WESTFORD — The Select Board has approved American Rescue Plan Act funding for a townwide strategic plan.
The board voted 4-1 to allocate $95,000 of ARPA funding towards the plan. Select Board member John Cunningham cast the dissenting vote.
What is a strategic plan?
The plan, which could take up to a full year to develop, is a “living document” that “grows with the town” as the town continues to develop according to a May 4 memo submitted to the Select Board. This plan could serve as a guiding document for the town for up to 30 years.
The plan, which relies heavily on community engagement, can help to guide the town and “take it to the next level of government,” Town Manager Kristen Las told the Select Board during a July 25 meeting.
“We also would want to be comparing ourselves to others. How do we want to do better, do well, really stand out as an excellent government,” she added. “Any other plan that the town or the board or other boards and commissions create would sit under that strategic plan.”
The town has already created a number of plans for specific departments and goals, including its Comprehensive Land Use Master Plan from 2009, its Climate Action Roadmap from 2022, and its Stormwater Management Master Plan from 2016 among others.
This strategic plan could inform the town on what plans it should update in the future. A number of plans, including the town’s Sidewalk Master Plan from 2000 and Route 110 Master Plan from 1999 are over 20 years old.
The town will now submit a request for proposal for a consultant to engage with the town on the plan.
Select Board cautious on spending remaining funds
Two other plans, including creating an updated Land Use Master Plan and a new Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan were proposed but ultimately did not receive funding during the meeting.
The updated Land Use Management Master Plan would cost $175,000, while the Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan would cost $75,000.
Select Board member Andrea Peraner-Sweet says she “still sees ways in which these plans interact with each other.”
She added, “it seems to me if we’re going to do that [townwide strategic plan], that it is the first one that gets done, and from that plan, we will get a lot of information that can be used.”
Peraner-Sweet also aims to exercise caution with the town’s remaining ARPA funds.
“I’m very cautious at this point. I really want to make sure that these last funds that we spend that we’re doing it in a way that we get the most for our buck,” she said.
Select Board member John Cunningham hoped to wait for a report from the Budget Task Force, which is slated to be released in September.
“I’d also like to see the funds that we have left spent supporting people of the town on something we can accomplish in the next year or so. I’m not convinced that planning everything is the way we use these funds,” Cunningham said.
He added, “I’m not convinced at the urgency at this point.”
After the vote, the town has $384,459 of its initial $7.4 million in ARPA funding it received between 2021 and 2022. This funding must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024 and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.