Two groups vie for comprehensive plan help


OBSERVER Staff Writer

Two consultant groups are currently under consideration as the town of Dunkirk searches for a way to create a cost-effective comprehensive plan.

During a three-hour planning board meeting, the groups gave their pitches to convince the town to choose them for the plan’s surveying and compiling process.

The first group included Andrew Reilly and Ellen Parker of Buffalo-based Wendel and Wendy Weber Salvati of Clarence-based WWS Planning. Wendel submitted an initial figure of $37,800 in its project bid.

Diana Smith and Connie Sowards of MRB Group of Rochester and Jane Rice of Environmental Design & Research of Syracuse comprised the second group. MRB Group submitted an initial figure of $48,000 in its project bid, but according to an email from Town Clerk Jean Crane to the OBSERVER, that figure was lowered to $39,500 after the group interviewed with the planning board.

Wendel’s representatives explained the main method of spreading surveys out to residents would be SurveyMonkey, an online tool to create surveys and compile data.

“You get a web link and people click on that and you do it right online, and the service does the tabulation for you, which can be the expensive part of the survey,” Parker explained. “Having it done through SurveyMonkey … really keeps your costs down.”

“We, as Wendel, have to get the word out that this is available to people,” Reilly said. “Any method you use, you have to get the word out.”

The group recommended meeting with stakeholders to hone the plan to specific needs, including agriculture, businesses, seniors, schools and surrounding communities.

MRB Group discussed creating a new website devoted to the plan’s development process that keeps people informed about where the plan is in its journey to completion. The website would be maintained by MRB and would include documentation of the process.

“You could literally use it as a tool to educate the public and to enhance public participation, because it can be a two-way communication tool,” Smith explained.

“The first phase is to really meet with you and understand your intent and your direction (for your plan),” Rice told the planning board, adding the next step would be to engage the community through surveys and public meetings. “Our goal is to keep progress moving smoothly and seamlessly.”

Smith said the surveys, once completed, would be analyzed by MRB, unlike Wendel’s SurveyMonkey idea.

“We can get the data back to you in raw form, so that you have this at your disposal,” Rice said. “You can use those responses in the future and … they can help you understand exactly which direction you want to go.”

After both groups gave their pitches, the planning board entered into executive session to mull over which one it would recommend to the town board to go forward with.

The town board will vote on which company Dunkirk will contract with during a special meeting today at 7 p.m. in the town hall.

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