Earlier this month, I delivered my second State of the City address at the Galaxy Event Center. With local business owners, City employees, and sponsors in attendance, it was a great opportunity to provide an update about the City of Meridian. There was a lot of information covered during this year’s State of the City and I would like to take some time and share a few highlights.
As I stated in my speech, the State of Meridian is strong. Our public safety is there in times of need and to protect our civil liberties. We have common sense fiscal management of the valuable taxpayer dollars we are entrusted with. We are committed to the infrastructure improvements necessary to provide efficient and effective services. All of which contribute to the premier quality of life we all enjoy.
During this past year, Meridian employees were innovative and solution oriented. Whether taking public testimony remotely, using an emergency response vehicle focused on potential COVID-19 cases, using video cameras to do remote inspections, or holding virtual events, our employees never missed a beat and the work they did is setting the expectations for how we provide services moving forward.
With those services, Meridian was recognized by the ETC Institute with a ‘Leading the Way Award.’ The award recognizes local governments that rank in the top 10% of all U.S. communities with regard to resident satisfaction and the overall quality of local government services, customer service, and the value provided for local taxes and fees. Our employees take pride not just in the work they do, but how they do it. I believe in them. I believe in Meridian.
Most of my comments focused on issues the community remains concerned about – transportation, growth and education. Some may question why I discussed transportation and education when the City does not operate the road network or administer school business. Simply put, both of these issues are a result of growth and we need to care about these issues as much as our core services for Meridian to be a premier city. I remain committed to bringing solutions to these challenges.
Growth and development brings continued pressure on roads and schools. We need to be focused on responsible growth which solves problems and avoid irresponsible growth which creates problems. Growth needs to be guided so services can be delivered and public expectations can be met. Last year, we identified southeast and northwest Meridian as priority growth areas. These are areas where we need to invest in our services and where our civic partners need to do the same. The good news is we are doing just that.
In June, I proposed the 2022 budget to City Council and this includes two co-located fire stations and police substations – one of each in the two growth priority areas. Our first responders need to be closer and more accessible to our community and those in need. Response times are not meeting our goals for a variety of reasons, including traffic. We cannot ask residents to face diminished services because of growth, and these facilities will help address response times for service throughout our community.
Working with West Ada School District staff, we are collaborating on the impact growth is having on education so, collectively, we can be better prepared. New schools have opened and next fall Owyhee High School will do the same. To accommodate new facilities and growth, West Ada updated their boundaries and expressed an ongoing commitment to this process. Boundary adjustments aren’t fun, and neither are bond elections. But we must maximize space in our schools before West Ada asks voters for additional facilities in order to maintain the fiscal trust of the public.
As for transportation, we have seen some needed improvements in our community over this past year. Chinden had several miles improved with more currently under construction. Meridian Road, Linder Road, and Ten Mile all saw improvements with widening projects. South Eagle Road is currently under construction. These are overdue and welcome improvements to help alleviate congestion. I want to say thank you to our development partners, ACHD and ITD. This was a good start, however, there is a lot more that needs to be done.
Meridian’s number one road priority project remains the construction of the Linder Road Overpass. This overpass will bridge a gap in our road system. We have large businesses developing and school boundaries changing that impact residents on both sides of the freeway on Linder. This bridge is needed! The Meridian City Council approved my request to allocate $2.5 million dedicated to the needs of building this critical overpass during the City Council Meeting on April 20, 2021. I want to thank City Council for their support of this project. In addition, I have launched a task force that is committed to making this project a reality.
The funds that have been entrusted to the City by the citizens are for services they expect. I am committed to these projects and many more. Growth, transportation, and education are just a few of the topics I discussed within my State of the City. I encourage you to visit our website to watch or read the entire 2021 State of the City speech. I am committed to eliminating barriers that make sense in the challenges we face, and will invest in facilities and infrastructure necessary to provide effective and efficient services to continue the premier quality of life we all enjoy.
I am honored to serve Meridian and with your support, I will continue to do so. Believing in Meridian starts with me, our City Council, and other leadership in the City - but the responsibility lies with all of us if we are to be the community we say we are and desire to be - the premier place to live, work and raise a family.