The Town of Duncan is overdue for a new general plan, and town officials are navigating the legal process toward creating an updated plan that would see the town through 2025.

All municipalities are required to put together a general plan every 10 years, per Arizona state law, and Duncan hasn’t updated its plan since 2006, according to Philip Cushman, the town’s interim manager and clerk.

“There’s a lot of stuff and it’s always good for the people to inform Council where to go because if you don’t have a plan, it makes it harder when you go out and try to get the financing to do some of these large capital projects,” Cushman said of the public’s involvement in the planning process.

Municipalities are legally required to provide multiple opportunities for public input, including options for citizens, leaders and stakeholders to either make a presentation to council in person, or to provide written correspondence.

Cushman reflected on the challenges Duncan faces: infrastructure, flood control of the levee along the Gila River, annexation, planning and zoning and animal control. There’s also economic development to consider, he added.

“There’s all kinds of things that people can talk about. We have a bunch of municipal buildings, what should we do with them? What roads need to be fixed?” he said.

The town manager likened the necessity of an updated general plan to a child asking for money: If a child asks you for money and doesn’t have a plan for using it, then giving them the money could be wasteful.

Requesting funds from a patron, granter or agency would be a similar situation, making any funds petition processes easier with an updated plan.

Cushman said that meetings to discuss the new plan are going well so far and that those involved will continue to look at the town’s core values, vision and mission statement.

“We’re still in draft format right now, but it was really good to get everybody to sit around the table and think about this,” he said.

Once the draft is approved, it has to be sent out for review from adjacent governments. Once it returns to Duncan, it has to be approved by the town’s council. In the end, the entire process can last three to four months.

According to Cushman, towns can choose between hiring a third party to create a new general plan or can conduct the process themselves, a decision that’s traditionally more cost effective. and beneficial to understanding the community.

Hiring someone outside the community can sometimes cost between $20-30,000, but Cushman prefers the town’s opportunity to create its own plan, noting an added benefit is that it allows the creators to “understand the opportunities that the town has and what makes us a really neat little town.”

This isn’t Cushman’s first rodeo when it comes to drafting plans. As a former Marine, he was involved in Future Operations plans, working on everything from war plans with China, to disaster response and humanitarian assistance. His background hails experience in making plans fit for operation and use. While different from military operations or planning and strategizing, much of the process resonates with municipalities.

“I’ve worked with a lot of other small towns and within the state, so it’s not anything really different. It just takes work to do,” said Cushman.

The interim manager was approved and appointed by a town council vote in August following former manager John Basteen’s resignation and a recent audit that examined the town’s handling of finances. The Town of Duncan is the fourth community in Arizona where Cushman has stepped in to help with challenges.

The town council was slated to further discuss Cushman’s continued employment as interim town manager on Friday, Jan. 13 during its regular work session, after the newspaper’s print deadline.

Cushman said public input has thus far centered on the town’s core values around family and tolerance. Duncan’s emphasis on its citizens’ love for its small, rural community, children, freedom and scenic area balances with prioritizing family-owned and operated businesses.

The town’s historical and cultural heritage play an important role in the new plan, including preserving historic structures.

“Once you lose your history and destroy your old buildings, they ain’t coming back,” Cushman said. “So it’s very important to draw a line in the sand and say, as a community, we are going to preserve our history, so that we can pass it on to the future generation. And that’s a problem we see all across the state.”

Duncan residents can make public comments to the town council on Friday, Jan. 28. Comments may be limited to three to five minutes long per speaker.

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