Starland County taking steps to engage public in future planning

ECA Review/Terri Huxley
Written by Terri Huxley

One of the most important functions to a successfully running municipality can be argued to be communication.

Starland County administration is in the process of connecting council with residents more so than ever before with the use of a new survey through Ethelo.

The other maneuver was looking at implementing a strategic plan that empasses current stages as well as future plans and directions for the vision of the county.

Financial director Judy Fazekas shared a presentation on the benefits and how the strategic plan would work for this municipality as she discovered there was never any physical document written for everyone to be on the same page.

It is a living document reviewed every year typically that contains current information like county priorities, annual reports, finances, revenue sources, services offered, attractions and so on all in one convenient place for the public to explore and for council to use as a roadmap for future success.

“I like the idea of needing a forward plan,” said Coun. Jackie Watts. “We seem to go in different directions a lot of the time because we don’t have anything set out. It’s not sustainable like it is.”

Council asked Fazekas to get quotes from potential consultants to build a strategic plan.

Ethelo is a Canadain company that specializes in providing municipal-oriented surveys for detailed results from constituents.

Fazekas shared the main questions and points that have been submitted to the company for them to turn the survey from notes into reality.

Council had a couple minor changes including the addition of submitting an email at the end for those that wish to be put on the emailing list and asking residents which division they live in.

Being specific about the area would help administration and council determine what the important issues are for each area compared to having the whole county.

A conversation about the importance of certain services the county provides was discussed. 

Reeve Wannstrom, when looking at the draft, felt ranking 23 different services was a lot for people to rank.

Instead, he asked to have it broken down into services they must maintain (as mandated by provincial and federal law) and optional work like agricultural education and summer camps to show what the county provides.

Fazekas said the survey may take anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes to complete and is expected to launch next month.

“We have to advertise this,” said Fazekas, “as every stakeholders opportunity to actually have some meaningful feedback to council and county administration in terms of where we are going from here, how do we address our current situation, what are we doing well, what aren’t we doing well, etc.

“It could be a long time before we have a town hall meeting. We want diverse feedback from as many different people as possible. We want a lot of different opinions because I think that is the way that we are going to be able to set strategy and have consensus within the community,” said Fazekas.

“I agree with Jackie that it’s nice to know what people want in their division and their own backyard as far as road maintenance or tourism or attractions of some kind,” said Coun. Murray Marshall, “Because people in my division could not know especially of what is going on in Jackie’s division nor do they probably care but if we are getting windmills up in this area, maybe people in Jackie’s area really don’t care. I think it will help quite a bit.”

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.