Mayor’s Monthly Report, December 2022 - January 2023
Recap of 2022
Our city made considerable progress towards its goals in 2022, with the vision of the City Council and the dedicated hard work of all our staff to meet these goals set forth in our Strategic Action Plan. We continued to lay the groundwork for the future of our city by investing in our aging infrastructure, increasing recreational opportunities for quality of life and addressing our housing shortage, and we continued to provide the basic services to our residents.
The passing of the 1% city sales tax increase in 2022 will help pave the way to address three key issues, keeping the total burden from our city residents. This increase allows for non-city residents and visitors who utilize our resources and services on a daily basis to also share in the cost. We will now be able to work towards replacing our 100-year-old-plus fire station, enhance our public works department to be able to sustain the many added recreational opportunities that we have committed to and invest in our employees, who are our most valuable assets. Like everyone else, our city is also working through inflationary costs and competing for a workforce to retain. One key note is that Council voted not to apply this increase to food purchases used for consumption.
Looking forward to 2023
As we look forward to 2023, we will continue to carry forward the momentum that has been created these past couple of years to build a strong economic base for a sustainable future for our city. We will continue to build those important relationships and partnerships that are needed to help fund projects and bring them to fruition. One of our key goals is to leverage this collaboration and continue to advance our city as a key leader in our rural region in Arizona. Here are some of the things we hope to see in 2023.
Community Aquatic Center: We look forward to the opening of the new renovated Community Center Pool for recreation, competition swimming and other programs. The project includes a newly lined heated pool with zero clearance entrance, a two-story slide, an adjustable bulkhead for competition swimming, new state of the art entrance with showers and bathrooms, a shaded pavilion for private parties and a heated splash pad. This project was only made possible by the funding from the many partners in the community.
Recreation: We will be adding more recreational opportunities to add to the already installed new playground equipment at both Veteran’s Park at City Hall and the Community Center Park. We look forward to the installation of new outside exercise equipment at the Active Adult Center park. We will also see the installation of drinking water filling stations throughout the downtown historic district. Our distribution of CDBG funds that we receive every three years, in the amount of $180,000, will be used for upgrades at Veteran’s Park. With this grant, we will be adding more shading, seating and upgrades to the sidewalks leading to City Hall.
Connie’s Bridge: The groundbreaking was held on January 10 to begin the construction of the new Connie’s Bridge. The completion of this project is projected for October of 2023. This project also includes upgrades to South Hill Street down to the bridge and the intersection that lines up with it. This is a $5.5 million project, with $2.8 million coming from the state budget.
Hill Street Project: We look forward to the groundbreaking of this $21 million project in June of this year to begin the construction. This Gorman Company project provides a 64-unit senior affordable housing facility utilizing the existing Hill Street School building and adding an additional building on the property. This is just one project of many that will address our housing shortage. It will take approximately 18 months to complete construction for an anticipated opening date of the last quarter of 2024.
Community Center Sewer Line Project: This project is scheduled to be completed this year. It will include the installation of sewer line from the Community Center Park down and will connect into the current City sewer line on Jess Hayes Road. This will allow all city facilities to be put on city sewer and get them off septic tanks. The project will also provide the opportunity for additional residential hookups that are in the path of the new line installation. The estimated cost for this project is approximately $1.2 million.
New Fire Station: Our team has completed and submitted the application to USDA for approval of a $13 million loan to build a new fire station that will replace our 100-plus-year-old station. This year we anticipate an approval of the application to allow us to move forward with the completion of the design and specifications. The property has already been purchased at the old Medical Center building at 703 E. Ash St. Our city has been awarded federal funding in the amount of $55,000 from the Inflation Reduction Act to begin the abatement at this site. We are waiting for the award from the Rural Area Development Grant to help pay for the design/demolition/partial build.
Michaelson Building Project: Our city was awarded $750,000 from Congress direct spending, from USDA Rural Area Development funds. This is an incubator and workforce development project located at South Broad Street and Sycamore Street, in partnership with the County. The funding will help move the construction of the project forward this year.
Northeast Corridor Sewer Expansion: This year we will see the completion of the Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) for the sewer expansion project to the northeast corridor. Our growth area is limited, with very little private land available. The northeast corridor, on Highway 60 going north towards Show Low, is our best option for that growth. Our goal is to work with stakeholders to establish those partnerships to someday provide city infrastructure all the way to the Fairgrounds area.
Housing: Our staff will continue their hard work to satisfy one of our major deficiencies in our community, and that is housing. This year we anticipate announcing a couple of proposed projects that will help bring new housing developments, so that people not only work here but have the opportunity to live here.
Lobbyist and Washington Trip: It has been a huge benefit hiring and working with a lobbyist from Washington, D.C. this past year who is dedicated to seeking out funding opportunities for projects for our city that we may not hear of. We will continue those services this year as we look forward to many more opportunities. Our City Councilmen are looking forward to participating in and attending, for the first time ever, the National League of Cities Conference in Washington, D.C. in March. Besides the valuable information from the conference, we will also be able to schedule one-on-one meetings to dialogue with our legislators. Putting a face in front of them on the priorities of our city will have a direct impact as they make decisions that may affect our hometown.
Strategic Action Plan: Our annual strategic action planning session is being scheduled for February. This session is vital to the future planning vision and goals of our city as we keep our city progressing forward. Our plan includes a one, three, five year plan and beyond, and at the same time being conscientious about the stability of our finances. Our plan includes assuring a strong fund balance for future hardships our city may encounter.
First Fridays: First Fridays have become a monthly signature event, and continue to grow each month with more participation from downtown businesses, vendors and cruisers. Everyone is invited to participate in the downtown cruise that begins at 5:30 p.m. We invite all the community to come downtown and support the participating businesses, food trucks and vendors while enjoying live music. Anyone wishing to set up a vendor booth during any First Friday event may do so at no cost by contacting Linda Oddonetto. Our next First Friday is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2023.
Our Council and staff will continue to refresh our plans, evolve and keep moving forward not only this coming year, but for many years to come. Our vision is to look and plan for years down the road. We are committed to building a strong, vibrant and sustainable community for the generations to come.