The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

February 27, 2014

Lots to do as plan takes shape

By Brenden West Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — The to-do list on the city of Clinton’s strategic plan outline seems long. It prompts the city to create 10 new policies or programs, initiate 12 different studies and form eight more committee meetings to attend.

However daunting, City Administrator Jessica Kinser said it’s a good thing the council has a lot of objectives.

“All of these things as identified by the council are things that we have to work on and do,” Kinser said Wednesday following the City Council’s strategic planning session. “Everything that’s there I think we need to put on a timeline. We’re not going to get everything done in three months.”

The conversation first started in early January, serving as the new City Council’s first collaboration. Yet after nearly six hours of discussion, Kinser received few directives to implement.

This time around, she said the council accomplished a lot more, and a plan that was once murky is starting to clear up.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for,” Kinser said.

Paul Greufe, the city’s Human Resources rep, has served as mediator for the discussions. He said the city is progressing well compared to other seminars he’s spearheaded.

“The real goal and the intent is to establish communication and give the council a chance to prioritize,” Greufe said. “It essentially gives marching orders to the city administrator so that she can implement what would happen in the next few years.”

The directives fit under four goals for the city: Improve Clinton’s financial position; enhance communication; contribute to a healthier environment (physically, economically and community-wise); and improve organization and services. Several new ideas for the next two years were batted around by six council members (Councilman Paul Gassman and Mayor Mark Vulich were absent).

One idea -- establish a finance committee -- dominated the early part of the three-hour discussion. Councilman Tom Determann said the council should make it a routine to review city spending.

“A lot of this is so we can get the financials and keep track of how things are doing,” he said.

Another lengthy conversation hinged on improving Clinton’s offerings to entice families who will move to the area when the federal prison in Thomson, Ill., opens its doors.

“I call it dating the city,” Kinser said. “Clinton doesn’t have the opportunities right now for people to do that. A quality rental housing component would give people that opportunity.”

Discussions also moved into negative light, as city leaders contemplated how they can fix Clinton’s reputation for leading the state in sewer rates.

“I personally think some elected officials need to talk to other elected officials so we can share our pain,” said Councilman John Rowland, adding city leaders should reach out to others for help. “If you don’t ask, you don’t know.”

Throughout the meeting, city leaders each offered praise and criticism for the current operation. One thing they all agreed on was that there’s a lot that needs to be done.

That’s one reason why Kinser felt good about Wednesday’s meeting. If this year’s strategic plan is evidence of anything, it’s that there will be a lot of changes coming.

“A lot of this is just those initial action steps to get this process started,” Kinser said. “There could be a lot of things that happen depending on what the council could do based on the first round of information.”

Her task now is to formulate a timeline for when Clinton plans to tackle its numerous objectives.