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City pays $40,000 for plan, training

COVINGTON -- The cost for the city of Covington to establish a strategic plan and for leadership training for staff and officials totals more than $40,000 thus far.

To date, the city has paid consultants with the Centre for Strategic Management in Conyers $34,125, not including $5,000 that will be paid for a recent three-day strategic planning retreat at The Oaks golf course. In addition, the cost for renting facilities for the retreat and another three-day retreat held in March total $1,604.68.

The majority of the cost has been for leadership training, according to City Manager Steve Horton.

"This training was scheduled by our Human Resources Department and such training coordination is a function of the HR Department as it relates to career development," Horton said. "We believe that well-trained employees translate into more professional and more competent employees. Each department budgets money annually for training and in some cases for college tuition. Given that everyone does not desire to go to college does not mean that we should not, as an employer, set up and require various forms of training throughout the year. Again the belief here being that better trained employees will be able to perform at a more competent level and thereby provide better service to the citizens and customers of the city of Covington. Likewise, we believe that well-trained employees are more productive and make fewer mistakes."

The strategic plan that consultants are assisting with was the focus of the two retreats. The plan will set a long-range vision for the city as well as define a three-year mission statement and action plan for the city as a whole and individual departments. Following the council's work toward that end at the retreats, a planning and implementation team consisting of city staffers will develop the plan during the course of the next few months.

According to Finance Director Leigh Anne Knight, of the $34,125 paid to consultants, $3,000 has been specifically for strategic planning. All other invoices have been related to training for supervisors, the mayor and council, she said. At the retreats, council members have discussed their working relationships, reevaluated duties of the council, mayor, city manager and staff and set goals for better communication and teamwork.

"The strategic plan itself equates to direction setting by the mayor and council. It is their job to chart a course for the staff to follow that they, the elected officials, believe to best serve the wants and needs of the citizens and customers of the city of Covington," Horton said. "To not have a strategic plan is like someone deciding to go somewhere that they have never been without formulating plans and directions to get there. They may ultimately reach their direction or intended goal after much circling and fumbling around, but how much wasted time and money was spent on the aimless wanderings? The strategic plan and the process for creating it is, therefore, sort of like the saying in the common Master Card commercials 'It is priceless.' However, in real terms, the costs spent to date on training using the ... consultants is far less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the current city expense budget."

Horton said he will be inquiring with consultants on any expected future costs to complete the strategic plan. The council and consultants will have a half day follow up meeting, following work by the implementation team, in November, at no additional charge, he said.