Almost a half century later, county takes first steps in updating strategic plan

(Photo via Cortland County).

Cortland County legislators are taking the first step in creating a strategic development plan for the county, something that hasn’t been updated for close to 50 years.

Legislators unanimously approved a $200,000 deal with Syracuse-based consultant MRB Group to help develop the plan at the Aug. 24 Legislature meeting last week. 

The county will spend $10,000 on services, while $190,000 are grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the New York Empire State Development agency. The strategic plan  is a timeline for government leaders to follow and keep track of progress on projects of interest to the community.  

“We’ve been working hard to get to this point, so it’s a great next step, getting the consultant in to really help us with this,” Legislative Minority Leader Beau Harbin (D-LD-2) said at the county agriculture, planning and environmental committee meeting earlier this month. Harbin added the county does not want to cross that 50-year threshold.

Community engagement will be a crucial piece on how the comprehensive plan is updated.

“I’m a little nervous especially on the community engagement piece,” said Trisha Hiemstra, the county’s director of planning. “I think that's going to be a really, really important part of this process.”

Hiemstra said the county will be working with consultants directly, as well as exhausting as many internal resources as possible to get it right. 

However, she worries the $200,000 will not stretch as far as the county will need them to.

“I think this is a minimal amount for the size of projects that we’re really looking to undertake,” Hiemstra said. “So I would just like everybody to kind of keep that in the back of their mind.”

“Having a really good product is really important for the community, especially with the changes going on in our industries or workforce development or housing, childcare, the Micron development,” Hiemstra said. “I think there are a lot of pieces here that we really want to make sure we incorporate.”

The county will continue to make progress on the strategic plan next year.