Wendell town commissioner Sam Laughery made an interesting comment at the close of Monday night’s town board meeting, when he said the town board seems focused primarily on routine day-to-day business rather than taking on forward-looking initiatives.
His comment caused us to think back just two days prior to the town board’s annual planning retreat when commissioners spent half a day at the Wendell community center, hearing reports from department heads about the status of their departments, staffing levels and impending capital needs that will likely appear in a budget proposal in just a few months.
The conversations included explanations of how the town responds to snow events and how many building permits have been issued so far this year. All that’s interesting and useful information for commissioners to have. But it’s not big picture thinking. And that’s how retreats benefit town boards and town staffs the most.
In Zebulon, commissioners met Tuesday and among the things department heads were asked to prepare was a five- to seven-year vision of what they think their departments will look like in the future. That’s a good way to get commissioners thinking about needs down the road and how to get from here to there.
To be fair, there were some interesting long-range discussions among Wendell commissioners, although they resulted in few conclusions. Board members talked about the need for a new town hall, and whether to take a short-term Band-Aid approach, or bite the bullet and start making plans for a new town hall. But too often, conversations descended from the 30,000-foot level to the 500-foot level. Commissioners in Wendell are generally averse to tax increases, but the fact is the town is in a remarkably strong position with a sound savings account and virtually no debt to speak of.
This is the time, if ever there was one, for commissioners to get up out of the weeds of daily business and think about long-term matters such as capital needs and questions like one posed by Commissioner John Boyette who asked how the town plans to bring the two disparate sections of Wendell (the town proper and Wendell Falls) together by filling the geographical void that lies in between.
Wendell finds itself in a pretty good position right now, all things considered. This is time time for commissioners to be forward looking and aggressive in planning for the future.