I recently delivered my fourth State of the City address as Mayor to the public, local business owners, and our city employees. It was a great opportunity to provide an update about the state of the City of Meridian, which has never been stronger! I highlighted the successes of Meridian’s look and feel, economy, mobility and responsible growth, while also looking ahead at the additional services and projects that are needed to allow Meridian to continue to thrive, as there is more to do.
With transportation and mobility being one of the top concerns for Meridian residents, I discussed many road improvements including the expansion of the final portion of Chinden Boulevard between Locust Grove and Meridian Road. I also discussed the repaving of Eagle Road and its new third lane southbound from River Valley to Interstate 84 and the critical need to address the speed along this corridor that is in alignment with our community standards and expectations. Looking ahead, I provided an update on the Linder Road overpass which is scheduled to complete design this fall. Funding for the purchase of needed right-of-way is also currently included in the Ada County Highway District’s (ACHD) budget for next year. These are the steps necessary before this project will be ready for construction once funding is secured.
With public safety also being a top priority, I highlighted current efforts pertaining to public safety both on the roads and in the community. I highlighted how the Meridian Police Department is working with local agency partners to provide a coordinated effort to patrol traffic hot spots with focused attention, to help reduce dangerous behaviors such as red-light running, texting while driving, speeding and others. I also discussed our plans to update the city’s Opticom system which controls traffic signals when public safety vehicles are approaching. Updating to the newer system will allow for faster response times. When this update is combined with updating our pre-alerting system in our fire stations, we are talking about saving minutes, not just seconds in response times. As Fire Stations #7 and #8 and the new Northwest Police Precinct wrap up construction and open later this fall, these improvements put our public safety personnel closer to where we have grown as a community in order to deliver the expected and necessary emergency services.
Within part of Meridian’s vision to be a premier place to live, work and raise a family, I believe this includes Meridian becoming the healthcare epicenter for Idaho, which is why I shared expansion plans of both Idaho State University and St. Alphonsus. St. Alphonsus plans to develop a new outpatient center in northwest Meridian with their purchase of land near Chinden and Highway 16. Additionally, Idaho State University plans to expand its Meridian healthcare campus beginning with an initial property development funded by $5.3 million in State appropriations. With this plan moving forward, I highlighted the need for the city to lay out a clear land use framework for a medical corridor in order to allow this area to develop to its highest and best use. All of this will benefit those who need care, are focused on finding the next medical breakthroughs, and for the necessary educational opportunities for our future providers.
As part of my comments, I discussed the proposed fiscal year 2024 budget delivered to City Council. Within my budget are purposeful requests that will continue to meet the service level expectations of the public and forward-facing departments as the city grows. My budget includes resources for support departments of information technology, human resources and finance. It also recommends funding for pathway connectivity and streetlight expansion which will improve the community’s look and feel, make better mobility connections and increase safety. The budget also expands wi-fi in parks and supports both improving the quality of our water and meeting our permit requirements for wastewater. And as we keep any property tax increase as minimal as possible, I continue to commit to having a strong public safety presence and have added six police officers to the budget request.
Each year, during the State of the City, I like to take a moment to recognize those who provide a lasting impact and legacy to Meridian with an award. The award is presented to Meridian residents and businesspersons who have contributed to the betterment of Meridian in a variety of capacities over several years. This year, I recognized Brian Simer and Mark Lightner for their time and efforts in making Meridian Police Activities League (PAL), an organization that has made a difference for so many families in Meridian. They have brought programming to our coaches, encouraged drug-free decisions, and been major partners with the City of Meridian in the development of Heroes Park. Many Meridian kids start to find their love for sports with the help of Meridian PAL, and this is in large part due to the success of the program, through these two leaders.
As a final sentiment, I want to reiterate that the state of Meridian has never been stronger. The city services being delivered are first-in-class, with our common-sense fiscal management of valuable taxpayer dollars. This strategy is also bringing needed infrastructure and people in the most prudent manner. 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. We have achieved some great successes, and we have more to do. If you would like to watch, read or listen to the entire 2023 State of the City speech, you can visit our website, www.meridiancity.org/sotc. Please note that the audio for the video doesn’t start until the title sponsor provides my introduction at 21:12.