A new strategic plan that was to be developed for the County of Prince Edward’s Corporate and Community Economic Development Commission by a consulting firm at a cost of nearly $40,000 has been put on the back burner by council while the municipality searches for a new Chief Administrative Officer.
On Tuesday evening at Shire Hall, Prince Edward County Council voted to deny a motion that would have authorized staff to contract MDB Insights at a cost of $39,197.50 to facilitate a replacement of the 2016 visioning and goals document.
The funding for such a plan was originally set aside in the 2019 budget at an estimated cost of $40,000 but it was clear some council members didn’t feel comfortable moving forward without a new CAO in place while others felt a new plan to replace the previous version that was developed in 2016 was a waste of money and wouldn’t assist them in their governance abilities.
According to a report submitted by Director of Development and Strategic Initiatives Neil Carbone in support of the motion, it was understood MDB would undertake a scope of work that would, among other tasks, develop a priority-oriented strategic plan that illustrates how to transform conceptual goals from a visioning process into realistic, achievable targets which encompass all departments within the Corporation.
Furthermore, MDB was expected to develop a final product that would serve as a way to organize and prioritize County initiatives and resources to achieve specific goals within a specific time period and identify priorities that speak to internal Corporate strategies and municipal best practices that help to establish the Corporation as an employer of choice with the capacity to achieve the plan’s other priorities.
An updated Strategic Plan would also enable the Corporation to understand better Regional, Provincial and Federal governments’ mandates and strategic goals in order to better align and leverage the County’s strengths and needs and be done so in a manner that acknowledges the value of on-going public consultation with respect to the community’s and organizations’ needs.
According to Carbone, the 2016 plan was rushed and sole sourced with a different firm and the motion before council on Tuesday evening at Shire Hall was in line with a more robust 2014 plan.
“In terms of how much has the current corporate strategic plan changed, I think we’ve seen quite a bit of change in housing in the community and heard a lot more priority directed to roads and asset management and some of those things were identified in the previous plan but various specific actions were never part of the last 2016 plan,” Carbone said. “What we are hoping for with this is something that will allow council to track performance.”
But it became clear in the discussion that in a time of transition between the departure of past CAO James Hepburn and whomever council hires as a permanent replacement, most around the horseshoe have trepidation in sourcing a plan without the most senior administrator in place.
Councillor Bill Roberts said it was his belief that such a plan or document was essentially a road map that boards or councils bring forth containing the imprint of a CAO or Chief Executive.
“We are in a period of transition in terms of this corporation. The role of the board or a council is to hold the Chief Executive responsible and accountable as the strategic plan reflects his or her values to the entity,” Roberts said. “Why would we be going forward with this?”
Roberts said in the interim, perhaps council could undertake a more lean process practice and examine the operation of the municipality to seek out better performance practices.
Carbone explained that it was council’s prerogative to wait while a permanent candidate for the vacant CAO position was found before implemetning a new strategic plan however there would be a lag between now and when the individual was hired.
“I can’t imagine council would want to go into the second of four budgets without current high level visions and strategies,” Carbone said. “(Not having a CAO in place) is no reason not to have a vision of where you want the community to go.”
Councillor Ernie Margetson said having an new strategic plan in place likely wouldn’t have helped him with the recent budget deliberations and supported more direct and hands-on documents that dealt with operations.
“I’d rather go for an asset management plan and go into what we are dealing with as a council on a day-to-day process,” Margetson said.
Councillor Andreas Bolik explained he examined the response from the Request For Proposal and said it looked like MDB would be developing a plan to hand to the municipality and not a collaborative initiative which is what he believed he was supporting during the budget process.
“We are studying the heck out of the things. We have expertise in council and staff and a plan that’s only two years old, let’s use our brain power and get to work,” Bolik said.