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NewsroomComprehensive and Strategic Planning for Municipalities: Is it Worth It?

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In the book “Awaken the Giant Within,” Anthony Robbins talks about what he calls “The Niagara Syndrome.” Anthony believes that life is like a river, and that most people jump on the river of life without ever really deciding where they want to end up. So, in a short period of time, they get caught up in the current: current events, current fears, and current challenges. When they come to forks in the river, they don’t consciously decide where they want to go, or which is the right direction for them. They merely “go with the flow.” They become a part of the mass of people who are directed by the environment instead of by their own values and aspirations. As a result, they feel out of control. They remain in this unconscious state until one day the sound of the raging water awakens them, and they discover that they’re five feet from Niagara Falls in a boat with no oars. At this point; they say “Oh, shoot!” but by then it’s too late. They’re going to take a fall. Sometimes it’s an emotional fall. Sometimes it’s a physical fall. Sometimes it’s a financial fall. It’s likely that whatever challenges you have in your life currently could have been avoided by some better decisions upstream.

A Municipality, much like an individual, must decide what they want to look like, feel like, and be like in another five to twenty years from now. Only by the leaders in the community deciding what the Municipality should look like and feel like in the future can progress be made in shaping the future of the community. Without a plan, the daily decision making process is only about today and not about how that decision could and does affect the future of the Municipality. What a lot of us don’t think about is making a decision means we are making a commitment to achieving a result. If a decision is not based on a long term result, then the decision is usually only made based on the current situation, which may or may not lead to a great, long term result.

If the Municipality does not have long term goals and plan for achieving those goals, then in the future citizens are likely to ask, “How did we get here?” This is the importance of a well thought out Comprehensive Plan (CP), which includes land use planning. For a smaller Municipality a well thought out Strategic Plan (SP), which includes minimal or no land use planning, is not only a proactive plan for implementation to move forward to designing the future the Municipality wants to look, feel and be like, but becomes a basis for making decisions on a daily basis.

To implement a CP or SP, a Municipality needs to prepare an Asset Management Plan and Capital Improvement Plan. An Asset Management Plan is associated with how to best utilize and maintain existing short term assets, generally with a life expectancy of 15 years or less. The Capital Improvement Plan is associated with long term assets, generally with a life expectancy of more than 15 years, or larger improvements which, may require financing or saving through a reserve fund and will move you closer to you future goal. The adoption of an Asset Management Plan allows for the planning and budgeting for operation and maintenance of both short term and long term assets. With the adoption of the Capital Improvement Plan, you have the planning and budgeting for long term capital improvements to get the Municipality to its long term goals.

Is Comprehensive and Strategic Planning for Municipalities worth it? Only if you want to design the future for your community instead of leaving your future to chance. Don’t let your community end up five feet from Niagara Falls without oars saying “Oh, Shoot! How did we get here?”

The Mission of EBH Engineers is to help Municipalities Prosper and Grow. This is done by assisting in preparing the tools for making great decisions based on what the Municipality wants to accomplish and be in the future. EBH Engineers can assist your Municipality in the preparation of a Comprehensive Plan, Strategic Plan, Asset Management Plan, Capital Improvement Plan and Utility Rate Structures.

Article Written By:
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    Alan Luttrell, PE

Alan Luttrell, PE, EBH President and General Manager, is a licensed professional engineer with over 40 years of experience in engineering. He is responsible for the overall operations, growth and leadership of EBH. In addition to his administrative duties with EBH, he works with communities in the areas of strategic planning, asset management, wastewater planning and design, and water distribution planning and design. Contact Alan if you would like to discuss your municipality’s strategic planning, asset management, wastewater or water distribution needs at 620-672-1112.

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