County commissioners clash over master plan

CASSOPOLIS — A strategic plan that has been in the works since December 2017 is being halted due to concerns from the Cass County Board of Commissioners.

At Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, commissioners decided to take a vote to approve its master plan off of the agenda for Thursday’s regular meeting due to concerns from commissioners and differing opinions about the quality of the plan.

The strategic plan offers a blueprint for action that will be used to focus Cass County resources for the next five years and create goals for the county. Consulting firm Management Partners produced Cass County’s 2018 strategic plan to a cost of nearly $28,000.

“I’m not going to make any secret of this.I’m disappointed with [the strategic plan],” said commissioner Roseann Marchetti. “I think it is lacking in depth. I think there are things missing. I’m going to vote no at this point. I’m not happy with it.”

Marchetti was not the only commissioner with concerns about the plan.

Commissioner Robert Ziliak also expressed dissatisfaction with the strategic plan, saying that he believed the commissioners themselves could have written the same report, though it would have taken longer than it took Management Partners. Despite this, he said he would support approving the strategic plan.

Commissioner Terry Ausra also supported the strategic plan and said that he believed the board of commissioners should accept the strategic plan as it is. He added that the different commissioners may have had different views for the plan going into the process, which may have led to dissatisfaction with the final product.

“We have got to look to ourselves if we are not happy,” Ausra said. “[Management Partners] couldn’t operate without direction that wasn’t there. It wasn’t their job to offer direction. It was ours.”

County Administrator Karen Folks offered a number of solutions to the issue, ranging from holding a special meeting to a video conference with Management Partners to approving the strategic plan now and then tailoring it to the needs of board.

“This is a living document,” Folks said. “We can go back and change it and revise it at any time. … We can work on it and tweak it to be how you want it.”

Though Folks expressed understanding to the concerns of the commissioners, she said she did not want to see the strategic plan “kicked down the line” and forgotten about.

Ultimately, the board decided to pull the strategic plan from Thursday’s agenda. However, commissioners agreed the strategic plan should be worked on and voted on soon.

“We will work on getting this figured out,” Ausra said.

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