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City takes glimspe into future

WORTHINGTON -- The city of Worthington's strategic plan may do many things, but sitting on a shelf collecting dust shouldn't be one of them. At least that's the hope of council members, who approved a contract with Global Synergy Group (GSG) for ...

City of Worthington
Worthington City Hall (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- The city of Worthington's strategic plan may do many things, but sitting on a shelf collecting dust shouldn't be one of them.

At least that's the hope of council members, who approved a contract with Global Synergy Group (GSG) for nearly $10,000 to complete a strategic plan for the city at its Aug. 10 meeting.

The strategic planning process will establish council priorities and an overall vision for the community.

And though plan costs will be paid by interest from hospital sale proceeds, the price tag still carries the expectation the plan will be well-used.

"I'm just wondering if we're really committed to following through on this," questioned councilman Mike Kuhle before the council's vote.

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The council members agreed they were.

"I feel like we have some pretty substantial challenges in front of us, with the decline in funding from the state and the challenge we have of using hospital proceeds wisely in the future," said councilman Lyle Ten Haken. "I am fully in favor of doing a strategic plan for the city and spending those limited resources wisely."

Explained City Administrator Craig Clark, "We don't want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish." With about $56 million in the city's total operating budget, "it would be foolish to not spend $10,000 to figure out how to spend $56 million efficiently," he said.

According to the project proposal submitted by GSG, the plan should address major issues expected in the next five years, identify a vision for the community; develop of a mission statement and core values for the city, establish long- and short-term goals and provide a way to evaluate the progress made.

The process could include interviews and meetings with elected officials (city council members, for example), department heads, other key staff or board members and citizens. A final report should be compiled and presented to the council before the year's end.

The citizen involvement component -- which could include interviews, focus groups and an online survey of Worthington's current condition -- will be especially important, Clark said.

"We've got to be about the business of the people, that's what were here for," he said. "If we're talking about where we're at and where we want to go, we'd be remiss in not including them in that process."

Specifically, the plan should also clarify the roles of the city council and city staff, identify funding sources for projects, help develop the city's industrial park north of town and identify uses for hospital sale proceeds, Clark detailed.

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Perhaps most importantly, though, it should help set some priorities for the city council.

"There may be a great idea that comes up ... but if it's not in our strategic plan or goals and objectives we can say 'time out,'" Clark explained. "Do we want to change where we said we want to go? "We can (also) say, 'This may be might be a good idea, but it's not really a goal and objective,' and if we did (it) then that would take us away from this goal and objective and the resources that go with it.

"There's a lot of demands placed on staff time," Clark added, "so if something comes up we can say 'No, council's given us our priorities and that's not one of them."'

The plan will be facilitated by Richard and Irina Fursman, founders of the Maplewood-based GSG, which has also completed strategic plans for Luverne, St. James and a number of other Minnesota cities.

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