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The Board of Selectmen (BOS) continues to move forward on a strategic 10-year plan for the town, presenting a revised draft and taking public comments on the broad initiative, which seeks to channel input from various sources into a single collaborative blueprint for the next decade of Madison life and development.
Working with the Board of Finance, Board of Education, and a variety of other community leaders and stakeholders as well as contracting the services of Management Partners, an Ohio-based consulting company, the BOS has worked on the plan over the past year and a half. After surveying other town employees and volunteers and holding two general public input sessions, a completed draft was presented to the public on July 25.
Selectman Al Goldberg said that the plan, in many ways, “represents a departure from traditional Madison thinking.”
“What I have heard the public say is, that we want to refocus municipal government into a vehicle which carries out the current wishes of the townspeople,” Goldberg said.
The plan, which can be viewed in its entirety on the town’s website www.madisonct.org, is separated into five “guiding pillars”—community, economic development, education, natural resources, and government—each with several goals that First Selectman Tom Banisch said are achievable by 2029.
Those goals vary widely in scope and specificity, from solving wastewater issues in the downtown area to expanding educational facilities and a general increase of transportation options for youth and seniors, with the guiding principle being “to improve the quality of life for people of all ages and cultures.”
Though at this point the plan does not include binding commitments or action, if it is adopted officially, the town will provide timelines, work plans, and multi-year priorities in order to bring about the vision.
As the BOS members walked through their presentations, Selectman Scott Murphy paused to remind everyone what the impetus and driving force of the plan was.
“This input came from you, the public. Keep in mind, we are sort of facilitating and bringing it all together...all of this did come from community input,” he said.
The comprehensive, almost eclectic nature of the plan, according to Goldberg, was due to this fact: The BOS is simply trying to listen and exercise the will of the townspeople.
“It is important to note,” Goldberg said, “that what the public thinks the most important mission of town government is, is to improve the quality of life. And that may run counter to a traditional way of thinking about town government, which is often to offer minimal level of services at an absolutely minimal cost.”
“The input we got was so diverse, and so powerful for us,” said Murphy, “that it was sort of hard to package into just a couple pillars.”
Public concerns raised at the meeting focused mostly on two practical subjects: finances and results.
Responding to one concern raised about tax increases, Selectman Bruce Wilson said the town would continue to be prudent when it comes to financial decisions and fiscal policy.
Goldberg also offered the assurance that the town would measure goals in a way that would be “understandable and quantitative,” while Murphy reminded everyone that the BOS had proven methods for implementing programs and tracking progress.
“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Murphy said.
Beth Coyne, president of the E.C. Scranton Library, attended the meeting, which she said was her first significant interaction with the plan.
“I think strategic planning processes are really good,” said Coyne. “And that it could be a good experience for the town.”
Coyne stood up during the public segment to offer the library as a resource to fulfill the plan’s educational goals, or any other project, and also said she hoped there would be “genuine collaboration” between all the various boards and agencies going forward.
“I think there are so many very good people who run for office, and want to see our town grow and thrive in all areas,” Coyne said, “and that might look and sound different to different people. And so I think to have a strategic plan that will represent the whole town, we will need to see people collaborating, and not have it be aligned with a political party.”
Coyne said she was encouraged by the meeting and in conversations she had with BOS members afterward, and that she planned to continue to be involved in the process.
Going forward, the newly unveiled draft will be disseminated to the public and to other elected officials and community leaders, after which more revisions will be made, with a possible final draft coming to the board for a vote this fall.
Some goals laid out in the plan, Banisch said, are in fact already in the process of being implemented, including a list of commercial properties that are ripe for development and an updated risk management action plan, but that when drafting it, the BOS operated as if “everything was new.”
“Throughout the process, we have brought different groups together, not to be exclusive but to be inclusive...and so cooperatively, we as a town government are working together to develop the strategic plan.”
Goldberg said that he hoped the plan might result in a sea change as far as how the town measures progress and success.
“As we think about the government of our future,” he said, “let’s design in ways of measuring performance, ways of measuring achievement—is the public satisfied with the service that is being delivered?”
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