Planning panel maps process for future guide

SALEM – A planning committee made up of Salem city government leaders met Thursday night to map out the process they’ll oversee to formulate a five-year plan for future spending and action by city council.

Councilman Dave Nestic, who presented the idea for the planning process during a Committee of the Whole meeting last month, explained the next steps for the four subcommittees chaired by city council members.

He stressed the idea is for city council and the administration to have a guide for their decision-making, a plan that’s put together by city officials and others with input from the community.

In the past week, he said he’s been asked what’s different about this idea.

He said they’ve always had plans presented to them from outside organizations, such as the Downtown Salem Technical Advisory Committee and the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Comprehensive Sustainable Plan.

“We have to have our own plan,” he said.

In his previous presentation, he wrote that the objective is to “develop a document with a priorized list of actionable items for the main functions of the city (infrastructure, community development, housing and zoning, and services) to which council and (the) administration can refer when planning budgets, deciding on funding requests, and targeting grant proposals so that actions taken by council and (the) administration can most efficiently align with desired outcomes in city development.”

Planning Committee members who attended the meeting besides Nestic included Councilmen Rick Drummond, K. Bret Apple, Brian Whitehill and Jeff Cushman, Council President Mickey Cope Weaver, Mayor John Berlin, city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst and city Auditor Betty Brothers.

The next step is for subcommittee chairs to start putting their rosters together for their committees, reviewing previously gathered material such as the TAC Plan, the Comprehensive Sustainable Plan and the Salem 2020 Plan and visiting some cities they can use for benchmarks or samples of what they would like Salem to strive for.

The Planning Committee will meet again in a month or so to review some of that information and to prepare for each subcommittee’s brainstorming session where lists of items or wants pertaining to each function of city government will be developed.

Those lists will be shared with the community and input from the public will be gathered on how to prioritize the action items on the lists, such as a new ladder truck for the fire department or a canine unit for the police department.

The Planning Committee will review the subcommittee and community input and finalize the report of prioritized action items, with a final report reviewed by the Committee of the Whole and sent to city council for approval.

Each subcommittee will include a council member as chair, the mayor or service director or both, a representative of the Chamber, a member of TAC, a representative of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center board, appropriate city managers (chiefs, parks, streets, etc.), and at least one citizen not affiliated with any of the listed groups, with Nestic saying a committee can have as many unaffiliated citizens as the chair wants.

Cushman and Councilman Clyde Brown will co-chair the infrastructure subcommittee, Drummund will chair community development, Whitehill will chair housing and zoning and Apple will chair services.

“I’m hoping people understand it’s an open process and their input is welcome,” Nestic said after the meeting.

When talking about the benchmarks, he said they need to look outside their boundaries to see what other cities have done. He suggested looking at Hudson or Chagrin Falls, both of which are an easy drive from Salem. He visited Newton Falls and Burton recently. He also suggested comparable cities, such as Columbiana and Louisville, or looking at the area the subcommittee is overseeing in a comparable city, such as services.

“All of this is meant to give people ideas,” he said.

Cushman suggested that they may want to formulate an ultimate direction that will drive what the subcommittees do, so they’re all on the same page.

Drummond said the city will have a plan or idea of what the people want to see out of the city long-term and they’ll have to figure out how to do it. He said he didn’t want to see it become a situation where they put together lists and there won’t be money to do what’s on the lists.

Nestic said there will be costs for some items, but he also said there will be zero cost items, such as ordinances that need to be written or revised.

He said the plan will be a tool for managing city government and the city’s finances.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at