Washougal asks residents to shape its future

Meetings will gather input for 20-year strategic plan

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

Public workshops

6-8 p.m. July 28: Washougal High School Commons, 1201 39th St.

6-8 p.m.

Aug. 25: Best Western Parkersville Inn & Suites, 121 S. Second St.

6-8 p.m. Sept. 22: Washougal Council Chambers.

Coffee Conversations

Noon to 3 p.m. July 21: Starbucks, 291 C St.

6-8 p.m. Aug. 25: Washougal City Hall, 1701 C Stn 7-10 a.m. Sept. 19: Neder’s Cafe, 2511 E St.

If you’re a Washougal resident, the opportunity to shape your city’s future is now.

City officials will hold six public meetings over the next two months to gather residents’ opinions on a variety of topics, including quality of life, what city services they deem most important and what city services deserve more financial support. Officials have already started a “door-to-door” campaign with local businesses.

City residents can also participate by filling out a “Strategic Planning” survey at http://www.cityofwashougal.us.

Opinions expressed in the public and business meetings will be “absolutely central and integral” to the city’s formulation of a 20-year “strategic plan,” Washougal Mayor Sean Guard said. This is the first time the city has attempted to create a comprehensive plan, he added.

“This plan transcends every incoming mayor or council in the future,” Guard said. “It needs to be a community plan, not a city plan.”

City officials estimate the plan will be finished and ready for adoption by the council in May 2012.

Rather than hire an outside consultant, the city is using two department heads and an intern to compile data. Doing it this way saves the city money by using city employees who already know the community and are invested in it, Guard said. An estimate on how much money would be saved by forgoing a consultant was not available.

Public Works Director Trevor Evers and Community Development Director Joanne Boys are now strategic plan managers, in addition to their previous roles within the city. Intern Arianna Nassib is tasked with charting the online survey’s results.

Evers said he anticipates the city will finish collecting information in late September or early October. At that point, city officials will appoint an advisory committee to make recommendations to the city’s five-person strategic planning team. The strategic planning team includes Guard, Evers, Boys, Nassib and City Administrator Dave Scott.

Washougal residents can download applications to serve on the city’s advisory committee on the city’s website.

At the end of the process, the city council will vote on the planning team’s outlined plan. Right now, the council is staying “at arm’s length” to avoid influencing the process, Councilman Paul Greenlee said.

“If we don’t have a clear idea of what the people expect for the future then that’s like trying to steer without a map,” he said. The meetings and survey, he added, would give city leaders a resident’s perspective on “where we are and where we need to go.”

Residents contacted for this story indicated they had not heard of Washougal’s planning effort, but said they would consider participating.

Matt Edwards, 38, said he considered economic development the city’s most pressing need. He has lived inside the city limits more than five years.

Increasing economic growth is vital “so you have a tax base to pay for” fire, police and EMS services, among other things, Edwards said.

Fellow Washougal resident Jim Kreiter, 53, supported the city’s efforts to create a strategic plan. “Having the public involved is a good thing,” he said.

Kreiter, who lives outside the city limits, said he viewed traffic as the city’s main area to improve, particularly the intersection of 15th and Main streets. He was unsure whether he would participate in the meetings or survey.