VALPARAISO | A kickoff for a study to develop a vision and blueprint for city leaders for the coming decades will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.
The Valparaiso strategic plan committee will hold its first meeting of what is expected to be a yearlong process of gathering input and ideas from every sector of the community, from schoolchildren to senior citizens. The effort will be led by consultants ACP Visioning and Planning and a committee of about 40 community members.
"The goal of the plan is to have a long-term strategic plan," Mayor Jon Costas said. "We've used short-term, three- to five-year plans in the past. Now the goal is to try to dig deep into the citizenry and find out how they see Valparaiso in 10, 15, 20 years and beyond. It will serve as a compass for administrations yet to come."
Developing a plan this way could be a unique concept, Costas said.
"I think it's rare," Costas said. "A strategic plan is essential for a community, but to dig deep and fashion a vision that extends out for decades is not something we got from other communities. We are at a crossroads. A lot of the obvious things that needed done are done or are in the pipeline. So, where do we go from here? We can go in a lot of different directions.
"We put together a steering committee to help figure out how to do this. We want to make sure we go deep into the community and try to hear from all types of people."
One of the issues to be discussed at Thursday's meeting is how often the committee should meet. Planning Director Tyler Kent predicted "there will be a lot of meetings" to get as much input as possible. The committee will make an effort to reach out to groups of the population as it identifies them.
ACP is a Columbus, Ohio, company that will receive $200,000 for its efforts. The city will pay for the study with economic development income tax funds from this year and 2014. The city has worked for several months to hire the consultant and arrange the funding. Kent said eight or 10 companies submitted proposals to conduct the study.
The start of the strategic planning process also was delayed until a study to update the city's comprehensive plan was done. That plan was completed and adopted in July. Now, the attention will be focused on the strategic plan.
"I'm excited to kick it off," Costas said. "It will be a very in-depth exercise and involve as many people as possible to get the pulse of the city and what people want going forward. The consultants will distill what is heard into a plan that can serve for decades to come."