During its regular meeting Tuesday, the Anniston City Council added that sum to its contract with consulting firm ACP Greene and Associates, LLC, raising the total cost of the city's strategic plan under development to $110,500. Only Councilman David Reddick questioned the costs, abstaining from the vote after saying some of them appeared unjustified. Meanwhile, Mayor Vaughn Stewart and City Manager Brian Johnson defended the increases, saying they were unforeseen costs but the project was worth the effort.
"Some of the costs were just high to me," Reddick said after the meeting. "Some of the prices seemed a little inflated."
The $19,000 covers costs associated with the development of the city's strategic plan, which began earlier this year. Those costs include $800 for a professional videographer and $1,500 for food at the Community Summit meeting held last month as part of the plan's development process. The extra money will also cover future expected costs for the remainder of the project, including $5,000 for an open house event next month to display the draft of the strategic plan. Consultants with ACP have said the strategic plan should be finished by March at the latest.
"There's no justification for $5,000 for an open house," Reddick said.
Johnson said the city had previously appropriated a total of $100,000 for developing the strategic plan. So far, the city has paid approximately $75,000 of the project's cost, he said.
According to Johnson, the costs have increased beyond the original estimate because the city has never attempted anything like this project before and it has been a learning process. He said the $5,000 for the open house is what the city has learned will be an appropriate cost for such an event, which will include food and other amenities.
"A number of unforeseen expenses have occurred," Johnson said.
He noted, however, that this will be the last cost increase associated with the plan.
"The difference with this is we have enough money now to get us through the final capstone event," Johnson said.
Stewart reiterated that developing such a comprehensive strategic plan is a new undertaking for the city and that it is worth the effort and extra cost.
"It will be decades before we do this again and it will be expensive to have the consultants to come back if we don't do it all now," Stewart said. "I think this is a no-brainer."
Also during the meeting the council:
• Renewed the Elk Lodge's permit to hold bingo games.
• Approved a beer license for a business at 3801 U.S. Highway 431 North.
• Approved a $5,000 expenditure to the Anniston High School Marching Band for its trip to the Florida Citrus Bowl.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.