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Hagerstown City Council reviews components of strategic plan

August 31, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

The Hagerstown City Council spent an hour Tuesday refining a strategic plan to guide its future.

Using a previous strategic plan as a template, city staff drafted a list of potential focus areas, goals and objectives for the plan that incorporated responses to a recent SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and previous council comments.

Staff members presented the draft plan to council Tuesday for additions, deletions and changes.

"I don't want to go helter skelter over this list," Councilman William Breichner said.

The council waded through the objectives in two of four focus areas, holding some for future work sessions.

Focusing on objectives to make Hagerstown "a prosperous community" as well as objectives to make it "a vibrant, active and livable community," council members looked at ways to move the city forward.

"If we don't put the ideas out there to begin with, nothing at all will happen," Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said.

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Councilman Martin Brubaker stressed that the city was looking to its future while it waded through a difficult fiscal climate.

"The message is that we are looking for good strategies, good ways to move the city forward, but we will have limited funding to do so," he said.

Keeping the discussion focused, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner suggested refining the language in the plan to reflect "examining the feasibility" of certain projects rather than planning for or creating projects.

"I think we can all get behind that (examining)," he said.

Metzner noted that using words such as "plan for" and "create" imply action the city is not yet in a position to take, despite suggested dates listed for each project.

Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood and Brubaker both questioned including an objective to "begin review of a bridge over the Antietam Creek at Professional Court tied to annexation and future development."

The bridge would be outside the city boundaries with an anticipated price tag of more than $20 million, Brubaker said.

It is a project the city should not take the lead on, he said.

Haywood said she wanted to keep the strategic plan limited to projects within the city.

"It has to be achievable, feasible and it has to be within the confines of our operation," she said.

The council ultimately decided to keep the bridge in the plan at the suggestion of Breichner, who proposed revising the objective to say that the city will cooperate with the county and the state on plans for the bridge.

Council members also questioned the objective to create an image campaign for Hagerstown and for city government.

Hagerstown Advance, a program to foster economic development, was sold to the council as a way to rebrand Hagerstown, Haywood said.

John Lestitian, director of community and economic development, said Hagerstown Advance focuses on economic development, while the staff proposal for the strategic plan is a comprehensive image campaign for the entire city.

"I think that should be the No. 1 priority for the city," Councilman Forrest Easton said.

Council members did not delete anything from the first two focus areas of the draft plan, but they asked staff members to add five objectives.

Brubaker asked to include examining some past ideas for trails in the city.

Easton asked to include exploring a plan to assist nonprofits in ways other than money, to push for more volunteerism and to attract people from the fringe into the city.

Breichner asked the council to examine the feasibility of a trolley for downtown.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said staff members will update the plan and will bring it back to the council for further review in September.

He said the goal is to offer it for approval at the regular session Sept. 28.

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