A strategic plan intended to guide the city of Statesboro for five to 10 years in maintaining and extending streets, sidewalks and utilities and improving services such as public safety and recreation is nearing completion.
Consultants are scheduled to report to the public Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall on the results of a survey and last spring’s public input meetings, as well as other research. This will not be the delivery of the plan itself, which is expected in late September or in October, said Statesboro Planning and Development Director Frank Neal.
But he said Tuesday’s session will reveal a list of priorities.
“A lot of that has to do with streets, it has to do with sidewalks, it has to do with water and sewer …,” Neal said. “Recreation facilities, buildings, street lights, all of those have come up during the surveys and from input from the key stakeholders, elected officials, staff members.”
Public safety needs, such as police and fire protection, also ranked as a top priority both in the surveys and in public input meetings.
Taxes & projects
Funding methods are also being considered as the consultants help the city develop five- and 10-year implementation strategies.
In regard to public safety, Mayor Jan Moore and City Council are currently going through a separate hearing process over a proposed property tax increase to fund raises for police officers from new hires to the rank of sergeant.
The strategic plan could help guide how other revenue sources are used for infrastructure projects, officials have said. The council imposed a storm water fee on all in-town addresses beginning in summer 2015 to fund drainage system maintenance and improvements. Statesboro and Bulloch County officials say they must soon begin identifying projects for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax if it is to be put to voters for continuation past fall 2019.
Citizens will have an opportunity to comment on the strategic priorities Tuesday after the consultants make their presentation, Neal said. Further input at this time could help vet or verify the survey results.
“What they’re going to say is, if these are the top three items, ‘Does this look right? Is everyone in agreement with this, or did somebody highjack the survey?’”
There is always a possibility that someone with a particular goal could have arranged for a mass of survey responses that doesn’t reflect what people otherwise observe as local interests. So airing the results gives individuals an opportunity to question them.
“It doesn’t look like that’s what’s happened on this survey,” Neal said. “It looks like we’ve got some good data, and it looks like it’s going to be very valuable data for us and the public to see.”
Neal heads the city’s full-time planning and development staff, which has provided information to the consultants, as have other city departments. But City Council contracted Amec Foster Wheeler, an Atlanta-based firm, in February to develop the strategy with local input and a review of existing plans for a fee of $28,500. Amec subcontracted Bill Ross of the firm Ross & Associates, who had worked with Statesboro before, for assistance.
The consultants, along with city staff members, held two-hour, drop-in public input sessions April 24 at different times at Pittman Park United Methodist Church and the Bulloch County Board of Education office. The city then held two other input sessions on its own, April 27 on the Georgia Southern University campus and May 13 in a meeting room near City Hall.
About 550 responses
Meanwhile, the survey was conducted through a SurveyMonkey link on the city’s website and in paper format. In all, about 550 surveys were completed, Neal said.
“We were real happy with that turnout on the survey,” he said.
Staff members also submitted existing plans, including the city’s comprehensive plan, its capital improvement projects budget and plan and the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority plan to Amec Foster Wheeler for review. The results of the recent study by the separate firm Retail Strategies also helped inform the Amec planning, Neal said.
Moore and City Manager Randy Wetmore proposed the strategic planning process at the beginning of this year.
“I’m excited because this is the first strategic plan that the city has done,” Moore said. “That sets us on a pathway that the citizens want.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.