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Posted September 9, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Woodstock plan sets goals for future

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK -- Town Manager Reid Wodicka admits Woodstock's strategic plan sets ambitious goals right out of the starting gate.

"Our Focus on the Future" draws not only on staff but residents to help improve Woodstock, Wodicka explained in a recent interview after Town Council approved the five-year plan.

Meeting some of these goals could cost some money, though Wodicka explained that staff members would take on many of the initiatives themselves. A few goals would cost the town to implement, Wodicka said.

"The scope of what some of these things actually look like will be dependant on what kind of funds we're able to fund them with," Wodicka said. "The vast majority of these things are just done in-house with existing staff.

In the first year of the plan the town administration, police department and other agencies hope to begin many initiatives that Wodicka said should benefit residents, business and property owners, and potential developers.

For example, given the town's large population of Spanish-speaking residents, the plan calls for all Woodstock departments to provide town forms and documents in the language.

"We actually have some folks in the community who stepped up to volunteer to do that," Wodicka said.

Staff wouldn't likely create new utility bills in Spanish or send out the notices in both languages, Wodicka said. But the town would try to provide zoning permit applications or other similar forms in both languages.

A section of the strategic plan calls for civic engagement and "bringing citizens to the table." Under this initiative, Wodicka said the town would enhance its profile through social media such as facebook. The plan recommends that town staff post regular updates to its facebook page status.

Increased civic engagement in the later years of the plan calls for the town to create standards for expectations in customer service interaction. Such a goal should improve relations between the town and residents, according to the plan.

Wodicka touted one part of the plan that may help the town save money -- the creation of a list of projects available to volunteer groups such as the Boy Scouts.

The work on the strategic plan began with each department presenting its own goals and initiatives. Staff spent weeks compiling and sorting the goals. The plan lists goals of the departments under the various sections. Each goal states an objective, the responsible departments or employees, what output and outcome the town should expect to see and in what time frame staff would try to work on the initiative.

Sections focus on individual topics and ideas such as making Woodstock "a great place to do business" and "a competitive and innovative employer."

The Woodstock Police Department plays a major role in the goals set in the strategic plan, especially in the area of public engagement.

Chief E.L. Reiley and Officer Mike Hottle plan to expand the town's neighborhood watch program to include major apartment complexes, beginning with Valley Vista. Reiley and Hottle, in the interview with Wodicka, acknowledged that the police department receives many calls for service from Valley Vista apartments.

The police department plans to hold an event at the Valley Vista apartments from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 9 aimed at drawing more interest and involvement in neighborhood watch program.

The strategic plan also calls for the town to conduct a study of the staffing needs in the police department, taking into account the push for increased community policing, all in the first year. In later years, the town would try to provide a Spanish-language course for police officers, certify two officers as crime-prevention specialists and, in the fifth year, assign an officer to serve on the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug/Gang Task Force.

The strategic plan also calls for the customer service staff to learn basic Spanish to help non-English speakers gain access to town services.

Town staff and appointed committees will take on most of the goals in the plan. Objectives under the section "A Beautiful Place to Live and Work" include an effort to lessen the local government's environmental footprint through an audit of its energy use. At the same time, town planners would develop a "green" infrastructure plan that incorporates open space and natural resources areas.

Another initiative calls for the town to build a partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation to improve the gateway on Va. 42.

In later years the town would create a comprehensive trail and sidewalk plan aimed at connecting neighborhoods to public amenities; to begin the process of a rails-to-trails program for abandoned tracks; and to complete the Indian Spring wetland project.

The plan concludes with goals aimed at preserving the town for the future. Goals range from increasing the number of recycling bins in town to designing and building new town facilities to meet with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, or LEED. The plan calls for the town to work with Shenandoah County to create a visitor center in the historic courthouse.

The town already plans to increase the tree canopy from 8 to 30 percent in the next 10 years. The strategic plan also recommends the town partner with the Tree Board and outline tree plantings on municipal rights of way.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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