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Improving public safety and ramping up economic development continue to top the county’s strategic plan, an annual document adopted at Lancaster County Council’s Monday, March 11, meeting.
For the second year in a row, public safety was named the No. 1 priority by council members and other county officials during their annual weekend-long planning retreat.
Held Jan. 25-26 in the training room of the Institute for Public Service and Policy Research at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, the strategic planning session is designed to narrow down the county’s highest priorities.
County Administrator Steve Willis said the document is a vital resource designed to help council make financial decisions, especially during its annual budget process.
With officials expressing interest in cutting response times for Emergency Medical Services, increasing fire and police protection and improving security in the county’s schools, Willis said public safety was on everyone’s minds this year.
“They talked about the possibility of hiring additional personnel and the need for additional facilities for EMS and fire folks to go,” Willis said. “They also talked about improving school safety, especially with news about a proposed (state) bill for all schools to have school resource officers.”
Second on the list of top needs is economic development. During the planning session, officials discussed various strategies for attracting new businesses to the county, including targeted workforce training, the creation of regional economic development partnerships and construction of more spec buildings, among others.
The planning session involved most members of Lancaster County Council, as well as Willis, Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile, county Director of Public Safety Communications Chris Nunnery, EMS Director Clay Catoe, Planning Director Penelope Karagounis and Planning Commission Chairman Charles Deese.
Several members of the Institute for Public Service & Policy Research facilitated the event.
Joining the top two goals on the list this year were five other strategic priorities, each broken down into their own individual goals and implementation strategies. They include road and infrastructure improvements, financial stability for the county, the creation of a comprehensive county growth plan, stronger communication with the community and the development of a community-wide strategic plan.
The latter goal is something council discussed during its 2012 planning session, but did not implement.
“We said, why not create a community-wide strategic plan, like Greenville does, where they bring in the city, county, school district, chamber of commerce and all create a community strategic plan,” Willis said.
Held several years in a row, Willis said the planning session has been beneficial in keeping all county officials up to date on the most pressing county needs.
The county’s commitment to continuously update its strategic plan has been used as a model for other counties, Willis said.
“The folks at USC say, ‘Man, we use Lancaster as an example to others about how you should track a strategic plan,’” he said.
Also lauded is the fact that the county tracks its strategic plan on a quarterly basis and makes the document public.
“If there are areas we didn’t get around to, we put it out there for the world to see,” Willis said. “And if you repeat it quarterly, it keeps those goals in front of you.”
At the end of the year, a report is sent to USC with the goals the county accomplished and what still needs to be addressed.
A draft of this year’s updated strategic plan was presented in February to council members for review, Willis said.
“We sent it out for comments about two weeks ago and I guess everyone just loved it because we had no comments,” Willis said, prior to the meeting.
During Monday’s meeting, Council Chairman Larry McCullough asked to change wording in the document related to the goal of creating a community-wide strategic plan. He asked that the forecast for that plan be set farther into the future, from the year 2020 to 2030.
“By the time we get something written, it would not be much of a strategic plan,” McCullough said about the short time frame. “2030 would really give a good vision of the future.”
The revision of B-3 commercial zoning definitions should also be a primary focus for council, said Councilman Brian Carnes during the meeting. He referenced a portion of the plan listing B-3 revisions as a strategy for achieving growth in the county.
“This seems to be bandied about a lot, but (the county) has not done anything,” Carnes said. “I would like to see this move forward.”
Council then adopted the plan by a vote of 6-0. Councilwoman Charlene McGriff was absent on a previously scheduled trip.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416