Albemarle City Council receives update on strategic plan

With the City of Albemarle entering the second year of its strategic plan, City Manager Michael Ferris and Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Kiser provided updates on progress at the Aug. 7 City Council meeting.

Ferris opened the report, providing a review of the plan in general, and on first-year successes. He noted that the plan was implemented in 2022, and had been developed through input from city council, city employees and citizen input.

“It is a three-year plan,” explained Ferris, “so from year to year, strategies and goals within the plan do not change; we focus on what is put in place and take time toward achieving the goals and making progress toward them.”

Ferris noted that while strategies and goals remain static, tactics to reach them do.

“What does change from year to year are tactics, which you can think of as action items to enhance and move forward toward the goals and strategies of the plan,” he added.

Ferris reviewed accomplishments in the plan’s first year, which included:

● Implementation of a comprehensive communications plan;

● Managing of construction at the Albemarle Business Center (“Which is no small undertaking,” he said);

● Implementation of in-house growth assessment and services engagement to provide greater development of cost analyses

● Partnerships with Stanly Community College to provide leadership training opportunities and training for electric line workers, and with Atrium Health for a new playground at the E.E. Waddell Community Center;

● The purchase of new two-way radios;

● Acquisition of body cameras;

● Establishment of a risk and safety position; and

● Implemented the AMI (Advanced Meter Infrastructure) project;

As Ferris listed the year one accomplishments, Councilman Chris Bramlett asked, “What on earth is that?” in regard to the point of in-house growth assessment and services engagement.

“When annexations come before you, you’ve now got a significant amount more information regarding cost and impact on city services … over time, we have struggled with changes in the economy, but we’re seeing progress now and growth headed in a positive direction,” Ferris said. “We are now seeing residential, commercial and retail development, and lots of interest in Albemarle. The information that is now being provided by city staff is much more detailed than what has been provided in the past, which helps City Council make better decisions on tax base, roadways, water system capacity, sewer capacity, electric, police, fire, support staff, parks and recreation and those sorts of things.”

Albemarle Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Kiser continued the update, identifying the five goals for the coming year and the tactics for reaching them.

“We wanted to make sure that all tactics were included in the budget so there was much better alignment this year,” Kiser said.

The first goal identified was Inclusive Community Engagement, which entails enhancement of community amenities, programs and services to engage residents of different backgrounds, lifestyles and generations.

“We will once again conduct a community survey,” said Kiser, adding that installation of a self-service kayak rental kiosk at City Lake Park, and implementation of a comprehensive communications plan for the city are also planned.

A second goal, Community & Economic Growth Opportunities, includes guiding growth and facilitating economic opportunities in order to benefit all residents and businesses.

“We plan to implement training for residents so they can become first-time homeowners,” was listed by Kiser as the first tactic.

“We will continue to manage contraction at the Albemarle Business Center, and will implement comprehensive plan public engagement through community forums and public input meetings,” she added.

Infrastructure was identified as a third goal, requiring the city’s investment to assure reliable and consistent service delivery.

“We will continue funding the Public Utilities Department’s transition to AMI (smart meters), which includes an outage management system. We will also increase funding for street maintenance and preservation, and refurbish Fire Engine #2,” said Kiser.

The fourth goal, Safety and Security, would entail “enhancing resources and improving practices to protect city residents and safeguard the city in order to improve quality of life,” Kiser stated, with tactics to include identifying critical crime data, utilize GIS for crime mapping, and implementing new radios city-wide and continue safeguarding city facilities and staff.

Kiser identified Organizational Capacity as the city’s final goal, which would involve investing in the city’s workforce to enhance city operations and efficiency, better serving the community.

“We’re going to reorganize teams for increased efficiency and service, assess creation of a city wellness center and program, and assess solid waste collection services,” she said. “This is just an overview of the tactics for year two implementation of the plan.”

“What do you mean by ‘City Wellness Center?’ asked Bramlett.

“That’s so if an employee is feeling sick, they can go get checked out by a nurse practitioner, a doctor, or a physician assistant,” replied Kiser. “It also includes helping with wellness for employees to keep them from going to the doctor.”

“Would we be running these health clinics?” asked Bramlett.

“No. It would be more of a contract situation,” replied Kiser.

The next meeting of Albemarle City Council will take place on Aug. 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Toby Thorpe is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.