Councillors outline strategic plan for the Town of Ponoka

“It was more in depth and way more focused.” Mayor Rick Bonnett

Town councillors and administration have set the course for the Town of Ponoka for the next four years with a strategic planning document; this document will be a reference tool for both groups as the years go by.

A planning retreat was held in March to give councillors and department heads with the Town of Ponoka a chance to list their top concerns. Mayor Rick Bonnett said council hired a consultant to guide them through the needs and wants of both sides.

“It was more in depth and way more focused,” explained Bonnett.

He said this year’s retreat was a tool in “breaking that communication barrier between administration and our council.”

Priorities differed between political concerns and town staff and while not everyone agreed on what was more important, Bonnett said it helped both groups with their communication.

Consultant Gord McIntosh of LGL Institute, had both groups state what they saw as issues. He then had them score each concern from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. Bonnett said this helped them prioritize important challenges.

A long list of 36 items was brought down to a short list of 13 issues, with opportunities for the North Bridge replacement and new RCMP/Town Hall building tying for first place.

The list was then separated into corporate priorities that the CAO and council would address and operational strategies for the CAO and staff to work on.

Corporate strategies in order of importance:

• Hire a CAO.

• North Bridge replacement request for proposal.

• A draft organizational review to be outlined.

• A terms of reference for an economic development strategy.

• A multi-use community building memorandum of understanding with Ponoka County.

An interesting result from the scoring showed council had 58 points out of 70 for a new recreation multi-use building while department heads did not give it a score at all. Conversely, council scored 29 on a new RCMP/Town Hall building, while staff scored 41 points on the issue.

Bonnett said while the two groups did not always see eye-to-eye, the scoring helped them see the other group’s perspective.

“We actually got to sit down and have a conversation,” he stated.

Operational strategies for the CAO and staff are as follows:

• CAO: Work on an organizational review and a memorandum of understanding with Ponoka County on a multi-use building.

• Planning and development: Ongoing bylaw reviews and updates on annexation and an update for an industrial area structure plan. Donna Brinkworth, communications officer with the Town of Ponoka, said planning and development will also be working on updating the inter-municipal development plan that includes agreements between the Town of Ponoka and Ponoka County.

• Community services: To work on a recreation master plan and a playground development plan.

Improvements on the soccer pitch north of the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre is also on the list and Wes Amendt, director of community services, says work has already begun with Ponoka Minor Soccer Association and Ponoka County joining with the town to complete the project.

• Protective services: Bylaw enforcement and reviews.

• Finance: To update new municipal Diamond software and finish the water meter conversion.

• Operations: To develop an infrastructure action plan and to receive requests for cost proposals to replace the North Bridge replacement.

• Economic development: An economic development strategy and business visitations program. Brinkworth says the latter will be to bring members of the Economic Development Board and councillors to meet with business owners. She says it will give businesses a chance to provide ideas and feedback to the town.

• Corporate services: Communication analysis and replacing the main server are on the list. For the former, Brinkworth’s role will be to determine how administration’s internal and external communications work and to find ways to get information out to the public.

“Everybody (staff and council) is just so excited that we are going to be communicating proactively,” said Brinkworth.

The full Strategic Priorities Report can be found at Town Hall or online at www.ponoka.ca in the May 13 town council agenda.