By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
FONDA -- Montgomery County is in the beginning stages of developing a master plan that is expected to assist in providing economic growth and fiscal stability for the future.
County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said the master plan, called "Montgomery 2025" is a guiding document for the county on how to proceed with various long-term projects, and will improve government efficiency and accountability.
"I think there is a critical need for long-term planning in the county," Ossenfort said. "We have a number of initiatives and plans in the works and I think it would be wise to put it all together so we can chart our path forward in a methodical and strategical way."
The county Legislature approved a resolution, 7-1, at its meeting Tuesday to amend the 2014 budget and transfer $25,000 for professional services to assist in the plan's development.
District 5 Legislator Terry Bieniek voted against the resolution. He said the legislature had already given Ossenfort funds for professional services earlier in the year.
"I think we are spending way too much on this," Bieniek said. "I would like to see tighter fiscal restraint."
Ossenfort said the document is an ongoing project that is not expected to be complete until June 2015.
Some of the projects to be listed include the county's government efficiency plan; the charter revision recommendations, which the legislature is currently working on; a comprehensive audit and long-term financial plan; the capital project and bridge improvement plans.
From the economic development end, Ossenfort hopes to add the regional business plan, which will identify the county's strengths and weaknesses, and the goals moving forward as an economic development strategy.
One big piece of that strategy is developing shovel-ready sites such as the regional business park in the town of Mohawk, Ossenfort said.
The other part of the economic development portion is the branding initiative, which is being developed to assist the county on how to market the area.
The county is also working with the department heads on the developing the master plan, including Economic Development and Planning Department Director Kenneth Rose. He said having a master planning document will be a benefit, because officials will know what large-ticket items need to be done ahead of time, and can save money in advance.
For example, if there is a plan saying the county annex building needs new windows, new HVAC equipment and a new roof, then the county can save and budget for specific project each year, and five years down the line, can have the entire building complete at a small expense to taxpayers, he said.
"It is refreshing that the county will have a capital planning budget," Rose said. "In the past, some things have fallen by the wayside, especially the county buildings. There was no planning ahead in terms of keeping the buildings."
Ossenfort said this planning will bring financial stability to the county, because officials will understand what investment need to be budgeted for each year, while staying under the tax cap.
"When you have a clear vision for the future, it helps in communicating with the stakeholders, whether it be the villages, the towns, or the city, other county governments and the private sector," Ossenfort said. "You have to have a game plan, and moving forward, we have to make sure we are on the same page and accomplishing goals to bring prosperity to the area."