Each year I meet with City Council for an annual retreat. The purpose of the day long meeting is not to discuss current operations or upcoming projects but rather to discuss the bigger questions of where is the city heading and what are our priorities over the next several years? It’s a 10,000 foot high overview of where we are now, where we think we should be heading and what types of actions will be required to move us to the desired direction?
We completed the 2016 annual retreat on January 23rd this year and as a result, I have a long list of ideas, policies, and projects to explore and start moving forward to City Council for implementation over time. There were over 25 ideas discussed during the day and my intention is to spend the next several weeks discussing what we see, what we like, what we need to improve on, and the ways we will be looking to change for the better. I’ll try to get a couple posts each week covering the various topics and ideas presented.
So let’s start today with a recap as to what it took to get to this year’s annual retreat. I took over the city mid-year in 2014. At that time, we had a budget and projects for the year already in place and the agenda was set. In August 2014, we started the 2015 budget process and I attempted to set that budget up to allow us to start the planning needed to fix some of the long term issues facing the city. Before you can fix it, you have to understand what the problem is and what the potential solutions are. We also had operational issues internally which needed addressed.
So we went to work in 2015…
In Public Safety, we know that we have to modernize our public safety divisions in software, equipment, manpower, and tactics. To build a team to do that, I created a Public Safety Director to oversee Police and Fire, two divisions that worked side by side but often didn’t communicate with each other on joint issues. I appointed a new Police Chief. I appointed a new Fire Chief and Assistant Fire Chief. We negotiated new union contracts with both Police and Fire. We collectively looked at the Heroin problems in the city and the staggering costs and started working with the community to discuss what local impact we could make on the problem. We’re investigating dispatch options, better use of directed task forces to pinpoint crime pockets, and automatic aid and cooperation with the City of Monroe Fire Department. All of those projects are ongoing.
In Public Works, I asked for an update on the cost to completely repave our roads and to maintain and update our aging water/sewer infrastructure. The first step in figuring out how to pay for all of this is to know what number you are trying to reach. Once we know what the big number is, we can talk about how to break it down into bite sized pieces for implementation.
We brought in new people with new ideas in key positions. We have a new Economic Development Director, a new Assistant Economic Development Director, a new Finance Director, a new Assistant Finance Director, and a new City Planner. We are in the process of hiring a new Tax Superintendent and a new Zoning Administrator.
In Quality of Life, we tried to start adding a few events back for the community with the July 4th fireworks, movies in the parks, the Color Run and a few smaller events.
We’ve endeavored to be more open and accessible in how we do business. We’ve expanded our social media presence and public outreach. We’ve put our finances online. We’ve added new information items to our web page and I use this blog to talk in more detail about issues facing the city.
Finally, we identified almost $9 million in deferred maintenance that we could not complete over the past 10 years due to the recession and reduced revenues. That includes equipment, vehicles, park playgrounds, city-owned building routine maintenance and other items that are now beyond their expected life and should have been renovated or replaced before.
As I said before, the first step in digging out is to understand the hole you’ve dug for yourself. Now we have a list of unmet needs throughout the city in all areas.
Later this week, we’ll start talking about Economic Development updates and then move on to how we start getting this city back to its best form for our citizens.