into account the new ag events centre, the proposed splash park, skateboard park, a renovated PCHS, lagoon upgrades and the recent annexation.
“Do we have time to do that,” he asked his fellow councillors. “We have a firm that specializes in that.”
“By us having two or three meetings we can probably cut out the need for a consultant’s services and reduce some costs,” Coun. John Jacobs said.
Watson said some of the consultant’s work would be “boilerplate” work but much of it is working with administration and council to articulate their vision for Ponoka.
Mayor Larry Henkelman suggested the consultants know what work other planners have done in Ponoka and their bid reflects that. “They know they’re not starting from scratch.”
Bonnett is worried that if council authorized spending up to $75,000, the full amount would get spent. “I’d hate to open up the bank account and say, ‘Here’s $75,000, go for it.’”
Councillors defeated a motion to spend up to $75,000 and another to spend up to $50,000. They opted instead to have administration meet with representatives from Hoskins Planning and Development and see if there is room to negotiate the work the consultants would do and the price they would charge.