The city of Ravenna has decided to be a bit more strategic about the way it plans its future.
Mayor Joseph Bica recently unveiled the city's strategic plan to City Council and city employees. The 10-page document contains specific details about how the city will go about achieving its three overall goals.
Bica said when he first served on city council years ago, he noticed that Ravenna seemed to be reacting to situations as they arose, rather than planning for them.
"We're trying to move the city away from knee-jerk reactions," he said.
The three goals are:
Sustainable growth -- increasing the city's tax revenue by three-quarters of 1 percent annually through the economic development program.
City services -- increasing their efficiency by at least 5 percent.
Quality of life -- improving the health and safety for city residents.
Economic development goals spelled out in the report include establishing a creative arts, recreation and entertainment district and supporting Hiram College's arts business incubator and Coleman Professional Services' development of the Phoenix Building.
The plan also calls for facilitating the redevelopment of the former concrete plant eyed as a future park site and the former White Rubber Co. property, implementing a Joint Economic Development District with Ravenna Township, and identifying vacant properties in the JEDD area.
Improvements to city services include collaboration with the Ravenna Township Fire Department, decreasing delinquent water bills, and automating the billing processes of all city departments.
The plan also calls for using city resources to transform single-use vehicles into multi-use ones, doing more in-house maintenance, reducing operational costs in the wastewater treatment plant, and increasing collaboration between the parks and recreation department and other city and private partners.
Quality-of-life goals include fire prevention education and smoke detector programs, selling topsoil to citizens and businesses, compiling an online list of rental properties, demolishing condemned homes, completing basic GIS mapping, expanding public health programs, developing a paving plan and establishing the parks and recreation department's Culture and Arts program.
Bica said the goals are "realistic and measurable" and the process is similar to that in other cities. City department heads were asked to provide their goals, and embraced the opportunity, he said.
"I think in some departments, it's created a stir," he said.
Some goals apply to more than one department, such as arts initiatives eyed by both economic development and parks and recreation. The GIS mapping in the engineering department is a useful tool in economic development, he added.
Bica suggested that council implement its own strategic plan when it comes to its legislation. For example, he suggested that the city target its high rental rate through ordinances that discourage properties from being redeveloped as rentals. He pointed out that because of Ravenna's high rental rate, it has 1,000 more EMS calls per year than Streetsboro, even though Streetsboro's population is larger. Ravenna, he said, has 2,800 rental licenses.
"I don't think we should grant any more rental licenses," he said. Council President Fran Ricciardi, however, pointed out that council has to be careful about implementing such ordinances.
Councilman Frank Seman suggested legislation that would "give us teeth" when dealing with absentee landlords.
"They ignore us," he said.
Service Director Kelly Engelhart said she appreciates the focus on better planning for city services.
"We're not going to implement projects haphazardly any longer," she said.
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