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Annual City Council retreat set for March 21-22, but agenda still undetermined

SALISBURY — The new City Council will have its annual retreat March 21-22.

But what will be discussed at the retreat — and, more important, how it will be discussed — was up for debate Tuesday.

Mayor Al Heggins started the late afternoon meeting by discussing the city’s vision and mission statements.

“Generally, when you think about your vision and mission statement, the vision statement focuses on tomorrow. It paints a picture of what you want to see, what you want your future to be like,” Heggins said. “And mission statement focuses on today and what an organization does to achieve that.”

Heggins said she wants residents to be involved in deciding how and whether the city’s current vision and mission statements should be changed.

At the council’s Jan. 16 meeting, it voted 3-1 — with Councilman Brian Miller voting no and Councilwoman Karen Alexander being absent — to allot four hours during the retreat for a discussion with the public and staff members about potential updates to the statements.

Alexander said Tuesday she was “having a hard time wrapping my head around” something.

“We call this a goal-setting retreat. And what that means to me — and I wasn’t here to discuss it at that meeting — is that we’re removing ourselves because we have spent a lot of time over the last year having lots of public input,” Alexander said. “… To allocate four hours for more public input for this purpose seems extreme to me. And it takes away from the time actually needed to make those important decisions that then the staff has to go back and develop the budget from.”

Alexander said the vision and mission statements would be better addressed in a subcommittee.

“Because those kinds of things can be discussed and would include many, many more people who wouldn’t be tied to just one day’s schedule that they have to come to,” Alexander said. “And where are we going to meet to have a huge (group), and how are we going to advertise to the citizens of a wide and diverse point of view?”

Heggins said she agrees that details still need to be worked out.

“But I’ll call your attention back to what was voted on at our Jan. 16 meeting,” Heggins said.

Alexander said she wanted to clarify that she was “in no way saying that the people were not important in the process.”

Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield asked if there was a way to “blend” the public input part of the retreat with the part that will involve staff presentations.

“Because then maybe the staff can give input back to the citizens of something in the works that maybe we don’t know about,” Sheffield said.

Heggins said staff members will be present during the public input session but that, since they will be at the entire retreat, session formats can be “adjusted.”

The public is allowed to attend the entire retreat, which will be in two six-hour sessions March 21 and 22.

The sessions will each last from 2 to 8 p.m.

The agenda and location for the retreat have not yet been set, but staff presentations will be given and budget priorities will be discussed.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

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