ARICHAT: The municipality wants to hear from the public as it works to finalize a strategic plan by the end of the year.
Richmond CAO Kent MacIntyre explained that the municipality currently has no strategic plan and new provincial funding guidelines will require municipalities to make such plans.
“… In the coming years, the province is going ask municipalities that when they look for funding, they want to see a municipal plan,” MacIntyre said. “So we want to get out ahead of that and make sure that we have a strategic municipal plan.”
MacIntyre opened the September 18 session at the New Horizons Seniors Club in Arichat by providing an update on what is going on in Richmond County, including up-to-date demographic data and financial numbers.
MacIntyre explained that attendees are asked to answer eight questions, including preferences for municipal priorities, as well as the method for electing councillors and wardens.
“We’ll be asking you to walk around the room, in no certain order, it’s whatever you want to do, you can answer any or all of those questions,” MacIntyre explained at the start of the meeting. “Whatever your answer or comment will be, write it down, pull it out and stick it on the white boards. At the end of the night, all of these will be passed on to our writer.”
MacIntyre said he has attended other informal and interactive meetings and he found them very productive.
“We thought this was absolutely wonderful for people to get in a comfort zone, get the juices flowing, interact with each other, talk with each other, walk around the room, look at different things and just be more or less in a mode where they can have good conversations about really salient points,” the CAO stated.
After doing that for approximately 30 minutes, a survey was then circulated, which participants were able to complete at the meetings or on-line.
In the meantime, the CAO, as well as all department heads for the municipality, were available to assist discussion and help generate ideas.
MacIntyre said aside from the public and council, the strategic plan will also receive input from the municipal management team.
“We’ve already had some input from council, that’s why we’ll see the vision statement on the wall, and the mission statement,” MacIntyre explained. “That came from council. They’re in draft form; they want the public to have a look at it, and tweak that and tear it apart.”
Aside from the need for full participation, one of the most important points to stress at these meetings is the need for the municipality to move on from the controversies of the past, MacIntyre said.
“Residents already have some history and they know what’s happened in the past and they know what’s worked and didn’t,” the Chief Administrative Officer noted. “So when we ask them to think about the future, they’ll quietly think about some of the stuff didn’t work and suggest something new. And that’s what we’re looking for, something new for the county to move forward.”
After meetings were held in Arichat, Louisdale and D’Escousse, there are public sessions planned for: the St. Peter’s Lions Hall on September 26; the River Bourgeois Community Centre on September 27; the L’Ardoise Community Centre on October 2; the Fourchu Community Hall on October 3; and the Riverdale Community Centre on October 15. All public meetings are scheduled from 7-9 p.m.
Once the eight sessions have concluded, the following week, municipal staff and the management team will meet, then they will sit down with the professional writer hired to compile the feedback into a report. After a 30-day period, the writer will submit her first draft to council, then the expectation by the CAO is to have a draft ready for the November monthly meeting of council. If further changes are required, the report can then go back to council in December for final approval.