Assessing the next four years
November 27, 2016
Bob Crowell will take his oath of office on Jan. 1. He's the sixth mayor of Carson City since consolidation in 1969, and the only mayor to serve three consecutive terms. This will be his last term.
I wanted to get a sense of what Mayor Crowell wishes to accomplish within his next term, since he seemed to burn through his "to-do" list within this past year, changing the face of Carson City. Many of the recent completed projects have been on the city wish list since about 2004 when the community came together to update the master plan and propose a redesign of the city. Then the economy was booming and the ideas were plentiful.
No one thought the robust economic merry-go-round would stop, but stop it did in the mid-2000s, heralding in a much deeper recession than anyone thought. Any plan for revitalization ceased. Former Mayor Marv Teixeira and the Board of Supervisors did what they needed to keep government moving, including deferring maintenance. Mayor Crowell assumed his role in January 2009 at the height of the recession and inherited the challenges to keep government services forthcoming.
During his first term, the focus was on keeping up with the many ongoing needs to run government, but once he saw the light at the end of the tunnel, he — along with the Board of Supervisors — shepherded the redevelopment of the downtown per the master plan; took the long-awaited Multi-purposeAthletic Center (MAC) from blueprints to an actual building; and the animal shelter — pushed by activists for years — is now housing unwanted/homeless animals in a far more comfortable facility while waiting adoption. Under his administration, the building department has become better at shepherding in new projects. The water treatment plant is now receiving much needed repairs. Thrown into the mix — not ever visualized — was the closing and revitalization of Third Street, morphing into McFadden Plaza. Yes, it took raising taxes to accomplish some of the above — a source of discontent for some.
Yes, this past year saw some major changes that pushed contractors to their limit to meet almost impossible deadlines set by the Board of Supervisors.
What next for the newly re-elected Mayor Robert Crowell now that his "to-do" list has been significantly reduced?
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"My goal is to maintain our quality of life, accommodate our new demographics, and to create a sustainable economy," he said.
Citing the recent statistics published by the Nevada State Demographer, Mayor Crowell emphatically states, "We will be able to sustain the predicted growth since we are fortunate to have a growth management policy in place to take care of future growth that considers our current and future water rights and the sewer system."
From recent studies, Crowell predicts more families will relocate here to be part of the growing workforce needed in Northern Nevada. He's confident Carson City has "the tools in place that when we grow, we grow in a responsible manner."
Studies show Carson City can sustain growth up to a projected 80,000. When asked whether he felt we were growing too quickly, he replied, "We have never yet hit our growth projections," and he doesn't see that happening any time soon even those there's talk of 4,500 future units with about 1,300 of those units now in various stages of final planning and development.
"Growth is important in any community, and we are committed to grow in a responsible manner. Currently we have a growth management ordinance in place that doesn't allow us to overstep our bounds."
Open space has always been a sacred cow in our city and will not be overlooked as the city continues to grow and new housing developments progress.
Do we have enough accessible open space considering the amount of building now in the planning stages to accommodate future growth?
"For a city of our size, we have 11.2 miles of open space and don't forget the many parks and fields we currently have," he replied.
There are 16 miles of maintained trails. The Prison Hill Recreation has more than 20 miles of trails for outdoor enthusiasts. Much money has been spent, thanks to Question 18, to allow for the purchase of land that's managed by the city that can never be built upon. The hills around the city have many trails and bike paths, and the newer communities all have a trail system or parks as part of the development plan.
When discussing the reality of the many years of deferred maintenance to balance the city budget, the Mayor acknowledged city-owned property took "a hit." But, he's bullish on the fact progress can be made to update and upgrade facilities using sales tax dollars now coming in better than predicted. He assures us, "Public Works is currently categorizing all city assets now so we know when maintenance is needed and will then prepare a list of priorities."
When discussing our roads, he spoke of the need for a continued schedule of repairs. The recent voter opposition to the proposed gas tax dedicated for road repair will be a detriment to aggressive repair and upkeep of current roads, but he remains optimistic, though he acknowledged, "The roads in southeast Carson City are in the worst shape since the roads were never properly constructed."
What's in store for the revitalized downtown? Will there be more pedestrians and bicyclists even though there seem to be so few at present? Crowell asserts, "It's the chicken/egg theory. We needed to provide the infrastructure, and I believe our new downtown will stimulate walking and biking."
What's left on his "to-do" list?
Finishing the downtown that includes Curry Street upgrades along with revitalizing some of the one-block side streets.
The Ormsby House? The sale of this once thriving hotel complex would give needed "economic life" to the downtown and allow the city to attract meetings.
Possible upgrades to the library he mentioned in his campaign? "Our library is currently overstressed, and I want to keep this on our radar screen."
Redesigning the south Carson corridor to meet the NDOT timetable? "We are looking at the south end now trying to determine what would be best for the businesses there who generate such a high amount of sales tax revenues and making sure the reduced traffic will not negatively affect their business." The north and east corridors will not be overlooked.
Sidewalks? Most sidewalk improvement has been made in the lower income areas using Federal Community Block Grant (CDBG) dollars, but more needs to be done in the historic downtown due to roots upending the current old sidewalks.
More taxes? "I don't foresee any new taxes, although the legislature will be looking at the way we assess properties."
Sometimes citizens feel left out of the planning process, but he asserts there's quite a bit of citizen input and he makes it a point to listen. He values the various citizens committees, "The committees are very important for they have more time — and in many cases — more knowledge to discuss and vet issues to come before the board that can take a huge burden off elected officials."
If the economy holds, expect to see our Mayor Bob Crowell at many more Chamber ribbon cuttings as this city continues to grow while still taking care of the needs of current residents and creating new reasons for residents to be proud of their city. The Mayor is all about community spirit!
Ronni Hannaman is the executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce.