ST. GEORGE – Members of the public and various business and community leaders heard from Mayor Jon Pike Wednesday as he gave a state of the city address during a luncheon hosted by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce.
Pike’s address covered various topics, including the city’s financial state and initiatives for the future. He also shared the progress of the Mall Drive Bridge, the SwitchPoint Social Resource Center, and covered points dealing with the proposed RAP tax to be voted on this November.
“I feel we’re in a good situation in the city,” Pike said, adding that the current state of growth and attraction the city enjoys is based on a foundation left behind by the work of others.
In June, the St. George City Council passed a $200 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year. That includes a $56 million general fund as well as $2 million that carried over from last year’s budget. The city also maintains a $10 million capital facilities fund, or “rainy day fund,” Pike said.
The mayor gave credit to the tireless work of city officials like City Manager Gary Esplin and his staff, who prepare the budget each year.
“He does a fantastic job,” Pike said of the city manager.
Honoring the chamber
Before going into further detail about the state of the city, Pike recognized the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce as an organization that helped shape him into the person he’s become, as it introduced him to others in the community and various community boards and service clubs.
“It’s where I got my feet wet,” Pike said.
He encouraged anyone not belonging to the chamber to join.
Listening, planning and initiatives
While campaigning for mayor last year, Pike’s platform included listening to the public more and making it easier for residents to give their input to the city.
As a way to encourage more public involvement, regular City Council meetings were moved from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Also, St. George residents have been given an opportunity during the first council meeting of the month to address the city council in a public forum.
Pike also mentioned that city officials and department heads all met to create initiatives for the next five-to-10 years – specifically a “five-year strategic plan” for the city.
Parts of the initiatives include the city reviewing and adopting new impact fee rates and undergoing an energy performance audit as a way to ultimately save money on energy costs.
The creation of “bicycle boulevards” is also a goal of the city, the mayor said. These areas are away from the main roads of the city, such as St. George Boulevard and Bluff Street, and are meant to promote bicyclist safety.
Such boulevards are proposed for portions of 300 West and Diagonal Street.
The possibility of curbside recycling was also addressed, which the city is currently looking into. The associated costs of a curbside recycling program and whether or not to make such a program voluntary or mandatory with an opt-out option is still being hashed out by the city.
Pike said he has spoken with other cities in Washington County that are also interested in the possibility of curbside recycling. A countywide program would help keep overall costs down, he said.
“I hope we’re able to do that soon,” Pike said. “Recycling is not free, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Continued business development
Business development also continues to be a focus of the city.
Despite the recent announcement that the Blue Bunny ice cream plant is closing down, Pike said businesses have more interest in the St. George area than they did 20 years ago.
Working with resources like Site Select Plus, which recruits businesses to Washington County, and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Pike said the city will continue growing its business community. Plans are in motion to reduce potential hassles for incoming business and improve overall relationships.
The relationship between the city, Dixie State University and Dixie Applied Technology College is also a great benefit, Pike said. DSU and DXATC help produce an educated and skilled workforce that incoming companies look for, he said.
Mall Drive Bridge
Of the Mall Bridge Drive, a project that has been in the works for many years, the mayor said: “That bridge will be completed Sept. 30 … We’re excited.”
Pike said the public would be invited to a possible ribbon-cutting ceremony once the bridge is complete.
The SwitchPoint Social Resource Center, a facility that offers multiple services to help the homeless and impoverished, was also discussed.
Pike referred to the center as the city’s umbrella, under which multiple agencies come together to help those in need get a hand up. While it includes a food pantry and temporary housing, it also features services that help people get identification, job training, education, clothing, mental health services, addition recovery services and so on.
“I really think you’ll see this makes a positive difference in the lives of people,” Pike said.
Though there has yet to be an official grand opening for the resource center, the mayor said it is operational, and 63 people stayed at the center Tuesday night.
Pike additionally discussed the proposed Recreation, Arts and Parks tax, also called the RAP tax. The citizens of Washington County will be able to vote on whether or not they want the new tax, which, Pike said, is an additional 1 cent out of every $10 of sales tax in the county.
The tax is projected to produce about $2.2 million annually. Approximately one-third of that is expected to be generated by visitors to the county. The county will keep 15 percent of the funds to put toward possible projects, with the remainder being divided among the county’s municipalities based on population and point-of-sale.
As the largest city in the county, Pike said St. George will receive approximately $1.2 million of the RAP tax revenue, if voters approve the tax.
Funds from the tax can go toward potential sports facilities, like soccer fields or pickleball courts; improvements to the Dixie Sun Bowl; additional splash pads in city parks; or various other endeavors related to recreation, parks and the arts.
“Frankly, we can’t do it all,” Pike said, adding that the upcoming vote on Nov. 4 for or against the tax is a chance for people to tell the city what they want in this regard.
As he brought his address to a close, Pike said everyone in the city is working hard to continue to make St. George “the very best place to live, work and play in the United States.”
- Blue Bunny ice cream plant closing its doors
- UPDATE: Mall Drive Bridge construction on schedule; Photo Gallery
- Official name chosen for city’s community resource center; renovation continues
- County could get RAP tax if voters approve measure
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