Strategic plan critical to county’s future
In early February of this year, Douglas County held a day-long workshop attended by the public, elected officials, county staff and town managers. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the county’s strategic direction for the foreseeable future. There were a number of follow-up public meetings as well as an online survey to gather input from a broad base of county residents and to incorporate that feedback into the county’s Strategic Plan. The Vision of the Strategic Plan is “A community to match the scenery”. The Mission of the Strategic Plan is “Working together with integrity and accountability, the Douglas County team is dedicated to providing essential and cost-effective public services fostering a safe, healthy, scenic, and vibrant community for the enjoyment of our residents and visitors”. The Strategic Plan, which is updated by the Board of Commissioners from time to time, establishes the direction and priorities of the county for the next approximately five year period. The Strategic Plan is available online atand a copy of the plan is hung on the wall in the Commissioner’s Valley Chambers in the Minden historic courthouse as a reminder of just what’s important to our County.
On June 1, 2017, the County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the updated Strategic Plan and in no particular order confirmed the following Strategic Priorities: Infrastructure; Safe Community; Organizational Sustainability; Financial Stability; Economic Vitality; and protection of our Natural Resources, Culture & Quality of Life. There are a number of strategic initiatives that are identified to help guide the County to achieve each of the aforementioned priorities. Is this system perfect? Probably not, but it serves as a tool to help guide the County Commissioners in the important decisions they make throughout the years.
When I campaigned for County Commissioner, one of my most important tenets was to preserve and protect the rural heritage, culture and quality of life in Douglas County. I am extremely proud that this is one of our strategic priorities. Organizational Sustainability and Infrastructure are also important to me because without addressing these two priorities it would be difficult to maintain a safe community, maintain financial stability and create economic vitality.
Some of the initiatives that were established for organizational sustainability included (a) design an employee compensation package, (b) align performance standards to strategic priorities, and (c) create/implement supervisory management program to develop internal talent. At the recent June 1st Commissioner meeting, the Board approved long-term employee contracts for the three county employee associations/unions as well as a compensation package for non-represented employees. This is historic. In order to attract and retain quality employees, it was important to negotiate long-term contracts to send a message to staff that they are valued, and that we support and appreciate the services they provide. It was important that the County avoid the pitfalls of prior short-term union contracts and the uncertainty they create for both the employee and the County. Our team negotiated what we believe is a sustainable contract (7 years for the Employees Association & non-reps; 5 years for the Sheriff’s Protection Agency and Sergeants Bargaining Unit) with (a) a maximum COLA of 2% each year (tied to CPI) with the 2% only guaranteed in odd years of the contract, and (b) a reduction in the merit pay increases from the previous 6% per year to only 3% each year and based on strict performance standards. It was reported in the Commissioner’s June 1st agenda packet that the cost of these contracts was approximately $42 million. That was a mistake and the corrected information became available at that meeting. The total estimated cost is $13.7 million (with offsetting conservative revenue increase estimates of $18.2 million) over the term of the contracts. To many, that may sound like a lot of money and it certainly is. Some of the cost is offset by savings in other areas. For example, based on an analysis and recommendation by Staff, the Board recently approved a cost saving measure by switching to self-insurance for workers compensation coverage. The cost savings will offset a portion of the increase in salaries/benefits by approximately $3.5 million over 7 years. When you breakdown the potential salary increases by employee (the county has about 620 full and part-time employees), the increase for each employee may mean being able to afford a new or newer car, or perhaps a move to home ownership, or maybe saving for a college education. It’s also a carrot for the employee who can plan ahead and have some sense of confidence that based on his/her work performance there’s the possibility of additional merit compensation and advancement. For the County, the new employee contracts mean having the ability to better budget costs and to direct excess resources & revenues to very important issues like infrastructure. And for the residents, this was all done without raising taxes.
Another strategic priority currently being addressed is the condition of the County’s capital assets including the deteriorating roads, sewer and storm water infrastructure, and the poor state of some of the County buildings. Residents are beginning to see signs around the county that the Board of Commissioners is putting their money where their mouth is. This fiscal year alone the County is investing approximately $23 million in building upgrades, expansion of the North Valley Waste Water Treatment Plant, storm water studies, reconstructing arterial roads, and routine & preventative maintenance on local roads. Another $11.5 million will be invested in arterial roads in the next fiscal year. The Nevada Department of Transportation also has a number of local projects. NDOT has now prioritized the design and construction of a roundabout at Centerville Lane & Hwy 88 (to be finished in 2018). NDOT will also be installing a traffic signal at Airport Road, making safety improvements to Hwy 50 near Cave Rock, and will be constructing a new bike lane across Lutheran Bridge on Centerville Lane increasing the safety of bicyclist riding between the Ranchos and town. To summarize, the County and State are investing in Douglas County.
In addition to the Strategic Plan, the County is in the process of updating the Douglas County Master Plan. First enacted in 1996, the Master Plan is required by NRS (Nevada Revised Statutes) to provide long-term guidance on the development of cities, counties and regions in Nevada. Since mid-2016, staff and the Master Plan consultant have conducted a series of public meetings to obtain input from residents as to their vision of the future for Douglas County. Recommendations are then brought forth to the Planning Commission for their review which is currently underway. Please visit the County website for dates of the PC meetings. After those meetings, the Planning Commission along with Staff & the Consultant will be making their recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners later this year. I would encourage every resident to participate in the Master Plan Update process (see) to be sure all voices and ideas are heard. We want to ensure that all new growth pays for itself. I urge all residents to become involved in your community. Together, we can preserve and protect the rural character and heritage of Douglas County through balanced sustainable growth.
Larry Walsh is Douglas County Commissioner serving District 3.