GIRARD — City officials held a special work session on Tuesday night to discuss the city's future and how to best develop goals and move forward with achieving those goals.

City Administrator Chris Weiner said the purpose of the meeting was to gather input on what city leaders and residents felt about developing a comprehensive strategic plan for Girard.

"We're open to thoughts on what a good strategic plan can do for this community," Weiner said. "A plan allows us to have a vision of where we want to go."

He said having the city move forward with a long-range plan is vital to budgeting, making equipment purchasing decisions, setting priorities on street repairs, public safety issues and economic development and job creation.

To help facilitate the discussion Weiner invited several non-city officials to share their thoughts on the importance of developing a comprehensive plan. Guests included Jay Byers, Pittsburg assistant city manager; Blaise Bauer, Girard USD 248 superintendent; and Craig VanWay, regional representative with the Kansas Department of Commerce.

Bauer said developing a comprehensive plan for the school district was vital in getting a bond issue passed that resulted in the major construction project currently underway

"It's an accountability issue and vital to get community involvement," Bauer said, adding that developing the plan itself was a long-term process that took the district about 18 months.

He said the plan needs to be sensible and needs to be something that is actually used by elected officials and administrators as a guide in the decisions they make on a regular basis.

Byers told the council and audience that Pittsburg officials spend a considerable time in planning.

"We're planning crazy," he said. "When you have a plan you end up achieving goals faster than you think you can because you have focus on what the priorities are."

Byers also felt getting community input early on in the strategic planning process is important.

"Getting people on board helps develop a sense of community and ownership by the public," Byers said. "It also helps provide a fresh perspective from having outside fresh eyes involved."

Councilman Michael West presided at the meeting and said he felt moving forward with development of a strategic plan is important for Girard.

"In the past we've had a lot of the pieces needed but they have never seemed to work together," West said.

Council members Sheldon DeLange and Kelly Peak also spoke in favor of having Weiner move forward with seeking proposals from outside consultants to help the city coordinate and move forward with developing a comprehensive plan.

"I wrote down 15 good reasons to do it and not one reason not to," Peak said. "It's a no-brainer."

Weiner said he would move forward with developing a request for proposals and present those details to the council at a future meeting for consideration.

— Mike Elswick is a staff writer at The Morning Sun. He can be reached at melswick@morningsun.net.