City government tested, but saw economic successes
BULLHEAD CITY — It was a year of trials and triumphs for the city government in Bullhead City. Trials that tested the city’s ability to address problems. Triumphs that positioned the city for a healthy tomorrow.
“The city accomplished a great deal in 2018, and 2019 looks to be even better,” said an optimistic City Manager Toby Cotter. “Overall, the city council and administration have created a resident-centric community. We are recruiting businesses desired by our residents, improving infrastucture throughout the community and creating parks and public services that benefit all citizens.”
Among the city’s triumphs: an improved, more diverse economy, Cotter said.
“Dot Foods was instrumental in the city’s overall efforts to diversify the economy,” he said, noting that Dot brought new jobs and a new type of business to town when it built and opened a food distribution warehouse near Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport.
“Tourism, construction and the retail trades continue to be the major components of the local economy and these three segments were all very solid (in 2018).”
Sports tourism has become a major calling card for Bullhead City and the Tri-state.
“Sports tourism growth has also been phenomenal and should continue to see double-digit percentage growth rates in the next few years,” Cotter said.
The city and organizations that call it home host major events in adult and youth softball, youth soccer and youth baseball. Those events not only provide opportunities for area residents but also bring outside teams and participants — and outside dollars — to the area, often for the initial introduction to Bullhead City.
“The economic impact of sports tourism should not be misunderstood, especially with the addition of the new fieldhouse,” Cotter said, referring to the Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse scheduled to open this spring. The facility, funded by the Colorado River High School Union’s voter-approved bond issue, is expected to be a major drawing card for regional and perhaps national competitions in a variety of sports and is being designed as a venue for future trade shows, conventions and other commercial endeavors.
“An example, restaurant sales tax collections are up 35 percent since 2016,” Cotter said. “Sports tourism is a big piece of the percentage increase.”
He also noted that construction, after a lull earlier in the decade, is bouncing back, both for commercial and residential properties.
“Another major component is construction,” he said. “New home construction adds significant value to the local economy. This city is estimating new home construction will bring approximately 300 new units in 2019, to include new homes, condos and multi-family projects.”
The fieldhouse and Dot Foods provided the major commercial additions to the community. Other substantial projects have included the new Colorado River Historical Society Museum, built in Bullhead Community Park through contributions of major donors; construction of Laughlin Ranch Boulevard, a cooperative agreement that included three developers and the city financing the construction; and commercial properties for Culvers, being built at Mohave Crossroads shopping center, and Hobby Lobby, underway in City Square.
The city was not without trials in 2018. A scandal early in the year led to the eventual firing of Pubic Works Director/City Engineer Pawan Agrawal, who although not accused of any personal misconduct was in charge of a department in which misconduct did occur.
“Pawan was not investigated in the criminal or internal investigation of wrongdoing by Public Works employees and there was no allegation of wrongdoing by Pawan at all,” Cotter said in March. “The people who committed wrongdoing worked for him.”
Three city employees, two in the Public Works Department, were indicted on theft charges for allegedly stealing more than $4,000 worth of city property. Charges against one were dropped. The two Public Works employees resigned.
Bullhead City police began its investigation after allegations were made by a former city employee during an exit interview.
Other hurdles likely will remain on the horizon for the city.
Agrawal was replaced by Keegan Littrell, who was promoted from his post as assistant city engineer. Littrell, too, left the department in 2018 but under far different circumstances; he resigned to accept a job in Boulder City, Nevada. Angie Johnson, an associate civil engineer for the city, was named interim public works director in December, the third person to lead the public works department in 10 months.
Other hurdles for the city likely will be recurring in 2019.
“Like any community, we’ve had our issues this year that are certain to roll into 2019,” Cotter said, “including our EPCOR consolidated water rate case, the new bridge, continued redevelopment of Old Bullhead and the federal land exchange,” he said. “City residents should know that the city council and admiistration are determined and dedicated to resolving these matters for the benefit of our residents.
“By putting our residents first, we improve Bullhead City each and every day.”