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Bismarck Assistant City Administrator Jason Tomanek, left, and Bismarck City Administrator Keith Hunke and others are working on the final report for the city's new strategic plan. The framed picture is a drawing of Bismarck from 1883.

The city’s last strategic plan is what brought curbside recycling and small community parks within new neighborhoods to Bismarck.

Now city staff are again going through the process that aims to shape what the community could look like in another five years.

“Strategic planning anywhere is all about aligning the resources available — time, energy, effort, money — with the desires of the community,” said Jason Gray of JDGray Group LLC, the consultant contracted by the city to help develop the plan.

City Administrator Keith Hunke calls it a barometer of city services, making sure they’re in lockstep with what residents expect. It allows staff to prioritize their programs, so in years when funding is tight they know where it’s most acceptable to cut back.

“This is our roadmap,” Hunke said.

More than 1,100 people responded to surveys conducted by the city, said Assistant City Administrator Jason Tomanek. In addition, survey results from the Mayor’s Livability Summit in 2017 are being used. The city’s largest employers, such as the hospitals, also have been asked to share things they’ve heard from their employees.

“They tend to bring in people to the community and what they’ve experienced in other places,” Tomanek said of the employers.

People who grew up here, moved away and then returned are another good source, bringing input on what they experienced elsewhere, according to Tomanek.

“New perspective is always good,” Tomanek said.

The city has also contacted past community leaders to provide a continuum of the things Bismarck has done well and wants to keep, Tomanek said, adding that, without those leaders, Bismarck wouldn’t have trees and streetscape on Fifth Street that was put in place during the ‘90s.

To include the younger demographic, the survey was taken to high school government classes. And former commissioner Josh Askvig was asked to share it with members of AARP, the state organization he leads.

In all, Gray said organizers have interacted with about 7,300 people. He usually aims for engagement from 5 percent of a city’s population. Bismarck is already at more than 4 percent population engagement.

City commissioners will be given data from those comments today to help in devising a vision and objectives. A draft plan, expected to be finalized by mid-2019, will be ready for public comment in early spring.

Tomanek said the Strategic Plan also gives commissioners support and confidence to initiate new programs.

“This is the voice of the community,” he said, adding that the 2012 plan was what Askvig cited when initiating the ordinance for small parks in new neighborhoods. 

The Bismarck Police "power shift" came out of the plan's public safety goal. There's a lot more public art in the city because of the initiative in the plan to make Bismarck a preferred workplace, Tomanek said. Quiet Rail, the addition of new airlines at the airport and the fire department's training facility are a few other items from the plan. 

From 80 percent to 85 percent of the 2012 goals have been initiated or completed, Tomanek said.

Gray said this next plan will have six or seven strategic focus areas and 100 to 150 specific goals that fall within them. The plan also will come with access to software that will help city staff better track progress on these goals.

"I spent 15 years working within city management," Gray said. "The one thing I hated to see was to spend a bunch of money on a plan and then that plan sits on a shelf." 

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Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or


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