The Honorable Tammy de Weerd Mayor, City of Meridian 2011 State of the City Celebrate Meridian – The Next Decade February 2, 2011
I am excited to stand in front of you today to celebrate Meridian and our many accomplishments. Celebration is what this moment is all about. Meridian is celebrating a number of honors in 2010. I hope you’ll celebrate with me on what is in store for our community as I share our plans for the next decade.
If I had to pick just one 2010 accomplishment that I was most, dare I say, proud of; it would be when I learned that Meridian had been selected as one of - 10 Best Towns for Families - by Family Circle Magazine. The decisions we make tie back to our vision statement to be a premiere place to live, work, and raise a family. It isn’t the recognition itself; it is the validation that our efforts, and the efforts of many other community partners, are building a ‘best place’ city.
You know, being among the best in the nation because of our focus on families, is meaningful for a number of reasons. This last year – an event I personally celebrated – is that I gained a new grandchild, Gabriel. He is number two – first came Bella, who is two and a half. It is important, to me, that they have a safe and nurturing place to grow up, play, learn, work, and eventually raise their families.
Today I’m going to share with you the accomplishments of our employees and how the work they are doing – in 2010 and every day – is helping us earn recognition and is setting the ‘standard of measure’ for cities in Idaho. I’ll also share our plans for the next decade and the way we hold ourselves accountable to the people who call Meridian home and place their trust in us.
One quick hint: the future involves a lot of purple pipe… Not my favorite color, but it will definitely keep Meridian on the map as a place for business.
Meridian is recognized in the Valley, the State, and the Nation. Meridian Business Day has been the small business event to attend in the Valley. It inspires and equips people in our business community to be the best they can be. The Meridian Kiwanis and Western States Equipment Company brought the eyes of Idaho on Meridian by receiving the Governor’s Brightest Star award – which recognizes those who make a profound difference. And nationally, Meridian gained attention as one of Best Places for Young People – by America’s Promise; among the 100 Best Places to Live – by CNN/Money Magazine; and as I already noted, in the 10 Best Towns for Families by Family Circle.
These great events, people, and recognitions help fuel the Meridian Chamber’s “The Energy is in Meridian” campaign and certainly are worth celebrating. What it re-affirms to me is the ‘grit’ and determination of Meridian residents, businesses, and leaders – that we are the solution to business success; to turning our economy; and to assuring our children and neighborhoods are safe and a healthy places to live. We are the energy that is in Meridian.
It’s more than talk; it is the actions of a community – evident in a recent city survey that showed nearly 9 out of 10 citizens feel that Meridian’s quality of life exceeds expectations.
I’ve been asked if it’s practical to think that government can be run as a business. My answer is – yes – in many aspects we are. In Meridian, we see the citizens and businesses as customers, our employees as our talent, and our accountability is to you our shareholders.
At a Town Hall meeting last month, a citizen stood up and told us how proud he was to live in a city whose budget was in the ‘black’. This is one of our most noteworthy 2010 accomplishments. We have kept our city and our budget in the black; we are financially solid. Believe me, this was a team effort.
We didn’t over-leverage your future. Our Finance Department assessed what was happening locally and nationally and used a conservative forecast for revenues. We chose to forego the allowed 3% increase, and then set our budgets by it. We didn’t overspend. Instead, we saved when times were good which helped us to be resilient during times like these when our economy isn’t.
With our record of financial stability, we will help Meridian be among the first to recover, to add needed jobs, and set the standard. While operating within our means, we provide levels of service that are uncompromised!
Our budgets are solid because of our continuous efforts to minimize our costs and be more effective in delivering our services. Let me tell share two examples of this:
Tommy Lee, in our wastewater department using preventive maintenance, developed a cleaning and inspection program for our sewer lines, lift stations, and manhole covers. Tommy and his staff stopped over 400,000 gallons of leaks into our system – each day! That was an extra 400,000 gallons going through our WWTP. Tommy’s work is saving us thousands of dollars per year in treatment costs.
IT programmer Mike Tanner worked with Lt. Jamie Leslie at the police department, and designed the Incident Tracking System. This program reduces redundant data entries and automates our system for instant access. We saved over $400,000 in software costs and $15,000 annually in operational costs by going paperless and saved hours of staff time.
The list of accomplishments in 2010 is long. Our people stepped up to the task of getting smarter at what they are doing, by becoming more effective and efficient, and measuring the results of those efforts.
We became obsessive about serving our customers. We listened; we collected data to offer better service; and the City’s directors and employees spent time in the field soliciting feedback directly from our customers.
In fact, because of these visits by employees Pete Friedman and Bruce Freckleton, our pre-applicant meetings now have all of the players at the table. Add that to a revamped Design Review checklist - we are more efficient and save customers time.
We sought feedback at Coffee with the Mayor and Town Hall meetings, we reviewed and responded to customer comment cards, we conducted business one-on-one visits – we collected your ideas. If we saw that we were going the wrong direction, we were able to correct and improve as a result of that feedback.
Karie Glenn, in our Utility Billing Department, and her staff responded to rate-payer comments with streamlined efficiencies and better customer service. These include changes to the renter billing process, our website, the ability to make phone payments, and we cut our payment process time.
Feedback is important in how we set our budgets, policies, and how we improve as a city; and, that is how we do business.
We stepped up our efforts in areas of transparency and accountability. Citizens can get a closer look at their city government than ever before. Our budget, checkbook, plans and policies, are fully accessible on our website. Information is distributed through media such as RSS feeds, blogs, and video feeds or video-logs such as ‘This Week in Meridian’ posted every Monday on our website.
City Councilman, Brad Hoaglun, joined us for the February taping of the ‘Celebrate Meridian’ we offer through public access channel TVCTV and in partnership with the production program at Mountain View High School. This monthly program is another effort to keep you informed; and, now you can watch city council meetings streamed live online in addition to this event today.
We use key performance indicators to make sure our resources of time and money are being used wisely. This model of accountability is used to track police and fire response times and the variables that influence our ability to respond quickly and consistently. We analyze crime trends and programs for their effectiveness to reduce crime and increase arrest rates. Public Works uses measurements to streamline operations and costs to keep water and sewer rates low; and our Parks Department evaluates recreation programs, through numbers of registrations, participation, and cost.
You will find much more about what happened in 2010 in our printed annual report as you leave.
We set a ‘new standard’ for ourselves and others in 2010 and today. Cities and others are calling and asking for information; they are interested in what we are doing.
One initiative that has received a great deal of interest uses ‘purple pipe’. Water is the new gold because it is a finite resource. Recycling and reusing water is not only smart, it saves money. Working closely with the Idaho DEQ, we became the first municipality in Idaho to be issued a citywide permit for Class A Reclaimed Water – allowing us to recycle water. We are setting the standard in recycled water and its uses.
Let’s take a moment to consider the possibilities for business. A number of manufacturing processes require a lot of water. If you’re a business in need of water for production – trying to decide where to move – Meridian moves to the top of the list; that company can run ‘purple pipe’ and use low-cost recycled water. The possibilities truly give us reason to celebrate the future.
In fact, while you consider the possibilities, I’m going to share a few other exciting things to celebrate – then come back to some solid future plans for that purple pipe.
We are setting new standards through business partnerships. This last summer we announced our Wastewater Treatment Plant is part of a collaborative endeavor involving Advanced BioEnergy Systems. This project is also supported by INL and the Center for Advanced Energy Studies. What does this mean to you? They take gas from our treatment plant; clean it up; use it as a fuel; and, at the same time, reduce our emissions. That’s impressive!
We are raising the level of service by developing quality training tools. The biggest challenge facing fire service today is keeping firefighters trained to a very high level. Fire personnel across North America are checking out the on-line training videos being developed by a couple of Meridian firefighters. The website they created, not only houses Meridian videos, but includes others that demonstrate best practices.
Our prevention efforts have been noticed at the national level because of how the Mayor’s Anti-Drug Coalition is working with Meridian police officers to curtail underage drinking. Two Police Department members were sent to the Training Institute for Collaborative Leadership in Washington DC. They were only one of five organizations selected nationwide to participate.
Cities in and outside Idaho, school districts, and neighborhood groups are calling Recreation Coordinator, Colin Moss for information on our popular CableOne Movie Night. This family-focused event is our drive-in theater on a picnic blanket. It attracts thousands of people each show!
The Ada County Prosecutor, Ada County Jail, and the Victim Witness programs are utilizing our Incident Tracking System to use our information from the first moment of our officer’s contact on any police-related incident. We are thrilled that others can benefit from our programs.
We are setting a standard of excellence in Meridian, and in doing so have captured the attention of the business community, in part, because of our ability to meet project timelines and having a ready and available workforce. We are receiving many testimonials from new businesses who now call Meridian home.
We are dedicated to work with our business community to help create an environment where they can grow. I’d like to talk about two local businesses we are working with.
The first company, Scentsy, is a home-grown Meridian company that has added over 700 new employees in four years, and has grown the number of active consultants from 2,000 to 90,000 during that same time.
Scentsy is allowing us to share their long-term plans for the company. If you haven’t heard, they are building over 210,000 square feet in the area west of Eagle Road along the rail corridor. What you haven’t heard, is they purchased 35 acres for a corporate campus in the Pinebridge Business Park immediately to the north. This winter, they begin construction on a 193,000 square foot distribution center on this campus; they also plan to build a 5-6 story office tower with beautiful landscaped grounds and expect to begin construction in 2012.
Another successful business - PKG is a company that’s been around since 1989 making keyboards, trackballs, and pointing devices. If you need to control a computer with your finger - PKG can help you do it. They’re so good at it - they’re growing by building a new 38,000 square foot corporate headquarters also in Pinebridge.” Today they employ 75 people; with this expansion they expect to grow 50% over the next 12-18 months.
These types of partnerships are critical to our success; which brings me to where we are today and how we continue to challenge ourselves to be better.
We have worked hard internally; to plan and work together. Our Senior Management team thinks and acts as one; today, there are no silos!
A few weeks ago, our Emergency Management team, representing seven departments, began working in collaboration with the Idaho National Guard 101st Civil Support Team. Our emergency planning will be put to the test during a large scale drill in March involving our emergency responders in real life scenarios. The results will improve our response plans to the benefit of our community.
Later this spring, downtown, a private venture will bring The Meridian Urban Market supported by our urban renewal district and local businesses. The vision is a farmer’s market, artisan market, and food-tasting experience; paired with family-friendly activities, local art, live music, and local beers and Idaho wines.
There is more good news for our downtown. The Church of the Harvest will be giving their building on Pine Street a new facelift along with interior renovations. In addition, just a few blocks away we will see the Broadway Office Building break ground in March. This project will house two Treasure Valley organizations, COMPASS and Valley Regional Transit. This is expected to open next fall bringing 20 additional jobs to the heart of our downtown.
Later this fall, we will see the opening of the Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park at Fairview and Eagle. This generous gift, I spoke of last year, is a $25 million dollar donation from Eugene Kleiner in memory of his dad. The Kleiner Trust and their partners are moving mountains; literally, adding hills for park patrons to relax on or kids to sled down.
We have a new partner in this park. We are working with John Burns and a dedicated group of veterans to create a place for a Veteran’s Memorial, known as the ‘Rock of Honor’ project. We will remember Meridian’s fallen soldiers that made the ultimate sacrifice.
Join me in honoring those in the audience who have served or are serving in the military. We celebrate you and what you do for our country!
I am also excited to report that the Meridian Senior Center broke ground on their building last fall. There is great excitement and celebration by our more ‘mature’ citizens. Their beautiful facility will overlook the park’s ponds.
That purple pipe, installed only to deliver recycled water, will not only save our customers money but will help business too. In fact, Fast Eddy’s Chevron is just breaking ground and will most likely be the first business to use recycled water. They will use it in their car wash facility; saving money and conserving precious groundwater.
Reclaimed water is a primary strategy to address ever-changing EPA regulations that could save millions of dollars in capital investments at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
We know traffic is still on the minds of our citizens and we are listening! Although the city does not have streets and highway authority, we dedicate time to be present and vocal for needed projects and other issues with Ada County Highway District (ACHD) and the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD).
The transportation departments continue to make progress. Two noteworthy ACHD projects will be completed this spring; the S. Eagle and Victory intersection and road-widening project in SE Meridian and the intersection improvement at McMillan and Locust Grove in the NE.
There is an ITD road project, however, that I have long looked forward to celebrate, seeing the entrance and exit ramps open, the last orange barrel removed, and the first car that drives on - the Ten Mile Interchange.
This isn’t just any road project. It is a huge improvement for not only Meridian but also the entire region. We worked tirelessly for this project. For those of you who don’t know Steve; Steve is our Parks Director but at the time was in our Planning Department. He was charged with working on this project; he was my shadow and we were on a mission!
We anticipate completion earlier than expected with an estimated ribbon cutting ceremony on May 17th. Stay tuned, I guarantee I’ll let you know more when I do.
The good news of the opening of Ten Mile, presents the next challenge; the rebuild of Meridian Interchange. The rebuild is needed for several reasons and safety is a large issue. However, for reasons unknown to us, it fell off the list of improvements to I-84 as a funded GARVEE project.
It didn’t fall off our list and it is a top priority in the region. We are working with Legislative leaders to get this funded and built. We need a big show of support! We have a page on Facebook and our website has information on what you can do to help. Please go online and join our efforts!
Before we launch into laying a foundation for the next decade and related topics; I would like to focus on our young leaders. An important part of the future is investing time in these future leaders.
As I mentioned, Meridian was voted as one of the Best Places for Young People by America’s Promise. I have no doubt, one of the reasons is due to the time we invest in our youth and in turn, what they invest in this community. Rest assured - this community will be in good hands with these young leaders!
We’ve looked at other ways to invest in our youth. The Mayor’s Anti-Drug Coalition brought two partners together and invested in our student athletes. We work with Leadership First, known for programs that transform young people’s lives. We joined forces with the Rocky Mountain High School varsity football team and their coaches. This is another example of Meridian setting the standard in Idaho – and the nation.
I have shared our accomplishments for 2010 and how we have set a standard for ourselves and others.
As we look to the next decade, we checked in with our citizens to make sure we are on the right track and investing our resources wisely. We launched the first official city satisfaction survey in November. It was designed to create benchmarks and measurement tools for the City that will be folded into our strategic and tactical plans.
We found from more than three out of four residents who responded that Meridian is on track and focused in the right direction. In an environment where people across the nation are skeptical of their government, over two thirds of Meridian residents feel they are getting their money’s worth.
An impressive ninety percent and better believe Meridian is a good or excellent place to raise a family; and four out of five say the quality of city services exceed their expectations.
Residents reported their most important issues related to: Transportation, Economy, and Community Planning.
Let me first speak to transportation. We’ve seen a number of road project improvements over the last five years, with a fair number on ACHD’s proposed five year plan. We are on a mission though, to accelerate intersection improvements – temporary or otherwise, on every major arterial. I haven’t found a person yet that likes four way stops.
We appreciate the ITD project at Ten Mile, as well as the Locust Grove overpass completed several years ago. However, there are a large number of needed improvements in our Valley that ITD must address on Eagle Road, Chinden, Highway 16, as well as others. But, putting first things first, the Meridian rebuild.
These two agencies and the Legislature, need to know what you are willing to support. Funding and competing for funding will be the issue, not just for roads, but pathways, sidewalks, bike lanes, and public transportation.
The economy – while I don’t believe that government is the answer to the economy; we must be part of the solution. What we have all learned is that we can’t sit around and wait for employers to find us. We have developed a targeted and strategic list of 40 companies to meet with! These visits begin this year.
While we’re out meeting with prospects, we are not forgetting who got us here. We’ve also partnered with the Chamber and the Labor Department to spend time with business owners in our community. We will share information about programs and incentives during these visits and in turn learn more about what our businesses need. Our priority is growing the businesses that are here and invested in our community.
We continue to see building activity in Meridian with over $150M in new construction value as well as some exciting projects in the pipeline. It is also important to note that Meridian’s job numbers were ‘in the black’ for 2010. The Department of Labor showed that we grew by more than 120 to just under 31,000 jobs!
Our education partners are crucial to our efforts providing a trained workforce and supporting research needs. Dr. David Pate, CEO of St. Luke’s, has shared exciting news of their ten year vision and plan for the Meridian campus. He also spoke of their interest in clinical research. What a great opportunity for our partners in The CORE, our health-science and technology district, like Idaho State University!!
ISU has already is already a partner with several CORE businesses - creating synergy and great outcomes. They are also just starting construction on the new Delta Dental of Idaho Clinic; a 5200 sq ft training and treatment facility.
All this is great news for The CORE and Meridian!
Alright, let’s talk about Community Planning. We continue to listen to, and involve, our citizens in these efforts. Let me assure you we have big plans for our future. Here are just five examples of how we are setting the stage for the next decade:
First, our comprehensive plan is in the final steps of being updated, and through this process, it is now more user-friendly and easier to understand. During the next several years we will focus on specific area plans for neighborhoods and employment centers; such as South Meridian, The Fields District, and the River Planning Area. Two such plans have been completed.
Second, the Destination Downtown plan - completed last year. We will work closely with the urban renewal district on the implementation phases. This vision is dynamic with specific focus on business and residential, with activities that draw people to the downtown. Its’ success depends on public involvement in these efforts, just as having the urban renewal district is extremely important to our ability to redevelop downtown!
The third point – the Ten Mile area plan, completed several years ago is beginning to pay off. The opening of the interchange raises the profile for employment of corporate offices, professional services, and industrial employers. The plan created design standards, integrated traffic plans, and will streamline the entitlement process to attract jobs closer to where people live. The first development approved in this area, Meridian Crossing, were very pleased to find a smooth process.
Fourth, our comprehensive pathway plan is a priority as well. As one of our projects, we are proposing a 20 foot wide pathway along the railroad that would connect the Ten Mile, Downtown, and Eagle Road economic areas. We have been working with Union Pacific RR for the last two years, and Boise Valley Railroad over the last year, for permission to build this pathway; 80 feet from the existing railroad tracks.
And the fifth area: In addition to planning for - what goes where - we are ramping up our financial planning; how will we pay for future needs? We have formalized our long-term capital improvement plan and process. Within defined fiscal constraints, these are few examples of our five and ten year planned projects - water and wastewater projects, 2-3 fire stations, expanding our police and training facilities, the Borup park property, pathway connections, and others.
And then, there is the purple pipe. We are going to use 2.3 billion - that’s a billion…with a ‘B” gallons of reclaimed water annually by 2020. We will be watering our golf courses, your yard, and our parks. Our businesses will be able to use it for manufacturing or to offer services to their customers. To break that down for you, that is six and a half million gallons a day. This is a major piece of our plan to be good stewards of our resources.
Our plans for the future are strategic and measurable. They offer flexibility to adjust to changing conditions but set a strong direction for a city that’s ‘built for business and designed for living’. The next ten years will bring prosperity and a stronger sense of community.
An important part of that sense of community can often be related to the contributions and efforts lead or inspired by an individual. Our legacy award this year goes to someone who has been in their line of work for more than three decades. This person has created a cost-efficient delivery system that offers individual choice and is recognized as one of the best in the state, if not the nation. This person’s commitment to young people and their interests and needs is second to none. This person has created a legacy that has Legislators talking about how they can replicate many of the programs this person has inspired and completed.
Please join me in recognizing our Legacy Award recipient – Dr. Linda Clark.
I have been involved with this community since 1993; and like so many others who are involved or have been, I continue to be inspired by the heart of the people and opportunities for our future.
As I wrap up, I would like to share with you my desire to continue to serve as your Mayor to help lead Meridian into this next decade. It is my greatest honor.
I want to thank my staff who works hard to offer this venue to our community. We appreciate our sponsors that make it possible.
I thank our Directors, the City Council, and the employees of the City of Meridian; I shared their 2010 accomplishments with you today. You heard examples of their stewardship that keep us financially in the ‘black’ providing you with the level of service that is uncompromised! You saw the face of our employees who walk the talk in finding efficiencies and their efforts to be the best; you learned of program innovation in delivering service to our customers that are setting a standard for excellence.
We will continue to be transparent and accountable. We will be diligent in our efforts to be a city that appreciates its businesses – large and small. We will continue to develop tools to better communicate and engage with our citizens – our customers, throughout the next decade.
We will work with our transportation agencies to find ways to develop a comprehensive transportation system that moves people in all ways in cars, on foot, on bicycles and public transportation.
We will work with other cities and regions to share what we know and do – and learn from them as well as we work to become better.
Meridian is setting a new standard for cities in Idaho and the nation. The way we work together in the public and private sector and how we stretch every dollar, finding efficiencies and seizing opportunities. Our citizens are involved; they volunteered more than 24,000 hours last year!
All reasons to celebrate! As we open this next decade, Meridian will continue to be the place where people come to see new ideas, new approaches, and innovation. We will continue to set the standard.
If you live here, if you work here, if you are involved here you can feel the excitement…the energy is in Meridian. Indeed, there is much to celebrate!