By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
FONDA -- Montgomery County officials began the first phase of a strategic planning initiative Wednesday to establish a long-term plan for improving efficiency in government.
At a three-hour closed meeting held at the sheriff's office, county department heads met with consultants from the Paige Group to provide input on what is needed to improve county operations.
"It was a great start to the improvements and progress we want to make as far as county operations," Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said after the meeting. "We are starting at the ground level with a mission and a vision and ideas on what our strategic goals are going to be for the next year. It is great. I am very excited about what this is going to produce."
Nancy Pattarini, president and CEO of the Utica-based marketing communications group, said the meeting was simply a data-gathering session to get information about the programs, services and community assets in the county and identify areas where the county could improve efficiency and program effectiveness.
"We got a lot done and it was a lot of information," Pattarini said. "Everyone had good suggestions and there was consensus on what areas to look at."
Pattarini said she plans to asses the information and come back to the county so they can prioritize their goals that will be the foundation for the plan.
"The outcome will be five to seven strategic initiatives for the county," Pattarini said, adding she could not disclose specifics at this time. "What the goals are going to be is a work in progress."
In the community room at the sheriff's office, officials said they were excited to be involved in the planning and were pleased with the outcome of the first meeting.
"It was good because we all had an opportunity to provide input," Emergency Management Director Jeffrey Smith said. "It gave us ideas of what has worked in the past and what may work for us in the future."
Undersheriff Peter Vroman said it was exciting to see all the department heads looking to the future of the county.
"All these departments have so many things in common with the issues of budgets, aging infrastructure and personnel. We all have the same issues," he said. "It was awesome to have the departments heads looking down the road."
Department of Social Services Commissioner Michael McMahon said the planning initiative has been something he has advocated in the past.
"This presents an opportunity for us to develop the county work force," McMahon said. "I am very pleased with today's meeting and I am looking forward to what comes next."
Department of Public Works Commissioner Paul Clayburn described the meeting as successful.
District 5 Legislator Terry Bieniek was also in attendance to represent the legislature. He said his role at the meeting was simply to listen to the discussion.
"I am here to hear their side of it because at some point we are going to be funding some of the things that they are talking about," Bieniek said, adding he did agree with many of the topics discussed. "They want training and better opportunities to improve themselves and their jobs, which in turn will improve things at the county. Everyone believes in the new form of government and we all agree that we have a great opportunity to turn things around in the county."