VALPARAISO | The city expects to announce the hiring of a consultant to oversee the yearlong process of developing a strategic plan for Valparaiso covering decades into the future.
"We've selected a company to come in to do it," City Administrator Bill Oeding said.
Oeding said negotiations on price and other necessities is under way, and officials are trying to figure out how to pay for a consultant.
"We're close, and we expect to be announcing it soon," Oeding said.
The consultant isn't expected to begin holding public meetings until May or June, and the process will continue through the first six months of 2014, Oeding said. The timetable also will enable the city to split the cost over two budgets to make it easier to afford.
The strategic plan will be different from the strategic plans put together by the administration during Mayor Jon Costas's first two terms because it will draw input from the entire community with the goal of finding out how residents want the community to look in the future.
"I refer to it as a long-term visioning process," Costas said. "It's a way to listen very deeply to what the citizens are saying and how they want to see the city shaped in the next several decades. We have always focused on five-year plans, and we've been fortunate to accomplish a lot in the last two plans.
"It was obvious what was needed when we first took office. What the citizens want going forward is not as apparent. This is a way to tell us what they want and serve as a general compass."
Oeding said it's taken a year to get the strategic plan consultant picked because the city has been busy with other projects.
"It's been a priority, but it's been hard to really sit down and make it happen when we have so many other projects happening," Oeding said.
The consultants are expected to meet with various community groups, including senior citizens, businesses and faith organizations in addition to holding open public meetings when anyone can offer ideas. Costas said the goal is to involve every resident, even asking school children, to demonstrate their ideas in words or pictures.
"I think we've done a lot of things throughout the community," Oeding said. "Some are obvious and some are not. This is to say what's next and what do you want the city to look like going forward. We're just the stewards. We will gather the information and see what we can do to bring it to fruition."