The Beaver Dam Common Council met Monday to hear a presentation from Gary Becker, planning consultant with GWB Professional Services, about creating a new strategic plan and forming a community development authority.
Becker serves with the Local Government Institute, a nonprofit associated with the League of Municipalities, which helps municipalities do research and collaborate.
The city put a comprehensive plan in place in 2009 and Mayor Becky Glewen said it’s time to consider revising that plan. Becker said the usual method of making a plan starts in the past, and recommended a new “strategic foresight” method.
“So you’re basically looking backwards before you start looking forward,” Becker said. “I think that’s one of the fatal flaws of traditional strategic planning.”
He said, in making a new plan, the process would start with department heads and other officials by looking at city operations. The preparation phase could involve asking residents about city services.
The process would then involve workshops where about 35 participants would have table discussions. Becker said the idea is to identify trends and that it could cost about $5,000. Glewen said the city has been saving money for this purpose and funds are available.
City Attorney Maryann Schacht wondered whether it would make sense to involve the county, as Beaver Dam is the biggest city in the county. Becker said things get much more complicated when other units of government are included. Schacht also wondered whether the town of Beaver Dam, which surrounds the city, could be included for better collaboration. Becker said that would have advantages.
Council President Cris Olson wanted to know what moving forward with this kind of idea would actually mean for the city instead of just throwing around adjectives, what would actually happen, such whether it could identify possible ways to make government more efficient.
Becker said the outcome is to be determined, based on the discussions that happen and depends on people involved having an open mind.
Council member Kara Nelson said it sounds like a good way to brainstorm and get out of individual bubbles to address common concerns.
“I felt by a financial perspective, there are a lot of needs and wants that organizations have,” said Jeff Wiswell, the director of administration, who helped bring up the concept. “The idea is to look globally at public works stuff, things, the efficiencies of government, how to make government more effective.”
Wiswell said there are a lot of needs under discussion, whether it be fixing the roads or a new pool, and this type of discussion would help everyone get on the same page.
Council member Kevin Burnett asked how this would be different than the city’s annual process to borrow money for big projects. Glewen said this would include things that are outside of this process.
Council member Jane Loizzo said this sounds like an organized way to give plans more thought. She said she was involved with something similar for the school district, where she is a high school librarian, and it was really beneficial for the district’s strategic plan.
Becker said it could also be time to form a community development authority in the city. Community development authorities can work on housing, redevelopment and blight. He said such a board would be more effective and dealing with these complicated issues and have several relevant powers under state law.
Burnett wondered whether such a board could have helped with the process the city used to purchase the vacant Lakeview Hospital building from Beaver Dam Community Hospitals. Glewen said it could help with making a south side entrance to the city.
The council will decide whether to pursue these ideas at a later meeting. On Monday, they were just up for discussion.