Editor’s note: This is the prepared remarks from Mayor Roger Tobler’s State of the City address given Thursday, Jan. 26 at Boulder Creek Golf Club. There will be a full report in the Boulder City Review on Feb. 2.
State of the City Address
26 January 2012
Mayor Roger Tobler
Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow Council members and City staff, invited guests, and fellow residents of Boulder City, good evening. It is my honor and my privilege to once again be with you tonight to discuss the state of our great City. It is my hope that in the next few minutes, I will be able to share with you my vision for Boulder City—to help you review with me all we have accomplished, examine carefully the challenges we face and look forward with you to all that 2012 has to offer.
Council and Staff Recognition
Let me begin by recognizing the efforts of the good men and women who sit behind me tonight. While you may see them twice a month on BCTV or recognize them as they work and serve in the community, a great deal of time is also spent behind the scenes representing the City in a variety of capacities.
Mayor Pro Tem Cam Walker serves on:
• the Boulder City Community Educational Advisory Board,
• the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Board,
• the Nevada Development Authority,
• on the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition,
• and on the Clark County Debt Management Committee.
Council Member Peggy Leavitt serves on:
• the Friend of the Arts Board,
• Nevada League of Cities Board of Directors,
• Nevada League of Cities Legislative Committee,
• Southern Nevada Criminal Justice Advisory Council,
• Workforce Connections Board,
• and as the Alternate representative to the Southern Nevada Health District Board.
Council Member Duncan McCoy serves on:
• the Nevada League of Cities Board of Directors,
• the Nevada League of Cities Legislative Committee
• and the Southern Nevada Water Authority Board.
Council Member Rodney Woodbury serves:
• on the Southern Nevada District Board of Health,
• and the Clark County School District Oversight Panel,
And as your mayor, I am pleased to serve on:
• the Civilian Military Council Executive Board,
• the Regional Flood Control District Board of Directors,
• and on the Regional Transportation Committee Board of Directors.
Having our elected officials participate in these boards and community coalitions is important, as it allows us to build relationships, safeguard our interests and look for ways Boulder City can participate in regional decision making.
Let me say here on a personal note how grateful I am for these fine people who serve Boulder City. I sincerely appreciate their willingness to focus on important issues, maintain a professional demeanor and work productively with our City staff. Some have noted our recent City Council meetings are not as “exciting” as they once were, but if that means we’re no longer a weekly reality show, I’m fine with that.
In addition, our capable City Manager, Vicki Mayes and several other key City Staff are here, and we thank them for their continued dedication and efforts in behalf of our community. I also appreciate the efforts of Roger Hall and Staff in providing this setting where we can meet to review the previous year and discuss the decisions and opportunities ahead.
As we meet tonight, I am pleased that there is much to report in the way of success. The last few years have been difficult ones, but the work we’ve done during this difficult time, however, has strengthened us and prepared us to take advantage of some great opportunities. And there remain decisions to be made and steps to be taken. I hope to briefly revisit with you our successes and those things that remain on our list of things to do in 2012.
Let me begin by discussing the progress that’s been made in the energy zone.
Although Boulder City is best known as the Home of Hoover Dam because it began as a construction camp for dam workers in the 30’s, it is quickly becoming known for its solar energy development. Boulder City is different from many communities because although its population is small, it is large geographically. The City is over 200 square miles in size. But what makes Boulder City really a special place is that most of the land within the city limits is owned by the City. Because of its large land holdings and because of its commitment to being “clean and green” Boulder City is now being recognized on the map as a home for solar energy development.
The area within this red boundary is about 185,000 acres of city owned land. Much of the area has been set aside for a multi-species conservation easement, but some area has been reserved for recreation and solar energy development. The areas set aside for solar energy development are shown in color.
Nevada Solar 1 is a 65 mw concentrated solar trough facility currently in operation. Both Copper Mountain Solar and Nevada Solar 1 have expansions planned. Nevada Solar 1 has 95 mw planned on land just south of its current site.
Boulder City has over 120 mw of solar energy facilities in operation today, and over 1400 mgwts are in various planning stages. Copper Mountain Solar 1 is a 58 mgwt photovoltaic solar facility constructed and operated on property leased from the City.
Copper Mountain Solar II, a new phase in their development, began construction this month. The first phase of a 150 mw photovoltaic facility will begin operation in spring of next year.
Copper Mountain also has another 887 acres under lease called Copper Mountain III or Copper Mountain North. This will be used to construct a 120 mw photovoltaic solar facility. Construction for this project is will begin in the following year.
In December of 2010, the City entered into a lease agreement with Techren Solar to develop a 300 mw facility on 2,200 acres of land.
The City also entered into a lease with KOMIPO for the lease of 1,500 acres of land south of the Techren site. A three to four year development period is planned. This will also be a photovoltaic solar facility.
The City is close to finalizing negotiations with KOWEPO for another 900 acre site in the original townsite adjacent to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. It is estimated that this site has the potential for another 120 mw photovoltaic solar facility.
When all of these projects are fully built, the City will have over 8,000 acres of land under lease for solar development which will produce about 1400 mw of solar power.
The City is very proud of the progress in the Energy Zone, and in an effort to highlight this progress, it has set aside land for UNLV to develop a solar energy demonstration site which can showcase the different types of solar energy facilities. The benefit to Boulder City is that these lease-holds generate significant revenue and add to the property tax base of the City. These developments are also perfect partners for our small town in that they utilize green technologies and have little demand on City resources, so they only impact the quality of life in our community in a positive way. Boulder City is very pleased to work with Nevada Solar 1 and Copper Mountain Solar 1. Both of these companies have been excellent community partners in every way.
So what does all this mean to Boulder City in dollars and cents? As this table demonstrates, the Energy Zone will continue to be an invaluable asset to our City. It will allow us to carry out our financial plan, which includes:
1. Eliminating our debt
2. Restoring capital reserves and stabilizing other City funds
3. And rebuilding our ending Fund Balance.
4. And stabilizing our revenue stream for many years to come.
Our solar lease revenue has helped us maintain our levels of city services and programs during a very difficult financial time. Apart from these lease payments, we are also receiving an upfront payment from KOMIPO for $5 million and another from KOWEPO for $3.5 million. Both include a walk-away provision that will provide the City with compensation if the project does not move forward.
But there are other benefits as well. The development of the energy zone will provide between two and three thousand jobs for the local economy at a time when those positions are desperately needed. The revenues from the development of the energy zone will be instrumental in getting our city budget back on track and helping to cover rising infrastructure maintenance and replacement costs without raising rates. We have also received funding in the amount of $500,000 from one of the energy zone developers, Sempra Energy, to be used for any type of renewable energy project on public buildings. This could include solar energy, high efficiency retrofits or other projects that help our City live up to its desire to be clean and green.
Another success story this year has been the widening of US 93 through the Hemenway Valley. It was just a year ago that we were seeing pictures like this of the traffic in that area, and it was a real concern both for this community and for those who were passing through to visit Southern Nevada.
In December of 2010 we held a joint press conference with the Regional Transportation Commission to bring attention to this problem, and I’m pleased to report that our continued efforts to work with NDOT have been successful. This year US 93 was widened by two lanes from Buchanan to the Hacienda Hotel in order to accommodate the additional traffic brought by the opening of the Bridge. This short-term solution has brought some relief, but as our recent traffic backups over the holiday showed us, the only viable long-term way to address this problem will be the construction of Interstate 11, which includes the bypass around Boulder City.
Now is not the time to let up. We need to keep the heat on the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to address what we knew was coming. Though traffic has improved, it’s still significant enough to warrant the Bypass.
Last year, a bill was approved in the 2011 legislative session to keep the Boulder City Bypass project moving. Senator Joe Hardy should be thanked by all of us for his miraculous ability to resurrect the toll road legislation in the final hours of the State Legislature. The bill gave the RTC the ability to pursue public-private partnerships and tolling for the Boulder City Bypass. NDOT will continue with Phase 1 of the Bypass (Railroad Pass to US 95), with the RTC working on Phase 2 (US 95 to the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge) The RTC is in the process of identifying the appropriate partnership for developing Phase 2 of the Boulder City Bypass.
The RTC issued a request for proposals for consulting services to help with the engineering and financial analyses necessary to implement the project. Five firms responded to the RFP. The successful firm will assist with traffic study updates, toll and revenue studies, right-of-way setting, surveying, cost estimates, and the other work that may need to be completed before a public-private partnership can be finalized. The contract with the consultant is expected to be awarded in the spring of this year.
Once that firm is brought on board, the RTC will work with the consultant to study the most effective project delivery method. That could mean tolling and/or a variety of other ways that public-private partnerships could benefit the project. The major milestones for the public-private partnership include:
• Selection of the preliminary engineering and financial analysis firm (Spring 2012)
• Traffic and toll revenue studies (Fall / winter 2012)
• Issue a request for proposals for a contractor (Fall 2013)
Finding the right fit for a public-private partnership will take some time. The RTC knows how important this project is to Boulder City, and they are committed to finding the right partner to help build it.
Plans continue to move forward for the development of a deepwater shipping port in Baja California that I discussed in last year’s State of the City address. This will mean that each year, thousands of cargo ships laden with goods from around the globe will dock and unload their cargo there. That cargo will then be loaded into perhaps thousands of trucks, many of which will enter the United States, come through Phoenix and on through Boulder City to service the western states. 70% of the transportation of goods in the U.S. is done by trucks. The temporary relief we’ve received from the widening of a small stretch of highway through Boulder City will not be adequate to handle this kind of interstate commerce. Again, this is a burden our small community should not have to bear alone, and we need to find a real solution to our current and future traffic issues now. That real solution is Interstate 11.
Landfill and Recycling Permitting
On July 28, 2011 the Board of Health approved the City’s application to expand the historic 10-acre permit to the actual footprint of buried waste, which is 60-acres. Prior to this permitting process, we were quickly running out of capacity for the City’s landfill. Without a new permit, we would have been required to close our current landfill and open a new site, the cost of which would have been extremely high, and perhaps even out of our reach. This expansion provides Boulder City with available space for landfill operations estimated through the year 2054. With the implementation of the improvements to the City’s recycling program currently being discussed by the City Council, this date could extend much further into the future.
As a result of more stringent guidelines enacted by the Southern Nevada Health District, the operations plan for the recycling center in Boulder City was updated. On November 29, 2011 the Board of Health Approved the City’s application for the Recycling Center.
Special thanks goes to Rodney Woodbury for his guidance of this process and his role on the health district board, which was key to making this possible, to Scott Hansen of our Public Works department for his diligent efforts, and to Steve Kalish of BC Disposal for his valuable assistance with permitting.
Financial Plan Update
Let me end this portion of tonight’s speech with a discussion of the City’s financial plan. Although the City’s revenue snapshot may not be as healthy as it was prior to 2008, 2011 marked the first time in three years that the City’s budget projections were on target with actual results, so we are moving in the right direction. Over the past year, both the General Fund and Utility Fund balances increased. The General Fund balance on June 30, 2011 was about $600,000 more than was anticipated in the budget. The stabilization of the General Fund and the slight rebound of fund balance can be attributed to:
• continued reduction in expenses (over $2M last year);
• stabilization of consolidated tax revenue (increased by $368,549),
• new solar lease revenue (increased by $328,000) and
• increased property tax revenue ($108,495).
Although expenses were reduced, there were only minor adjustments to service levels in the City and no programs or services have been eliminated. The increases in revenue, combined with general cost cutting, allowed the City to increase its General Fund balance to about $2.8 million at the close of last year, exceeding all of our expectations. This is important because our General Fund reserves remain very low (about 12% of expenses) and leave the City very vulnerable to any revenue or expense fluctuations in the future.
On the Utility Fund side, the electric division saw an income increase of $1.3 million, primarily due to the past year’s rate increase. Operating expenses were stable and overall net income increased from $2.3 million in the prior fiscal year to $3.7 million last fiscal year. The City Council has been utilizing increased lease income to reduce debt in both the Utility Fund and General Fund. There has also been a strong emphasis on re-establishing reserves in the Utility Fund which were eliminated when BCGC was constructed. The City adopted its financial plan in April of 2011, and the plan’s focus is debt reduction, restoration of capital funding and rebuilding reserves. In this year’s budget, $500,000 has been set aside in the Utility Fund for rate stabilization and $500,000 was set aside for long-term capital reserve.
The budget that the City has adopted for this year (fiscal year 2012) reflects this financial plan. It allocates $2.3 million of Utility Fund reserves and $500,000 of capital improvement funds to pay down debt on the Third Intake, as our current agreement with the Southern Nevada Water Authority requires. In this year alone, $2.8 million will be paid toward this overall debt of $13 million. $775,000 of new lease revenue has been allocated toward accelerated debt payments for Boulder Creek Golf Course bonds. In addition, $750,000 was allocated toward General Fund capital needs.
In the future, the financial plan calls for the reduction of the Utility Fund transfer to the General Fund, which when combined with accelerated debt reduction, will help the City stabilize utility rates. This past year and this year has been a time for rebuilding. Although the downturn was a fast slippery slope, rebuilding is a slow, methodical, process. Rebuilding of the City’s finances will take careful planning, time and commitment, but I believe BC is taking the right first steps in rebuilding its financial future.
Over the past several minutes, we’ve focused on what’s been accomplished during 2011, and I’m sure you’ve noticed that many of those accomplishments are really milestones on the way to larger goals.
The City recently held a workshop on recycling for a new city-wide recycling program. Staff has researched many existing programs, and we believe we have the appropriate framework for Boulder City’s future recycling plan.
Nevada Way Revitalization
Boulder City is in the process of construction for the roadway improvements for Nevada Way, from Buchanan Boulevard to Wyoming Street. The design includes complete pavement removal, new sewer and new water mains, new water services, street scape improvements including landscaping, street lights, signage, bike racks, medians, etc. Also included in the design are bike lanes, decorative intersection paving, an artistic archway, bus turnouts and ADA accessibility improvements. Construction is anticipated to be completed early this summer.
Utility Improvements and Rate Structure
The City Council and staff will be reviewing the utility infrastructure needs. Many portions of our existing electrical infrastructure are in need of upgrade and repair to bring it into compliance with current standards and provide reliable service. We also need to review the existing rate structure in light of current needs. By setting up the electrical capital improvements plan, we hope to minimize power outages and interruptions in the future.
The City is now in the process of developing a strategic plan. Some of you may be getting calls to participate in a survey used as research in that strategic planning process. We hope you’ll respond when contacted so we can get an accurate picture of what your priorities are for the future. The plan will be used both as a planning and budget tool to guide decisions for Boulder City.
Other items on our list of things to do this year include:
• The City council and staff will continue to be busy implementing the financial plan.
• Conducting labor negotiations for City employees
Truly, the future is bright for Boulder City. 2011 brought challenges, but even in the midst of those challenges we enjoyed the blessings and benefits of our great City. Throughout the community, individuals, organizations and businesses and City staff made great efforts to preserve our quality of life, and in many cases, we’ve done more with less.
Public safety is a priority that remains at the forefront of our efforts as a City. The men and women who serve our community are skilled and dedicated, and we are grateful for the services they provide.
We were pleased to provide additional tools for them to do their job this year, especially Truck 121, a new ladder truck which will be placed in service next week. In 2011, we also purchased two new ambulances to replace aging equipment. Those will be placed in service by July of this year.
During 2011, our fire department responded to more than 2,000 emergency calls, and more than 1,700 of those calls were for emergency medical services. Their average response time on those calls was under 8 minutes.
According to the Chief, their greatest accomplishment this year was actually their defeat of the Police Department in their annual softball game during National Night Out. It was a victory a long time in coming, which made it even that much more meaningful.
Our police department once again provided exemplary service in 2011. While Boulder City’s police officers do a superb job of protecting our residents, their success in making Boulder City one of the safest cities in Nevada would not be possible without their strong partnership with the community.
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports from 2006 through 2010, crime in our city has dropped significantly. Violent crimes, which include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, dropped by 26%. Property crimes, which include burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft, also dropped dramatically and are now 53% of what they were five years ago. Those incredible and consistent reductions in violent and property crimes can only be achieved by a partnership between the police department and our citizens, and the extraordinary efforts of a well-trained and dedicated police force focused on preventing crime and ensuring the safety and security of the residents. Our low crime rate is particularly impressive when one realizes that we are situated within 25 miles of Las Vegas, a city with a worldwide reputation for “anything goes.”
The following items are an important snapshot of the service provided by our Police Department:
• During the road-widening construction on US 93 in the summer and fall of 2011, a total of 554 truck drivers were cited for driving on the roadway during the times when they were prohibited. Those citations generated over $100,000 in revenue for the city.
• Dispatchers received over 54,000 phone calls in our dispatch center, resulting in their dispatching police and or rescue to over 37,000 calls for service.
• Our two animal control officers responded to almost 4,500 calls for service. They impounded 350 animals, issued over 200 verbal/written warnings and 48 citations, completed over 350 missing animal reports, and adopted out over 70 animals.
• Our 14 part-time officers provided over 5,000 hours of patrol time, and some of that time was spent providing security at our landfill and our city council meetings. They also spent over 500 hours providing prisoner transports to and from the Henderson and Clark County jails. At $14.84 an hour, our part-time officers’ services represent a tremendous savings to the city’s taxpayers and they free up our full-time officers for patrol and other crime suppression and investigation activities.
• Our police auxiliary volunteers provide invaluable services to the police department, both in the police station and in the field. In 2011, our auxiliaries provided over 2,000 hours of free services to the Boulder City Police Department.
Parks and Recreation
The services and facilities offered by our Parks and Recreation Department contribute greatly to what we term “quality of life” in our community. Though their budgets have been heavily affected in recent years, they have still provided quality programs and facilities for us to use and enjoy. This has included improvements to the Pool & Racquetball complex and providing hundreds of recreation and sports classes and programs that thousands of our resident use each year.
As I mentioned before, our Public Works Department will be heavily involved this year in the improvements to be made along Nevada Way.
Other public works projects have included
• Replacement of the water service lateral at Lake Mountain Estates
• A remodel of the garage at the LA Department of Water & Power Building to provide additional storage
• Remodeling and upgrading of the Utility Department office in City Hall
• Upgrades to the water lines and monitoring systems that serve the Energy Zone
• The installation of restrooms at Bicentennial Park
• And rehabilitation of the City’s West Water Tank.
Our airport received funding for the reconstruction of the north-south runway, which will take place later this year. This funding will also be used to rehabilitate the pavement between the hangars. Finally, the Airport will be completing an update to the Airport Layout Plan, a document that will guide the future operation and development of the Airport. The Airport continues to be self-supporting through revenues generated at the field – meaning no General Fund dollars are spent at the airport.
So as you can see, we’ve continued to work hard to provide everything we can for our residents. As we can afford to make them, more changes will come. Our goal is to provide an attractive, efficient business corridor through the City that serves our residents and welcomes our guests. Having a healthy business climate in Boulder City provides services and goods to the community, and also utility revenues that help keep costs low for everyone.
In conclusion, I am grateful for the change we see on the horizon. I hope you are, too. This has been a difficult few years, and it has required the best in all of us to meet the challenges of a struggling economy. I’m grateful for the hard work and dedication of so many people who have tightened their belts and done more with less. There are still many challenges to be addressed, but I truly believe they can be overcome if we continue to work together and be prudent in our decisions.
My friends, this is a wonderful place. I spoke recently with a friend who moved from Boulder City this last year, and he told me how difficult it has been for his family to leave a community like ours. From schools where people care about our children and grandchildren, to businesses that provide a special touch, to community events and celebrations, to the beauty of the land that surrounds us, this is a special place. To my friend—and to all of us who live here—this is more than a small town on the map. It truly is a community—a place where good people give of themselves and work together to create a quality of life we love.
As your Mayor and as a City Council, we thank you for your continued support and participation. It is an honor for us to serve you, and we acknowledge the trust you’ve placed in us. It is my hope that we’ll continue to work together and focus on those most important things that make this City great for us and for future generations.