Salisbury hears update on city’s strategic plan

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, September 12, 2023

SALISBURY — One of the priorities laid out at the Salisbury City Council retreat in January was the need for a strategic plan to guide the city over the next several years. Council budgeted $75,000 to help turn the plan from an idea into an actual initiative for the city to implement. Not long after, Salisbury sent out a request for proposal to firms asking to assist with the large undertaking and ended up receiving 16 replies. On the Sept. 5 meeting, city council heard from the chosen firm, Raftelis, about the upcoming plan and what they are doing to have it ready by the January deadline.

Budget Manager Tracey Keyes said that the city went with Raftelis because they are a national company that has a team based in North Carolina while also having experience partnering with other local governments in and out of the state. Raftelis Senior Manager Catherine Carter described that the goal of the strategic plan is to develop a three-to-five-year “vision” for Salisbury and to figure out strategies that can be enacted to support it. The plan itself acts as a “roadmap” for the path Salisbury takes, holds the city accountable for what they decide on, and is a communication “tool” for the public to understand the direction everything is heading.

Carter says Raftelis asks three questions to get a sense of what kind of plan to execute: What do we know to be true today? What do we hope to be true in the future? What must go well in order to make it so? Raftelis obtains answers from the first two questions by engaging with city staff, conducting interviews with city council and other committee members, and by sending out employee surveys. That collected information is made into a “community profile” which helps shape the kind of tasks, goals, and decisions the city will need to make on the horizon. That is currently being completed and will be ready to present to council during a scheduled workshop on Oct. 6.

During the workshop, council will hear the results of what the consensus thinks about Salisbury. They will then utilize that “context” to form the “framework” of the strategic plan. Through November and December, Raftelis will go off that to collaborate with city staff on strategies, discover ways tasks can be measured for progress, and ensure department values still align with the overall plan. Timelines, logistical measures, and what to prioritize will be discussed during this period. Council will be getting constant updates and be able to approve or deny strategies that are proposed.

The three-to-five-year strategic plan is more of a “middle ground” between Salisbury’s yearly budget and the Forward 2040 project. Where as the Forward 2040 comprehensive plan mainly deals with infrastructure and those kind of regulations, the strategic plan focuses on its own particular ideas.

“It also includes elements that aren’t included in your comprehensive plan. So, it’s going to have more of the programs that you might want to see or more of the community feel and quality of life elements that aren’t specifically part of the built environment, but that the city is working on on behalf of the community,” Carter said.

According to a strategic plan that Raftelis did for Washington D.C.’s public works department, some of the strategies that were presented to them were: “Implement two-way communications programs to inform, understand and anticipate the needs of the public and partner agencies,” and “Develop and implement an information technology plan for the selection, application, and adoption of modern technology.”