Happy New Year and 2016. I thought I would start the year will a preview of some of the coming BIG issues and the things we will be focusing on.
· City Budget- Staff has started working on our 2 year municipal budget which will cover the 2016-17 and 2017-18 Fiscal Years (the budget is really two one year budgets). In this, we will begin developing funding plans for coming major capital projects, service elements and overall spending in each of our water and sewer enterprises. Preliminary estimates of our revenues show that even with some of the big projects occurring in town, revenues will not begin to recur until 2018, so we will ease into any major spending until then. Look for budget workshops in the coming months, with adoption occurring either in May or June.
The municipal budget is THE main policy document and activity which the City Council does in defining the activities of the City. In December, the City Council gave me my performance evaluation. During my review, I ask for direction and priorities on the key activities which they want the City to focus on as I develop a proposed budget. Key elements (highly condensed) include pursuit of a new community center, economic development, sports park, senior services, broadband, streets and roads, support of the business community. Lots of other stuff which will be included and I will highlight in future updates.
· Chromium 6- The new State guidelines on Hexavalent Chromium 6 will represent one of the most significant capital and operational expenditures in the history of the City. Literally, the City will be required to re configure a considerable portion of our water system and add a treatment operation which will most likely surpass the cost of our existing operations. We are looking at significant increases in the cost of the water bills in town which may be unsustainable for many of our older and lower income residents. Stay tuned.
· Roundabout on Grant Ave./Walnut Lane- Caltrans gave us 11 pages of comments on this project and has totally blown the engineering design budget on this project. We are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel for a project which should have gone to construction two years ago. Plan on this going in 2016.
· Senior Housing and Senior Center- The 60 unit affordable senior project is in the last phases of financing and we anticipate seeing this project go to construction this year. Included in the project will be a senior citizens center. As the funding is completed, look for more information to come out.
· Construction- The PG&E Gas Operations Technical Training Center, Downtown Hotel, Winters Ranch Subdivision, Yolo Federal Credit Union are all in some phase of construction. These all will be a nice perk for the economy.
· Freeway Projects- Staff is anticipating projects moving along the freeway including a significant remodel to the Chevron, a major coffee retailer and possibly a hotel. The City did a considerable amount of planning, public hearings and outreach, but I still anticipate a little controversy. The goal of Staff will be to make sure the projects conform to the design guidelines and are well executed. The projects which we anticipate will require very few entitlements, mostly just site plan and design review. The height limits for the freeway zones are restrictive (30 feet), so we anticipate that they may ask for a plan development overlay to allow for a higher building height for the hotel (which will Staff would agree with to make a nicer product).
One of the key issues about the freeway projects has been the potential conflict with the Downtown and impacts on merchants. Based on our sales tax numbers, the reality is that the freeway businesses have actually added business revenue and we have not seen any major drop to any existing business revenues (except due to gas prices). I am prohibited from releaseing specific data on businesses by the State Board of Equalization, but we have generalized reports which confirm this. The proverb about the rising tide floating boats has been a reality in our recent economic revitalization.
· Marijuana- The State is enacting new laws and regulations regarding marijuana dispensaries in cities which will open up some conflicts which could pose issues. Look for the City Attorney to bring to the City Council some ordinance revisions to maintain our regulatory rights and jurisdiction in regards to dispensaries and the sale within Winters.
I won’t argue either side of the medicinal value of Marijuana but the growth and cultivation is a real issue in Winters. Under the law, persons with permits are allowed to grow and propagate a limited number plants on their private property. The reality is that during the prime growing periods, the plants become fragrant and they stink (hence “skunk weed”). We have visited a number of properties with neighbors growing marijuana and it is a genuine nuisance which needs to be dealt with. It is like having a neighbor with a bunch of pet skunks living next door and you cannot use your patio or go outside your home. Stay tuned, as we will be dealing with this subject.
· Putah Creek Restoration- Phase III of the Putah Creek project will be a hot topic in the coming months. Just so that everyone knows, I am good on stuffed beavers, beaver books, beaver pelts and traps, photoshop photo’s of me holding beavers and website locations to buy beaver products.
Get ready for a really good year in 2016!