By Alex Bridges - firstname.lastname@example.org
Economic development and space needs for government agencies dominated a Strasburg Town Council retreat on Saturday.
Town leaders and staff at the work session broached the idea of creating a full-time position to address Strasburg's economic development.
"That one we did talk about quite a bit and council wants to look into the possibility of creating somebody just for Strasburg to help promote economic development," Town Manager Judson Rex said Monday, noting Shenandoah County has a part-time position for that task.
Council held the regular retreat as a work session to look at the town's future needs, springboarding off the recent adoption of the Strasburg Community Plan.
"The purpose of it was to create a strategic plan for the next five years and we got a good start at that," Rex said.
Rex gave council an introduction on strategic planning before officials began discussion on the vision documents and goals of the community plan. Staff and council then proceeded with the "environmental scanning," a brainstorming session for members to pinpoint any issues or challenges facing the town. Council and department leaders generated 45-50 specific challenges, Rex recalled. Council then listed the items by priority.
Council addressed two of the challenges: Economic development and space needs of the town government, specifically police and public works, but also other Strasburg departments.
Under economic development, council agreed the town needs to complete a study on the potential annexation of the adjacent industrial park which Strasburg can acquire in 2013 per a deal with Shenandoah County.
The council also agreed the town should look into existing economic development resources and examine Strasburg's representation within those resources. Specifically, council agreed the town should look into its interaction with Shenandoah County and other regional economic development boards, including the Shenandoah Valley Regional Partnership, with whom Strasburg belongs as a member.
Discussions also reiterated topics already discussed by council at various levels, such as a need to include downtown revitalization and tourism when talking about economic development strategies. Council agreed the town should look beyond its industrial and commercial base, according to Rex.
Likewise, when developing the town's economy council cited networking with other resources such as developers and businesses, Rex noted. The town also should take advantage of training
"We didn't get through as much as we thought, but that's all right," Rex said. "We're further down the road than we were before."
Town staff surveyed council about members' impressions of priorities and the funding levels for various needs and amenities in Strasburg. For instance, members on average felt the town to some extent underfunded maintenance of Strasburg's water lines, storm drains and sidewalks, according to the survey results. Council fell slightly above the middle when considering the funding for administrative services, hosting special events, the drug task force and supporting outside organizations.
Police patrols and response to emergencies remain at the top of the list of priorities, tied with sewer line maintenance, results showed. Council assistance with special events fell toward the bottom of the list.
Council also discussed space needs of the town government. Members agreed the town needed to take a more comprehensive approach to studying the space issues facing all departments rather than a few and to use the Strasburg Community Plan as a basis in looking forward for 20 to 30 years.
"So this is a perfect example of how the community plan will come in handy for the town as we prepare and look down to road for future expansion and growth," Rex said.
The town previously had studied the space needs for the police department as well as public works, the latter of which was conducted as Strasburg moved to build new water and wastewater treatment plants.
Council agreed the space needs analysis should incorporate the Brill property - a parcel next to town hall on King Street, which Strasburg bought several years ago - and consider its possible uses.
"Maybe not particularly for the police department, but it was more of a strategic purchase looking at the future of the town's space needs and understanding having property contiguous to town hall is a strategic approach to meeting our needs, whether it's parking, the police department, whatever," Rex said. "There's a lot of opportunities there."
Such a study should look at the potential for all properties owned by Strasburg. But Rex said council stopped short of discussing the Brill property.
"They wanted to make sure the whole group is there when we discuss anything for that and they want to make sure to do it in the full context of the rest of our space needs," he said, adding that they wanted to understand what space they needed before jumping into what to do with that property.
Council did agree the space needs assessment also should include input from the Strasburg fire department and rescue squad.