CAO says TBM failed to keep focus of last strategic plan

The Town of The Blue Mountains is in the early stages of creating a new corporate strategic plan for the community.

At a special committee of the whole meeting on June 17, council approved a resolution and report from CAO Shawn Everitt to start the process to develop a new corporate strategic plan for the town. The current plan was adopted in 2020 for the years 2020-2024.

Council approved the creation of a corporate strategic plan task force that will include three members of council that will establish a process, policy and timelines for the development of a new strategic plan. Council also agreed to set aside $100,000 in the 2025 budget for the project.

Everitt’s report on the status of the strategic plan generated a frank conversation between the CAO and council about the successes and failures of the current plan.

Everitt said the plan was approved just a few months into the COVID pandemic, which caused two and half years of upheaval across the world.

The current plan had two main themes: early and often communication and a plan to execute mindset.

The CAO said on the communications front, the town had been successful.

“We communicate a lot,” Everitt said. “Communication is a top priority.”

However, he said the town hadn’t done as well on the other theme.

“It’s the plan to execute piece we really need to work on,” he said. “There is a critical need for staff and council to remain focused.”

During the discussion, Everitt pointed out that the town has to get better at completing projects, tasks and major works.

“It’s not acceptable that our norm is 10 - 12 years to do a construction job on one of our roads,” he said. “The money we are wasting is unacceptable. Infrastructure projects, honestly, have to get done in a term of council.”

The CAO said the town often gets sidetracked by new notices of motion from council and reconsiderations of previous decisions.

“In my role, I need to push back, not only with staff, but - with all due respect - with council,” he said. “Lots of time in this room, I probably should have been grabbing (the strategic plan) and saying: this (project) falls outside what we should be considering.”

The CAO took responsibility for the lack of update reports to council on the progress of the plan. He said over the course of the five years 11 such reports had been due.

“I will take responsibility, none of those reports were brought forward,” he said.

Members of council expressed gratitude to Everitt for his frankness.

“Thank you for being honest,” said Coun. Gail Aridel, whose resolution on the issue prompted the update from the CAO. “Strategic plans in any municipality are vital. If we’re not doing our strategic plan, we’re not doing what the community wants or needs. We’re lost souls.”

Later in the meeting, Coun. Paula Hope moved a resolution approved by council to develop a “scorecard” to better track the updates to council the strategic plan requires.

“That’s not the easiest report that has ever been delivered. Greater updates would help us,” said Hope.

Mayor Andrea Matrosovs said council as a whole must be aware and accept that projects generated from notices of motion might delay other projects.

“We have to be realistic, it’s something we have to be cognizant of,” said Matrosovs.

Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon said a “get it done” mindset will be important for the future.

“We bear some responsibility at this side of the table for side-tracking projects,” said Bordignon. “I’d like to see us be more actionable. Sometimes we have to make a decision and move forward.”

Everitt stressed that the task force in his resolution would develop the process to establish a new strategic plan. The actual plan will be developed in full by council.

“What does the process look like? What does the structure look like?” he said, noting that recommendations will be made about bringing in outside consultants and/or facilitators or preparing the strategic plan internally, like the previous plan.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca