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Dec. 8, 2019 | Sunday
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Town strategic plan at ‘standstill’ over hiring consultant
The strategic plan will be reconsidered at the next council meeting in March. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors couldn’t agree on which strategic plan consultant to hire during the council meeting Monday night. So they rejected them all.

“The plan will be reopened,” said Lord Mayor Betty DIsero. “Right now, we’re at a standstill.”

Council will reconsider its strategic plan at the next council meeting on March 11.

Initially, five companies were recommended for consideration to do the strategic plan. Four of them provided quotations and plans at costs ranging  from $23,000 to $52,500.

Three companies – 2WA Consulting, Bill Winegard and Level 5 Strategy Group – were invited to make presentations to council. However, their delegations were cancelled prior to the council meeting.

“It seemed odd to me that we would have three respondents come in, one after the other, and talk about what they could offer us,” said Disero. “I just felt that it would put us into an awkward position doing something like that in a public session.”

Disero said she got in touch with most councillors and they agreed it was “unnecessary for them to come in and speak to us.”

The staff report recommended hiring Bill Winegard and David Cash, who are part of Municipal Strategic Planning Associates, a group of four people who have been chief administrative officers in small municipalities.

At the meeting, Coun. Wendy Cheropita recommended hiring 2WA Consulting, but council defeated her motion with a 5-4 vote.

Council also voted not to hire Winegard and Cash. Two councillors, Stuart McCormack and Erwin Wiens, abstained from voting.

Cheropita, who is a strategic planning consultant, said she will reintroduce the plan at the next council meeting.

“You have one shot at producing a strategy,” Cheropita told Niagara Now and The Lake Report. “In order to be able to move forward, you have to have a plan.”

Everyone, from staff to residents and business stakeholders, will have a chance to be involved in planning the strategy, she said.

“We’ll probably have an online survey, something accessible to everyone. That’s how important this is,” she said.

When asked why he abstained from voting, Wiens said he didn’t want to make a “hasty decision.”

“I support the hard work that the staff and CAO are doing,” he said. “I also respect Coun. Cheropita’s experience in the strategic planning that she brings to the table. I want to support all of them but I felt I didn’t have enough information.”

McCormack declined to comment.

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