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Strategic planning focuses on city government role

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News Jamestown,North Dakota 58401 http://www.jamestownsun.com/sites/all/themes/jamestownsun_theme/images/social_default_image.png
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Strategic planning focuses on city government role
Jamestown North Dakota 121 3rd St NW 58401

Headed by Mayor Katie Andersen, the city started its strategic planning process Monday. Not surprisingly, given the nasty cold and blowing snow, weather was considered a threat during an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

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This opening strategic planning meeting of City Council members and a half dozen representatives of various agencies was devoted to a mission statement, a vision statement and a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Andersen stressed that although the SWOT analysis could cover almost anything, the strategic plan must focus solely on city government's role. For example, while retail could be a weakness, it's not a responsibility of city government. Nor is the weather.

"We can talk about some things, but we have no control over them," she said. "So the first question is: Just what is the city responsible for?"

To determine the mission statement, which is a statement of purpose, Andersen asked the group to list the city's responsibilities. They included areas such as water, storm and sanitary sewers, police and fire, snow removal, parking, codes and inspection and to some extent, economic development. The economic development aspect of city government has been delegated to the Jamestown/ Stutsman Development Corp.

After brainstorming various possibilities, a tentative mission statement was presented by City Administrator Jeff Fuchs. It was "To provide efficient governmental services to the stakeholders within the financial resources of the community." As a purpose, the group agreed it was straight forward and simple.

Alden Kollman said items such as providing an attractive business climate, safety or a comfortable environment could be added as bullet points. Kollman headed up the advisory committee studying city government that advised a strategic plan for the city.

The vision statement deals with what city government aspires to be. Potentially, it could be "To be the most accessible, efficient and transparent government for a city of our size." Everyone agreed that was a workable vision statement at least for now.

Listing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats covered the white board used for writing, and, still, not everything was noted with regard to the community. Strengths included such items as financial health, JSDC incentives, the Civic Center, a central location and an experienced work force. Among the weaknesses, the two rivers were named. Those and trains separate the city. Having only one underpass was also seen as a weakness as were the lack of a water tower and fire protection on the south side of town.

The lack of signage and poor communication were seen as a weakness as was the lack of street lighting, sidewalks and bike lanes. Also included was the lack of an expansion plan for the city and aging infrastructure.

Opportunities were seen in the fiber optic network, the local and social media, an aging population, clean air and a good water source. The new hospital, college, North Dakota State Hospital and prison were also seen as opportunities as was the Spiritwood Energy Park.

Among the threats were the work force shortage, negative attitudes, the decline in federal funding and being a low priority for state funding. Floods, weather and snow were included in the threats as was the world and national economy, an aging population and the lack of local TV news. Another threat is seen in the lack of direction from residents.

The strategic planning meetings are set from 4 to 6 p.m. for the last Monday of the month in City Hall's lower level. Andersen had wondered if the meetings shouldn't be held later in the evening for broader participation.

"The things you're concentrating on (city government only) don't require evening meetings," said Deb Kantrud, executive director of the South Central Dakota Regional Council.

Andersen said she had invited a few of the major employers, who said they'd attend as they can. Bill Kennedy, Jamestown Hospital marketing director, suggested inviting at least one entrepreneur to provide input on what city government can do in that area.

The next meeting at the end of February will be brainstorming projects that address the weaknesses or defend against the threats. Later meetings include presentations by various departments on their strategies.

"We encourage citizens to attend and participate in this process," Andersen said.

Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at tonip@jamestownsun.com

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