READ: Mayor's State of the City Address
My fellow Riverton residents, I come before you tonight to offer up my opinion of the State of our beloved city. It has been just over a year now since I have taken the solemn oath to support, obey and defend the US and Utah Constitutions, and discharge the office of Riverton Mayor with fidelity. And, I am happy to report that over this past year, much has been accomplished by your city government. And, that the outlook over the next year will continue to be one of great accomplishment, furthering the state of our city as one that is strong, prosperous and growing.
2018 was a tremendous year of accomplishment. It commenced with elected officials meeting in January to, for the very first time in Riverton history, craft city-wide vision and mission statements. The vision statement conveys our hope for the future: “Preserving our past, citizens, families, businesses, and leaders unite in building a community where we can live, work and play.”
While the mission statement describes what the city will do and how it will do it: “Riverton City provides essential services that enhance the quality of life and sense of community for all citizens. We foster kind, open and responsive interactions, generating positive citizen involvement and innovative solutions. Leaders, citizens and employees hold each other accountable to meet the needs of the community.”
Once those statements were crafted, we then discussed what priorities the city could set to realize that vision and mission. Both elected officials and senior staff members were selected as champions for each of the 8 priorities ultimately identified – with the goal of accomplishing them by 2021. In offering up this State of the City, let me attempt to highlight those major goals accomplished in 2018, and those sought for 2019, taking one strategic priority at a time.
The first strategic priority is:“Foster safe and healthy neighborhoods that provide a strong sense of community with balanced opportunities to live, work and play.” To me, ensuring the safety and health of our residents is the utmost and principal responsibility of city government, and is therefore deservedly first amongst our priorities. 2018 saw the creation of the new Riverton Law Enforcement Service Area (RLESA), replacing the countywide law enforcement service area as the means of paying for our police services with Unified Police Department; a move that has now saved Riverton residents some $900 thousand in property taxes! It also made possible the reclaiming of our police building, a value of $1.8 million, while also recouping almost $900 thousand in cash that our residents have paid to the countywide entity. Upon receiving notice that a neighboring municipality would leave UPD, and with expressed concerns over certain accounting and coverage practices, our council gave direction to staff to conduct an analysis of self-providing law enforcement vs that of continuing with UPD. This showed a clear value gap, to the tune of some $1.2 million. Ultimately, the council voted in favor of self-providing, has confirmed my appointment of Don Hutson to serve as chief of police, and is solidly moving in the direction of standing up that very department by no later than June 30th of this year. This move will provide approximately 10 more officers for less cost than our contract with UPD today, and that will result in millions of dollars in the transfer of equipment and cash, as we reclaim the vested share of assets that rightfully belong to our residents. I have every confidence in our new Chief Hutson, and the officers that will comprise this new Riverton Police Department. I firmly believe that residents will see a noticeable, positive difference in service level and responsiveness, and will take great pride in their new police department.
One other major accomplishment in this strategic priority is the general promotion of health and welfare amongst our residents. Stemming from a meeting in the summer of 2018 with school administrators, law enforcement and emergency services personnel, elected officials committed to adding another school resource officer to our junior high school, while also committing to sponsoring at least two events a year that promote awareness of anxiety, depression, suicide and the general mental health of our student and resident population. These events that are held under the name Live in Real Life have been attended by over 2,000 people. I want to thank all of our partners and sponsors in this endeavor. I have received scores of emails, phone calls or other messages that have said these events have benefited their lives, or that of their children. Thank you!
For this priority 2019 will bring a continued emphasis on standing up the Riverton Police Department, a commitment to the safety, security, and mental health of our students, and a focus on emergency preparedness. I want to thank our Emergency Preparedness Committee for the work they have already done, and the added work they will do in helping the city achieve this very important goal.
Two of our eight strategic priorities deal with economic development. The importance of economic development cannot be understated for our city. Enhanced sales and franchise tax revenues that come as a result of economic development, if used appropriately, can have a mitigating effect on taxes and service fees billed to residents. This is particularly important since Riverton does not assess a city property tax. Further, this type of development brings retail, restaurant, entertainment and employment options closer to home, increasing the convenience and quality of life for Riverton residents.
2018 saw some defining moments for the development of our local economy. The completion of the first phase of the Mountain View Village development brings with it hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail space. Additionally, in an effort to promote a thriving business environment, Riverton city became the first city in the state to eliminate the business license fee! Riverton’s business climate and ideal location have brought in hundreds of new businesses that now call Riverton home. This trend has driven sales tax revenues from $5 million in 2013 to an estimated $7.5 million by the end of this fiscal year on June 30th! This equates to a 50% increase in 6 years.
2019 will be an incredible year for our economic development. CenterCal will break ground on phase 2 for Mountain View Village, bringing with it an incredible amount of entertainment, restaurant and retail uses that our residents desire. In total, Mountain View Village will have approximately 1.6 million square feet of office and retail, estimated to bring millions of dollars in new sales tax revenues to our city treasury. 2019 has also seen the continuation of our Economic Development Committee – a dedicated, highly experienced group of volunteer residents that are exploring ways to vastly improve Riverton’s competitive landscape and economic outlook. They are helping review a project now that would put Riverton as a leader and innovator with broadband communication as we look at municipally owned fiber options that could bring this essential service to all of our residents, and at a cost and service offering that is better than any available today. Not to mention all of the advantages that can come with becoming a smart city. I’m very excited about the prospects of this project.
The city has also recently submitted a request for proposal for planning firms that can help create a new sense of prestige for the old downtown corridor along 12600 S and Redwood Road. There are many opportunities for restaurant, retail and specialty uses along the main park that create a unique destination for patrons, and a reinvigoration of this corridor. The completion of improvements to the frontage of city hall, new trail way systems that connect the civic and entertainment uses of the downtown, will also be a focus in 2019.
One of our strategic priorities focuses on “establishing vibrant parks, recreations opportunities and events that build bridges within the community.” 2018 saw the opening of a new playground and splash pad at Western Springs Park, the bringing back of the carnival to our Town Days celebration, the securing of new grants for a dog park and enhanced fishing pond from the county, and the acquisition of an acre of land to expand our at capacity and sold out cemetery. During 2018, we also saw the coming together of our Parks, Recreation and Trails Committee, and they have been making recommendations on new park and trail spaces in the SLR project area, are inventorying current field use, and are identifying other spaces that are needed in the community to maintain the quality of life we’ve come to expect in Riverton. I want to thank them for their work, and look forward to their continued efforts and recommendations.
For this strategic priority, 2019 will bring about many accomplishments. Not the least of which will be the completion of the new cemetery expansion by Memorial Day; providing for almost 1,000 new burial plots. I want to personally thank the Kendrick family for working so well with the city. This much-needed expansion will be on time and under budget – and once all burial plots are sold there will be no cost to the city to have established this new section. 2019 will also see the continued work on the wetlands area of our section of the Jordan River Trail. We’ll begin looking for ways to work with donors or grant funds in the actualization of a recreation center, expansion to our community theater program, and adding more programmable sports field space for our residents. Our Community Events Committeewill continue to look for ways we can enhance our favorite events and will work to garner more community support from sponsors and volunteers.
Ensuring that critical roads, water, secondary water and storm water services are all properly installed and maintained is no easy task, particularly in a growing city like ours. 2018 saw over $54 million in major roadway projects with the completion of Redwood Road and 13200 S among them. Riverton city also oversaw the completion of a 5 million gallon water storage tank that cost almost $4 million. This water tank, which was on time and under budget, will provide all of the water storage requirements Riverton has through its build out. With the incredible efficiencies brought about by our secondary water department, and the repayment of bonds within a few years, we were also able to deliver a cost savings of $5 per month for delivery of your secondary water. This year also saw the establishment of the Transportation Committee – another volunteer group of expert, capable individuals. They have contributed an enormous amount to our city already, making much needed recommendations on issues related to roadway and transit improvements.
This year will bring millions of dollars in additional roadway projects, particularly in the SLR project area. We are also planning on hundreds of thousands of dollars in secondary water surge tank and pump upgrades to ensure quality delivery of secondary water and pressure for our residents. Looking always towards innovation, some new technologies are also being explored that could significantly drive down the cost and improve the quality of our culinary water system.
Perhaps my favorite priority is that of having highly engaged and informed residents. The participation from all of you is what truly turns our city into a welcoming, thriving community. This last year, we made significant progress with this goal. Consider the following: the city adopted a new logo that came from 53 design submission and over 450 votes in a public preference poll. We have increased our social media following by over 100%, to include a community of over 11,700 online followers. We have tripled our news media coverage with over 127 mentions and launched the Riverton Connect mobile app, which now has over 2,500 users. We launched the Riverton Recap email newsletter, which reaches over 9,400 people twice per month. We launched Mayor’s Minute video segments in 2018, generating over 28,000 views. We conducted a resident poll on city issues with 553 respondents, a Best of Riverton Photo Contest with 295 submissions, a communications survey with 812 respondents, and a Christmas Card Design Contest with 110 youth participants.
Not only do I believe that we have more engagement with residents than ever before, we have also provided more opportunity for participation with your city government. The creation of our new resident volunteer committees in addition to our established Historic Preservation Commission, Planning Commission, and Youth Council, Arts Council, Miss Riverton, Healthy Riverton and other formally recognized organizations, provides a tremendous amount of opportunity for participation in our great city. 2019 will be an opportunity for us to continue providing opportunities to engage, educate, involve and inform the community; fostering a feeling of community pride and sense of shared responsibility.
Operational Excellence is another priority, and one that is being led by our new City Manager, Konrad Hilldebrandt. Konrad joined our Riverton City team in May of last year and has taken to heart the directives from elected officials to create and foster a culture of innovation, positive interactions and accountability to the needs of our community. 2018 saw the addition of several new employees, revisions to workflow processes, and rearrangement of organizational charts. Konrad has overseen the creation of monthly management reports from each city department and a “better way of doing things” program that is a welcome addition to city management and will continue to be practiced in 2019. He and our executive staff are dedicated to helping our city achieve our strategic priorities.
Last but not least, your Riverton City officials have committed to ensure fiscally responsible governance. I can assure you that this is not something that is just a platitude, but a principle we live in Riverton. We continually seek efficiency and innovation, implementing changes that prove beneficial. I’ve already reviewed the positive financial changes made with the implementation of the new RLESA; saving residents over $900 thousand in property tax, reclaiming a $1.8 million asset and receiving $900 thousand in cash reserves that were overpaid to the countywide organization. We are now advancing to create an additional $1.2 million in value with the creation of our own Riverton PD.
Another example is that of replacing animal control services from the county with that of our own. In a unique example of a public-private partnership with a local veterinary clinic, Riverton city now saves an average of $23 thousand per month in what would have otherwise been charged to us by the county this year.
After more than doubling sales and franchise tax debt in 2013 from $18 to $36 million, we have seen debt and per capita debt fall precipitously over the last few years. From $47 to $35 million this year, with per capita falling from $1,153 to $797. And in 2019, we are standing up our own police department, investing millions in infrastructure already highlighted, and improving the old downtown district all without adding any new debt! And speaking of per capita costs, our full-time equivalent employee count per 1,000 people and cost per resident is the lowest amongst our neighboring cities at 2.61 and $208.62 respectively. Our utility costs continue to be the lowest amongst our neighboring cities, and across much of the county as well, with an average cost of $713 per year versus $847 to $1,001 for the same services.
I want to also point out that our general fund has seen total actual expenditures fall by almost $300 thousand in the last three fiscal years. From $8.9 million in fiscal year 2015-2016 to $8.6 million in the most recently closed out 2017-2018 fiscal year. Additionally, we have added $714 thousand to the general fund’s fund balance, which ended last June 30th at $2.8 million. This is at the statutory limit of 25% of the following year’s anticipated revenues. With this increase to fund balance, and given the projections over the course of this fiscal year, I will be looking to reward our residents with a fee holiday or reduction in one or more of the enterprise fees. After all, these are your funds.
The city would not be in this enviable position today without the leadership, strategic vision, and oversight from our dedicated City Council members.
Again, I’m proud to announce today the state of our beloved city as strong, prosperous and growing. To be sure, there are still challenges we will confront. Some of them are known and some unknown. There are challenges being made to local land use authority by some at our state government that would prove problematic in our ability to govern ourselves in accordance with our priorities in maintaining a sense of stability. Also, the growth within our city and principally in those that surround us, could pose a transportation crisis if not addressed. For this reason, I have been working with other mayors and elected officials from the southwest communities in a visioning process to ensure we understand the collective impact of planning decisions amongst municipalities, and identify the best ways we can build roadway, transit and active transportation systems to improve the quality of life for all of us. Working with the state to ensure the conversion of Bangerter Highway and Mountain View to full freeways, and establishing better east-west connectivity, will be key in this regard.
This progress and accomplishment will continue as we realize the vision, mission and strategic priorities laid out by the governing body. I want to thank our city council for their dedication and vision. I also want to thank all of the city employees for their hard work, service and constant striving for operational excellence. And thank you to all of our residents that help make our city a thriving, prosperous and strong community where we all want to live, work and play!