RBC planning project looks toward future

RBC I Input from county residents will be increasingly important in the next couple of months as the Rio Blanco County Board of Commissioners begins a strategic planning project to seek public input on how board members should proceed regarding direction for the future.
There are four phases of the project, Rio Blanco County Administrator Kimberly Bullen said. There will be a citizen survey, an internal analysis done by county leaders and department heads, identification of strategies for dealing with major project needs and, lastly, to identify the issues and what resources will be needed.
“I was told early after I moved to Rio Blanco County that we were in need of some positive public relations,” Bullen said. “The county officials and I sat down to find some way we could get the residents involved and do something good for them. We also agreed that we wanted to accomplish something, and this strategic planning project does just that.
“This, as far as I know, has never been done before in Rio Blanco County,” she said. “I often think of an adage I once heard that states, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.’ I believe that and want to see the county proceed toward a useful end.”
Bullen said the survey, which will begin within the next couple of weeks, is in the final preparation stage with a draft of the survey expected any day.
“This survey will be carried out by the ETC Institute of Olathe, Kan., at a cost of $7,500,” she said. “That company will contact an open list of residents through the county by telephone and mail to better reach some of those residents who don’t have phones or have only cell phones.”
The internal discussion will be carried out as a SWOT analysis, Bullen said. She said that translates as “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.”
“Besides the public input, we department heads have to know what we feel are our strengths, our weaknesses, what opportunities are really out there for us and what threats we may face in the future,” she said.
Bullen said that customer satisfaction may be perceived as a strength by some folks while some may see that same customer service as a weakness. She pointed out that there are grants available for many things and that there could be in-kind help available or groups to team up with that will create opportunities — while also being aware that there are threats out there that could harm the future of the county and its residents.
“We must take a serious look into the future and to see what opportunities and threats we might face in the next five to 10 years,” Bullen said. “This is a very important timeframe for this county, and we need to be certain to plan ahead so we are prepared to deal with the good and bad we will encounter.”
She said the third phase is to identify the strategies of dealing with major projects the county knows it is in need of now and to look into the future so the county stays current with or ahead of other needs as they arise.
“We need to do a sort of environmental scan,” Bullen said. “We have to create a realistic snapshot of the economy, find out our own demographics and understand as well as possible what the future will bring in the form of our economy as well as population growth.”
The final phase of the project is to identify issues that are likely to arise and to learn what resources will be needed, Bullen said, adding that the county will look at the current budget and subsequent-year projections to gain insight into what funds will be available and from where.
She said the county hopes that the survey information will be completed by August.
“This project will take us up until the budget process begins in August,” Bullen said. “The input from residents is highly important and their information will help us as we look at the 2014 budget and look toward future budgets as well.”