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Council members struggle to take first step in drafting new strategic plan

May 04, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

HAGERSTOWN -- It took 90 minutes of discussion Tuesday for the Hagerstown City Council to take a first step in drafting a new strategic plan.

Three of the five council members --Lewis C. Metzner, William M. Breichner and Martin E. Brubaker --preferred using the general structure of the city's 2002 strategic plan and updating it by having staff incorporate the responses to a recent SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats) analysis to fit within established key performance areas.

There were as many different opinions on what constituted a strategic plan as there were participants in the discussion, Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said.

"I don't think we have a direction," Bruchey said. "We may have a plan to eventually get a direction, but we have no direction."

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To aid the council, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman compiled a summary of responses to the city's SWOT analysis.

Staff and council conducted the analysis to flesh out how each department head, each council member and the mayor saw the city, he said.

Spanning more than two pages, the summary was too detailed and too loosely organized to provide a clear framework for the plan, Councilman Forrest W. Easton said.

"I think we need to narrow our categories and focus on those," he said.

Advocating that the council begin its plan by asking "why" something was a strength, weakness, opportunity or threat, Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood said the strategic plan needed, above everything, to provide structure.

"We can't move forward if we don't recognize where we are," she said. "We can't figure out where to go first without figuring out how to prepare for it first."

Taking a business approach, Bruchey said he hoped to see clear goals and a detailed path to achieving those goals.

"We should leave this table tonight with at least some direction for our staff to go in tomorrow," he said. "Tomorrow is the first step."

After more than an hour of discussion that included talk of a new stadium, addressing needs without spending money and going green, the council was no closer to beginning the plan than when it started, Metzner said.

"We haven't gotten close to three people saying, 'This is how we are going to do it,'" he said of the plan.

Noting the lack of consensus, he said if two members could agree on an approach, he would be the third.

Within five minutes of Metzner's offer, Breichner had suggested using the old 2002 plan framework and incorporating SWOT and Brubaker had backed him up.

Disappointed with the work session, Haywood said afterward that she hoped the strategic plan would begin with action, not ideas.

"We were skirting the elephant in the room," she said. "We need to recognize our deficiencies as a city, and I don't think some people want to do that."

Pleased with having some sense of direction, Zimmerman said staff will move forward on the plan for the May 18 work session.

"I'm leaving frustrated," Haywood said.

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