FREEPORT — For the first time in recent history, residents, department heads and government came together for a comprehensive strategic planning meeting to review the current status and future of the city.
“This was the first time that I can recall having a strategic planning workshop attended by folks from the city itself and citizens,” Councilman Brooks Bass said of the June 22 meeting. “We had a full-range discussion.”
City staff worked with each department head to develop an internal strategic plan, City Manager Tim Kelty said. Those plans identified responsibilities, resources to carry about responsibilities and needs assessments, he said.
That includes capital improvements, infrastructure, buildings, equipment, programmatic needs, staffing needs, training and anything to be able to better serve the public, Kelty said. Each department did a needs assessment for next year and the next three to five years, he said.
“The whole idea is to plan for the future,” Kelty said.
The plan was not presented for adoption by council, but it’s an informational piece being used to draw out feedback from council, which they gave at the meeting, the city manager said.
Council focused on infrastructure improvements for water, sewer, streets and drainage, Kelty said.
According to the official meeting minutes, Mayor Troy Brimage said “of course, infrastructure was the number one priority.” He feels a bond would need to be issued for several items including reconstruction of the Community House, the minutes state.
Brimage is in support of the idea of building a city hall complex at the closed O.A. Fleming Elementary site, noting that there is a moisture problem at City Hall and the $300,000 cost to fix the air conditioning might be better spent on a new municipal complex, according to the minutes.
Brimage could not be reached for comment.
The next time there could be a bond election is May 2020, Kelty said. The city would need to work with a consultant on how it might be structured and timed, he said.
Freeport recently hired Freese and Nichols, Inc. on a general services contract to be the city engineer, Kelty said. They will be authorized to do various projects and identify needed improvements, he said.
Bass agreed with just about everything Brimage said but reiterated that Bass’s main concerns were about drainage and the sanitary sewer system, he said.
The city has drainage issues with heavy rains and there are definitely concerns for residents driving down the streets, including low-lying areas on Velasco Boulevard and a number of side streets, Bass said. Freese and Nichols will make that a top priority, he said.
Rather than piecemeal repair, they need a comprehensive plan to repair and replace, Bass said.
Sanitation and sewage is always a problem for any city, Bass said. He wants to make sure the system is in compliance with state standards and as progressive as possible, he said.
The planning meeting was evidence that Freeport’s new city administration has hit the ground running, Bass said.
“It was a well-led meeting. We’re very impressed with our leadership team,” he said.
The department heads are behind them and they “have council support all the way,” Bass said.
This process will become an annual exercise, Kelty said.