Statesboro’s city government will pay a consulting firm $28,500 to guide a strategic planning process to forecast the city’s needs in areas such as streets, utilities and public safety for the next five to 10 years.
Mayor Jan Moore related the proposal to a question Councilman Phil Boyum asked early in 2016 before the council approved an increase in residential water rates. Boyum had asked what the water department planned to do with the money. That, Moore said, was “an absolutely legitimate” question.
Although she thinks the city’s leaders usually make good decisions, “we don’t have the data we need to support the decisions that we’re making, and operating on gut is not a lot of fun,” she said.
“With a strategic plan, we can begin to look at what different districts need, what this city is going to need from an infrastructure standpoint over the next five to 10 years,” Moore said. “You know, pipes have to be fixed, roads have to be paved, assets have to be maintained, safety has to be on the forefront, all of these things, and without that strategic plan, we can’t point to what we need or why we need it.”
Frank Neal, the city’s planning and development director, presented the proposal from Amec Foster Wheeler, an Atlanta-based firm, to guide the development of the strategic plan for a lump-sum fee of $28,500. More than one firm had answered the city’s request for proposals, Neal said, but he did not say how many or name other firms during the meeting.
Called later Tuesday, Neal identified Phoenix Associates Consulting Inc. as the only other firm to answer the request and said Phoenix had asked for fees of at least $106,000, not to exceed $125,000. Further, he had been more familiar with Amec Foster Wheeler’s work, Neal said.
For the $28,500, Amec promises to review existing master plans, analyze data and prepare an “economic snapshot” of Statesboro, hold a series of meetings for public input and develop five-year and 10-year implementation programs. The city’s current Comprehensive Plan, its Long-Range Transportation Plan, the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority Master Plan and the Tax Allocation District Redevelopment Plan are those identified for review.
Three public workshop meetings, two of which would be held in a single day, are suggested in the final proposal letter. It also lists a public kickoff meeting, a meeting of the firm’s representatives with City Council, and a final presentation of the strategic plan in printed formats as steps in the process, projected to take three to six months.
A survey also would be conducted, allowing people to have input who cannot attend the meetings, said City Manager Randy Wetmore. Moore said she hopes to “excite” people about participating in Statesboro’s long-range planning and thinks it important for not only residents but businesses and property owners to have a voice. Statesboro has many nonresident property owners, she said.
“We want folks to tell us what they want their city to look like in five years, what do you want your city to look like in 10 years, and then we’ll take that collective vision and see what it’s going to take to get us there,” Moore said.
Councilman Jeff Yawn said he is excited about having a long-term plan supported by information.
“I’m very excited about it … having the data necessary to make sound decisions, not just with great hope,” he said.
Boyum made the motion to start the process by contracting with Amec for its services and was seconded by Councilman John Riggs. All motions Tuesday carried 4-0, with Councilman Travis Chance absent.
“I think a key, too, is if we have these plans in place, we can better take advantage of opportunities that present themselves, or prepare ourselves for opportunity,” Boyum said.
Giving an example, he said money is “starting to pile up” from the state’s new fees and tax structure for transportation projects, and improvements to Georgia Highway 67, which within Statesboro is Fair Road, are a priority.
“Expanding 67 is very high on the regional transportation list, so when that happens we need to be, as a city, ready to take advantage: Do we want to run water out that way, ... sewer … gas, or even help a fiber company run something out that way,” Boyum said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.