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City Council reviews goals, prepares for budget process

For those curious about the direction the City of Washington is headed in the next year, Tuesday night’s City Council meeting was a good place to start. Prior to the group’s regular meeting, council members reviewed a set of 20 goals on the priority list for city staff, receiving updates on each. The goal setting/review sessions became a quarterly occurrence for the council last spring, allowing the group to better keep a finger on the pulse of city issues than the previous, annual goal-setting format.

At the top of the current list are two items regarding the city’s drainage system. These goals include formulating a plan to prioritize ditch cleaning in more than 12 miles of ditches throughout Washington’s service area. Since Jan. 1, public works crews have removed debris from more 21,922 feet of ditches in the city, with most of the work being done by hand. Additionally, the Public Works department is in discussions with the N.C. Department of Transportation to assess drainage issues on and under city roads.

Also ranking high on the goal list is a plan to move forward with closing on a site for the new police station at the former site of Roberson Beverage on Bridge Street. Geotechnical testing of the soil at the site is still needed to proceed.

Planning goals include a review of the Historic Preservation Commission guidelines, reviewing zoning ordinances and restrictions on the use of sidewalks, with an eye toward Streetscape development. Major projects underway for the electric department include a rebuild of the Slatestone Road substation and projects at Avenue and Cherry roads.

Other goals include efforts to increase communication with the public, updates to administrative policies, an ongoing list of city streets to be resurfaced through 2028 and a hanger construction project at Washington-Warren Airport.

Recently completed milestones include the completion of the pier at Havens Gardens and the debugging of the city’s financial software.

In addition to goals developed by council members and city management, the session also included goals that have been developed by various city departments. These included:

Finance — Implement new software modules to allow the city to better manage its finances.

Human Resources — Work with managers to finalize minimum qualifications for each city job and design a structured interview process for candidates.

Information Technology — Redesign city website, which has been online in its current format for eight years. Implement networking that will allow city cameras, including police body cameras, to be viewed via a centralized video display at the Washington Police Department. Potentially use waterfront Wi-Fi to add security cameras to help WPD respond to areas with known issues. Both projects are included in the 2020 capital improvement plan and will be included in the 2019-20 budget.

  • Community and Cultural Resources — New goals are under development with hiring of new director.
  • Parks and Recreation — Install a dehumidification system at the Bobby Andrews Recreation Center and complete an additional 500 feet of bulkhead at Havens Gardens during the 2019-20 fiscal year.
  • Public Works — Work on solutions to increase the city’s wastewater treatment capacity or reduce the flow of wastewater into the plant, which is nearing capacity under North Carolina guidelines.
  • Electric department — Implement new GIS software to allow the department better monitoring and response to issues related to city power grid. Continue process of 10-year plan bidding.
  • Police and Fire Services — Continue partnerships with citizens. Maintain and establish new community watch groups and establish a public safety academy to educate the community about the department’s functions. Evaluate and update policies and procedures.
  • Police Department — Create a patrol officer manual to establish clear expectations and guidance for officers. Update technology for more efficient traffic accident investigation and update computer aided dispatch system to improve information tracking. Update mobile data terminals in vehicles.
  • Fire Department — Invest in career development for firefighters, encouraging advance training. Upgrade technology to increase interoperability with other departments.
  • Brown Library — Provide programming and resources to meet the needs of the community, maximizing existing library space. Adjust staffing to meet the needs of the community.

A full update on the city’s goals and priorities can be found under the Feb. 11, 2019 agenda at www.washingtonnc.gov/meeting-agendas.