" No matter how carefully you plan your goals they will never be more than pipe dreams unless you pursue them with gusto." W. Clement Stone
On an unusually warm evening of May 8th, Brentwood Borough Council, along with a handful of residents embarked on the first steps to formulating the future of the Borough of Brentwood. This was the beginning of the Second Strategic Planning Meeting conducted by Brentwood Borough Council. If you recall, Borough Council met two years ago and developed a list of six goals they wanted the Borough to progress towards. Those goals, identified over three separate Planning Sessions, consisted of the following:
1. Improve the Physical Attractiveness of the Borough
2. Attract New Businesses
3. Attract Young/Working Families
4. Improve Livability
5. Work with and Communicate with Neighboring Communities.
6. Sustainability of the Borough
These goals were utilized by the Borough Council and staff over the last two years when developing the Borough Budget and establishing Borough wide policies. For example, the Borough has improved the physical attractiveness of the Borough by aggressively going after slum landlords. The Borough had four structures demolished; two that went after via court order. The Borough has also hired a Summer Code Enforcement Intern to assist with summer complaints as well as work on the establishing of a "Blight Program/Blighted Property List". Under the Goal of Attract New Businesses, the Borough is actively supporting and working closely with Economic Development South to Market the Borough and the RT 51 Corridor. The soon to be unveiled "Branding Initiative" will sure be a step towards bringing in new businesses to the Borough (perhaps more eating establishments? (IHop?)
To attract young/working families and improve livability, the Borough worked tirelessly to seek and obtain over $1 million in grant funding to break ground of the Brentwood Park Renovations. When completed, this will be an amenity sure to attract new families to the Borough. In addition, the Brentwood Redd-Up Days have caught on and are held twice each year bringing out residents and businesses owners who pick up and clean up areas throughout the Borough. Brentwood continues to work closely with our neighbors in Baldwin, Whitehall, and the City of Pittsburgh. A multi-municipal Shade Tree Committee has been formed. The Borough Police Chief has met with Officials from Pittsburgh's Carrick section to work together to on alleviating police matters. All of the above are associated with the Sustainability of the Borough of Brentwood. The future of the Borough! The long term success of the Borough.
This year's (Strategic Plans are typically conducted every two years) Strategic Planning Session was conducted a little differently than that first years. Instead of starting with goals, each Council Member as well as those residents in attendance that evening, were asked specifically what they wanted to see take place, happen, or established in the Borough. Borough Engineer and President of the Gateway Engineers, Ruthann Omer, PE, assisted me in facilitating this process to get the creative juices flowing. In advance of the meeting, I asked all participants to think of one simple question, such as "What should the Borough do in the next few years?" I started on one side of the room with the first Council member and wrote down his response. There was no debate or explanation of the idea. The purpose was to simply collect everyone's ideas. We went around Council Chambers and took one idea from every member of Council and the Mayor and then asked the residents. The ideas were posted to large easel paper posted along the Council Chamber walls. This continued for nearly two hours until there were no more items to be posted.
After this process, we now went over each idea and gave the sponsor of that idea a chance to "explain or sell" their concept to the rest of board and those in attendance. Ideas that were similar in nature were combined. Again, there was no debate. Only the person's who idea was being discussed spoke to promote their idea on its merits. When this process was completed, each person was given a sheet of notebook paper with 10 lines and asked to assign their favorite idea 10 points, their second favorite 9 points, and so on. This is what Government and Planning is all about. It's about prioritizing ideas and projects. (Again, the public participated in this process). When this was completed, I, along with Ms. Ruthann Omer, tallied all of the sheets of paper and came up with one complete ranked list. Ideas that did not receive points were removed.
The "Second Round" is how the "Must-Do" or Top Priority ideas/initiatives were determined. Again, each person was given a sheet of paper, however this time with only 5 lines. They were again asked to rank the remaining ideas from most important to least with the most important idea they believe getting 5 points. When the points were totaled the following 5 items emerged as the Borough's TOP PRIORITIES or "Must-Do" items in order of importance.
1. New Borough Building
2. Keep the Fire Department/EMS/Police AS IS.
3. Public Safety
4. Establish and Residential/Commercial Redevelopment Program
5. Establish a Marketing Program for the Borough
This primarily sets the agenda for the Borough and establishes funding priorities.
The "Third and Fourth Rounds" were conducted in the same manner with each person ranking the next 5 ideas that remained from the list (excluding those above). The results of Round 3 or "Should Do" list is as follows in order of importance:
1. Establish a more stringent Landlord/Rental Program
2. Establish a multi-year Road Improvement Program
3. Hire a Recreation Director
4. Rebuild the Operating Reserve Fund ("Rainy Day Fund")
5. Improve the Sewers Systems in accordance with EPA Consent Decree
The Fourth and Final Round outcomes produced the following "Could-Do" list:
1. Properly Fund Council Training Programs in the Operating Budget
2. Educate the Public on the Borough Finances
3. Increase or Decrease Taxes
4. Evaluate the Long Term Finances and Operations of the Borough
5 Combine Borough Building and Civic Center into a new building
5. Establish a "Green"/LEED building codes for new public buildings
5. Establish a Sidewalk Weed Control Program throughout the Borough
As you can see, there were three items that received the same amount of points during round four. These lists will be used in formulating the budget. If you notice, all of the above "ideas" and "initiatives" can be tied to certain goals that were established two years ago. These plans set the course for the Borough. You can see that although some of the ideas are conceptual, there are some that will be tied to funding. This sets the priorities when it comes time to decide what the best use of Borough revenues is. When the decisions are needed to allocate the limited resources the Borough currently has, will those resources go towards establishing a "Green"/LEED building code? Not before the establishing of a Residential/Commercial Redevelopment Program. Will the Borough pave your road in the next couple of years? Possibly, but not before the approval and funding is established to build a new Borough Building. This is will be important when the Borough establishes the Capital Projects for the next few years. I like to use our own households as an analogy. When we must decide to repave our driveways or repair the leak in the roof which project do we do first? Most likely I would repair the leaking roof. Or one can take out a loan for both projects!
Thanks again to all of Council and those residents in attendance for working through the four hour planning process. The next step (yes, there is yet another step) will be costing out each of the above items and determining how the Borough is going to pursue the above goals so that they do not turn into "Pipe Dreams".
Have a great summer everyone and see you at the next Borough Council meeting!
George Zboyovsky, PE