Watkins Reviews City Accomplishments in 2009

Watkins

Columbia City Manager Bill Watkins on Thursday afternoon issued a statement reviewing the city’s accomplishments for 2009. Here’s the statement in its entirety.

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(COLUMBIA, MO) Columbia City Manager Bill Watkins issued the following statement today to review accomplishments during the past year.

We’re at the end of a decade that started with Y2K and fears that rogue computers would leave us in the lurch, but here we are, coping with a very different kind of misery…economic upheaval causing tremors in almost every home and business, and certainly in government services.

Despite these events, I want to share with citizens that a lot of good things happened. These are not presented in any priority order. They are all significant items, and this is not a complete list. Without the guidance of Columbia’s community vision and support for these activities, these results would not be possible.

I extend my best wishes for a happier new year to everyone who calls Columbia home and my heartfelt thanks to City Council members, City employees and our local partners.

* * *

The best news is that we maintained core City services within available revenues. Unlike other cities, counties and even states, we did not have to resort to drastic measures like layoffs or furloughs.

I will put our fiscal people and managers up against the best. They continue to seek opportunities to save money or get more value of taxpayer resources, including:

• Preparing and carrying out a financial plan to get us through the economic downturn.

• Responding to the City Council’s call to “go paperless” and not rely solely on paper copies of agenda materials, budgets and other information. This saved $85,000 in printing costs. By using more electronic transactions and taking advantage of electronic records management and storage, we’re saving space and gradually increasing wider access to this material.

• Rebidding several contracts (audit, answering service and utility bill mailing) that saved tens of thousands of dollars.

• Switching to a solid waste bag voucher system after more than 20 years of delivering bags to residents. This saved about $200,000.

• Getting extremely favorable financing for our wastewater treatment plant improvements. This saves money for ratepayers. Groundbreaking is coming up on Jan. 14, 2010.

• Improving our fire protection rating from Class 3 to Class 2, with the potential to lower insurance premiums.

* * *

In adversity, you also seek opportunity. For the City, that means aggressively pursuing state, federal and other resources.

• A $1 million U.S. Department of Energy block grant will allow us to do energy audits, prepare a community sustainability plan and hire a sustainability manager. The grant is spread over three years.

• So far, we’ve applied for almost $108 million in stimulus funds and received close to $14 million, for a whole range of projects. Some applications still are pending. Citizens can view this information on our home page by clicking on the “Transparency in Local Government” icon at http://www.GoColumbiaMo.com .

• Because local resources can’t keep up with increasing public health and human service needs, we secured more than $2.4 million in state, federal and foundation grants and contracts to provide local services.

* * *
You work to create your own opportunities, using known assets to leverage others.

• Reorganization at REDI (Regional Economic Development, Inc.) brought a new executive director and stronger nurturing of our partnership with the University of Missouri. This will capitalize on the potential of a creative economy to stimulate local entrepreneurship.

• Columbia received Missouri’s first designation for a “Certified Industrial Site” at the Ewing property in the north part of town. This is consistent with our community vision to establish three-shovel ready sites and fill a gap that has kept us from landing some types of employers.

• The Columbia Area Jobs Foundation gained control of 120 acres north of I-70 on Route Z to be developed into shovel-ready sites as needed.

• The Boone County Industrial Development Authority issued two grants of $50,000 each that allowed REDI to create a flexible incentive fund. It’s already credited with helping to locate businesses in the area, including Newsy.com, PetScreen Ltd., and a local startup from University Intellectual Property, Nanos LLC.

• Our own local “stimulus” program of capital improvements includes more than $125 million in projects under way. These are just a few of them.

• Phase 2 of City Hall construction is almost complete. The first offices are expected to move to the new addition in early February, and the first Council meeting in the new building is scheduled for February 15. The larger project will include new sidewalks at 8th and Broadway and a more attractive “streetscape.” This partnership includes $250,000 in tax credits from the Missouri Development Finance Commission and financial commitments from individuals and adjacent banks. Phase 3 will gut most of the Daniel Boone Building, modernize it, make it more energy efficient and accessible and bring it up to code.

• Providence Road North was completed and opened to traffic. This $4.7 million project completes a critical, major north-south connector.

• We started construction on the $16 million Scott Boulevard improvements. We will complete Phase 1 in spring 2011. This long-planned project is another partnership with the Missouri Department of Transportation and Boone County.

• Stadium Boulevard extensions at the east and west ends of town will improve connections to I-70. The east Columbia plan was published in the Federal Register, and the 30-day comment period ends in January. If all goes well, we can start design work. On the west end (Broadway to I-70), agreements have been signed and we’ll start work on parts of this $18.5 million project next year. It’s funded with MODOT grants and loans and Transportation Development District sales tax revenue

* * *
Public safety is one of the most visible City services, and citizens have high expectations, as they should. I think we wrote a new chapter in 2009.

Roads

• Construction of the COLT railroad bridge over Highway 63 started last fall and is expected to be complete in 15 months, at a cost of about $5 million for design, administration and construction. This solves a deadly problem created by a bad design.

• Columbia’s first “red light cameras” were installed at Stadium and Worley and at Providence and Broadway last September. In the first 90 days, violations averaged 3-4 per approach, per day.

Fire

• We opened new Fire Station 7 (Green Meadows Circle) and started building new Fire Station 9 (Blueridge Road). We expect LEEDS certification (for smart resource use) at both stations.

• The City and Boone County Fire Protection District signed and implemented a new fire service agreement with minimal disruption of service. The agreement mandates joint City/County emergency response and training and is a new, better way of working together.

• On the equipment side, we took delivery of new Squad, new Quints 4 and 9, new Engine 2 and new Air Truck. We refurbished the Hazardous Device Unit and sold the old Air Truck and old Engine 2, using the proceeds to purchase major equipment for front line apparatus. This is good financial stewardship.

• The Fire Department’s bomb technician became FBI-certified.

• The department is now an EMRA (Emergency Medical Response Agency), one of only 30 in the state, and has signed a memorandum of understanding with hospitals for their ambulance staff to use the paramedic skills of our personnel. Emergency response is a growing percentage of our calls for service

Police

• Police Chief Ken Burton came to Columbia from Haltom City, Texas with new ideas and approaches, including “geographic policing.” He has established more consistent accountability and visibility for public safety in defined areas.

• The Police opened a 9,500 sq. ft. regional training center on Meyer Industrial Drive, with classrooms and driving and firearms simulators. This ballot issue project was another partnership that included a generous land donation from Bob Lemone and his family.

• The Citizen Police Review Board is in place. Board members are getting trained by a diverse group of experts to prepare for their first cases.

• After an 18-month long investigation, our Police officers helped the FBI bring in the “Cut Throats,” a group involved with drug distribution and violent assaults. This action cleared up many drug and weapons cases and helped solve three drive-by shootings.

Public Safety Joint Communications

• Zim Schwartze came over from the Columbia Police Department as new director for this agency. She has strengthened relationships with our public safety partners and is committed to high-quality leadership and service.

• PSJC implemented new technology for computer-aided dispatch (CAD), providing more functionality for our operators during dispatch of calls for service.

H1N1

• Three years of planning a response to a flu pandemic paid off this year when the number of H1N1 influenza cases became widespread. The Public Health Department has distributed 30,420 doses of vaccine to 64 local providers and clinics to vaccinate their patients and staff. As of December 24, public health nurses vaccinated 15,105 people, including more than 6,800 children in public and private schools county-wide over six weeks Staff managed this massive effort with no disruption to other public health services.

* * *

Fulfilling as many citizen expectations as possible makes Columbia one of the most “liveable” communities in America. Anyone who visits, I think, carries good memories with them. People who went to college here frequently return to raise families or retire.

Culture and tourism

• The Office of Cultural Affairs ranked number one in the Missouri Arts Council’s Community Arts Program grant evaluation for 2010.

• After a pilot project in 2007, we hired an artist to paint a second traffic signal box downtown. Before they were painted, both boxes were vandalized regularly but have not been targeted since.

• The tourism community booked more than 7,000 convention/event/meeting room nights and, through the Convention Bureau’s Sports Development Fund, booked an additional 3,500+ room nights due to new sports events in Columbia.

• The City’s first TIF (Tax Increment Financing) project, involving the Tiger Hotel, was approved in July. We expect the developer to start renovations next summer. A second project planned at 10th and Locust streets was withdrawn by the developer due to economic conditions.

• We launched Columbia’s first Image Awards program to recognize excellence in historic preservation, adaptive reuse, outdoor art, landscaping and architecture.

• The Blind Boone home exterior restoration is complete.

Neighborhoods and planning

• Our new Office of Neighborhood Services unites under one roof several employees with related assignments who were working in different departments. They have expertise in code enforcement, police work, nuisance conditions and prosecution and will work to end the “broken window syndrome” that tends to draw problems to struggling areas.

• At Council direction, the New Century Fund is forming a community foundation to direct donations to local worthy causes. The group will work with the Kansas City Community Foundation, which has a long, respected track record.

• The Office of Neighborhood Services and our Planning Department held the first two sessions in a series of “neighborhood congress” discussion forums, an initiative that’s part of the Columbia’s community vision.

• Our Planning Department helped the City Planning and Zoning Commission and Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission complete the Northeast Columbia Area Plan (NECAP), a guide for future development of the area bounded by Lake of the Woods Road, I-70, Route Z and Mexico Gravel Road.

Parks and recreation

• The Parks Department continued the community’s outstanding work to provide places for people to play and enjoy open space. Many projects are the result of voter-approved ballot issues and effective partnerships with other agencies, citizens and private donors.

• We held a grand opening of the first two baseball fields at the Thomas E. “Country” Atkins, Jr. Memorial Park, funded by the park sales tax, county contributions and land donation.

• At Strawn Road, we acquired 129 acres for a future park and the Perche Creek Trail connection. Part of the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan, this helps protect a significant portion of the natural greenbelt along one of Columbia’s major streams.

• We dedicated two new neighborhood parks…Grasslands and Auburn Hills…and completed two City-School District co-op playground/trail projects at Parkade and Fairview Elementary schools.

• Last year, we recorded 892,882 “participations” in our recreation programs. That’s about 2,446 users per day, representing all ages and interests in the community.

Getting from here to there

• Columbia Transit reached 2 million riders in September. This was a five-year goal set by Columbia Transit in 2007, but we reached it in only two years.

• Columbia Regional Airport completed a 20-year master plan…the first step in making major renovations at our facilities, including lengthening the runway to accommodate larger aircraft.

• The number of passengers boarding at Columbia Regional continues to remain high, averaging 2,126 per month from September – November. Delta Air Lines reported a year-to-date completion factor at 99.1 percent and the airport’s on-time performance at 94.8 percent.

• Delta Airlines has committed a regional jet to us, with flights starting in February. Passengers can start booking now. This signifies that people are noticing a huge turnaround at Columbia Regional. The more success we demonstrate, the more opportunities we’ll have.

Smart, safe and sustainable natural resource use

• The City landfill received a bioreactor permit in April. It’s Missouri’s first operating bioreactor.

• We surpassed the City’s renewable resource target. Four percent of Columbia’s electric portfolio is from renewable resources, instead of the two percent required by City ordinance.

• More funds dedicated to energy efficiency programs led to greater success. Participation in the loan program tripled, and the number of energy efficiency rebate participants doubled.

• Changes in the disinfection method at the Water Treatment Plant helped lower the amount of Total Trihalomethanes, or TTHM. Columbia’s water again meets or exceeds all federal standards.

• Voters approved projects that would increase the water flow to schools in the older sections of town for fire-fighting purposes. All of these projects were completed, except at Jefferson Junior High School, where work is under way. We started upgrading water mains in the East Campus area last fall.

Good government

• Since April, Council meetings are streamed live online and archived on our website. Agenda items are linked to the video, so citizens can view what they need without viewing the entire meeting.

• We have more online services, including easy access to all City maps. Just click the “map source” button on our home page. Our website had 1.6 million visits and 9 million page views last FISCAL year.

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3 Responses

  1. nice job for 2009. keep up the good work.

  2. This is a great summary by a smaller local government. It is a shame that more local governments aren’t taking the time to communicate like this.

  3. Nice idea! I was thinking about writing something along these same lines. Will have to bookmark this for future reference.

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