Guiding principles for future explored in State of City address
NEEDLES — Mayor Jeff Williams said the city is dedicated to promoting long term fiscal stability, providing exceptional services and experiences, promoting city beautification, increasing economic development activity and promoting regional cooperation, during his first state of the city address.
Williams spoke in the second annual event hosted by the Needles Chamber of Commerce at the Giggling Cactus Restaurant.
Williams reported the city council adopted a balanced budget of $5.8 million in revenues and expenses with grant funds of $877,000 in its mid-year budget revisions. He continued that the city emphasis this year has been on public works, city beautification and economic development.
The five guiding principals of the council’s strategic plan:
• Building and improving the city’s infrastructure;
• Generating economic development by fostering a friendly environment;
• Engaging the community to promote civic pride and ownership;
• Making service excellence a cornerstone of the Needles experience; and
• Developing resources by identifying new sources of funding, organizational innovation and efficiency.
Williams said the city has spent more than $6 million on upgrades to infrastructure. The electrical transmission and distribution capability was upgraded to 60 megawatts (MW), which was paid mostly by cannabis industry deposits. Williams said two new substations and the Yoney to Spike Road intertie have created a city-wide system load reliability upgrade.
The city has installed new curb, gutter and sidewalk at five Needles Area Transit locations and installed six bus shelters and benches, he continued. The Active Transportation Program Grant replaced almost a mile of new sidewalk, curb and gutters along routes that are heavily used.
The city council has approved rejuvenation of the Rotary Roadside Rest, sometimes called the “Train Park.” They partnered with the Needles Downtown Business Alliance to find local contractors.
In order to generate economic development, Williams stated, the council’s missions are assuring long term fiscal stability and looking at the economic indicators in order to reach goals that have been set. The city’s total property is valued at $353 million, an increase of 13.5 percent from the 2017 assessment roll. Hotel revenues have grown over the last four years by $3 million or 64.5 percent which, according to Williams, continue to grow. The city’s sales tax revenues from local businesses have increased from $411,609 in 2016-17 to $431,951 in 2017-18. The city’s unemployment rate is 2.2 percent, which Williams stated is the lowest of San Bernardino County cities. The population of the city has grown to 5,177. So far, 82 land use entitlements have been issued by the city council creating 759,430 square feet of potential new cannabis industries within the city. Williams stated that 270,000 square feet of new development is scheduled to be operational within the next six months; 121 building permits were issued in 2018; 23 residential development permits were issued and six were for single-family homes.
The city has received $602,377 of marijuana business tax revenue as of the end of January, Williams said; the city only expected $500,000 for the entire fiscal year.
The industry, he reported, has brought 275 new jobs to the community with 66 of those new jobs going to Needles residents.
Planned capital improvements for the city council include completing a pavement management plan, rehabilitating all 72 miles of city roads, updating the city’s general plan and its housing element, resurfacing and re-striping Jack Smith Park Marina, purchasing new golf carts and updating the golf course irrigation system.
Williams stated that some of the projects under way are a $126,000 Lilyhill water booster station; a $320,000 lift station on North K Street; Phase 2 of a water and sewer master plan; working with three new hoteliers; and a $3.25 million modernization project at Needles Marina Park being paid for by the operators.
Williams stated the city has received media attention from regional to international media outlets.
The California Association for Local Economic Development will award the city the 2019 Economic Development Award of Excellence for the Game Changer category.
In order to engage the community, Williams stated that the city’s goal is to foster civic pride and ownership among the city’s residents by hosting special events, engaging community members, providing fun sports activities and keeping neighborhoods clean. Some of those special events include the Route 66 Hot Boat and Custom Car Show, the California Historic Route 66 Association Information Fair, and the Colorado River Round-Up Rodeo. The city funded a two week solar camp for the Needles Unified School District where third and fourth graders completed solar robots and had a field trip to Hoover Dam.
Williams said the NAT expected to reach more than 30,000 boardings in the 2018-19 fiscal year, the Dial-a-Ride program is expected to provide 4,555 rides. NAT gained a new bus, and is to implement a shopping route across the river.
City Recreation Department youth sports participation for the 2018-19 fiscal year was 130 in junior peewee/peewee basketball, 86 in jr. peewee/pewee soccer, 77 in flag football, 54 in volleyball and 195 in youth basketball. City staff gives free golf lessons to children starting at age six in the Needles Youth Golf Academy.
Williams stated that city code enforcement continues beautification efforts, bringing multiple locations into compliance. The city has worked with organizations to sponsor community cleanup events; 6.67 tons of trash were picked up in the last one.
In order to make service excellence a cornerstone of the Needles experience, Williams stated that they’ve created a business-friendly environment.
The city has reduced their developer impact fees, he said; the school district may now waive such fees for local home builders.
The city has streamlined the development process and hired three new staff members for code enforcement, customer service and building and permit technologies.
The upcoming city of Needles website is to provide current residents with the ability to pay their bill online.
Williams said the planning, building and code enforcement departments have implemented a new digital record system.
The city purchased a new street sweeper for $234,000 and has initiated a schedule to clean the city four days a week. The street sweeping schedule can be found at www.cityofneedles.com.
In order to develop resources, William said the city works hard to go after every grant they are eligible for and they’re always strengthening the city staff by providing continuing educational opportunities.
Application for Proposition 68 state grant funds may fuel creation, expansion or renovation of parks in Needles. A community development block grant recreation rehabilitation project is providing $168,400 of improvements to the rec center.
The CalTrans Highway Bridge Program Grant is a $1 million project split between the Department of Transportation of Arizona and the city of Needles. Williams stated that the city staff has participated in numerous educational programs from active shooter training to electrical linemen attending Hotline School to water and wastewater training to project management courses.
“The city of Needles is a primary city in the region. Building on our rich history, Needles will continue to stand out as a community our children will want to come back to to raise their children,” said Williams. “The city council has created policies to stimulate new jobs, higher incomes, new housing and other economic opportunities.”