For the second year in a row, Moab city leaders focused on the future when they met for their annual visioning session. On Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 12 and 13, city staff and council members discussed the departmental goals and what they see as the city’s priorities for 2014.
“The success of great civilizations has always been brought about by their looking to the future,” City Manager Donna Metzler said at the outset.
Department heads presented their 1-year and 3-to-5-year goals to the group, as well as budgetary priorities. Many departments seek to continue or complete initiatives begun in 2013, such as improvements to the Rotary Park and the mapping and assessment of city infrastructure.
The city will also focus on some large capital improvement projects that have been in the queue, like construction and improvements to Lions Park and 500 West.
Other departments seek to carry forward 2013 successes, such as the Moab Arts and Recreation Center’s (MARC) installment of a long-term renter, which strengthens their financial foundation. Also, Economic Development hopes to increase its participation in the Eastern Utah Economic Development Coalition, which brings often-competing interests from different counties together to discuss rural economic issues.
New goals include “big dreams,” as Terry Lewis, director of Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center (MRAC) said in her presentation. In looking to increase year-round visitation, MRAC is researching such things as pool climbing walls and food vending. Economic Development wants to lead the city’s participation in the American Solar Transformation Initiative to make adopting solar power easier, more affordable and more attractive for businesses and homes.
Common themes that arose throughout the presentations were the benefits of, and need for quality communication; a desire for increased staff; and the pressing need to improve existing facilities and other infrastructure, such as the Center Street Gym.
These themes were the subject of much of the roundtable discussion on Thursday, when the group met to determine the city’s priorities for 2014. The topic of resources, in both people and infrastructure, also came up often.
“We have two Moabs,” City Council member Kirstin Peterson said. “We have a city of 5,000 that we provide services for and then we have visitors of 10-to-20 thousand people who we also have to provide for. And we have to constantly find a way to balance these different needs with the resources we have.”
Council member Greg Stucki said that more manpower is a theme that seems to come up every year in this process.
“Then usually, when the budget comes out, we need to cut manpower,” Stucki said. “What we need is to find a new approach. We need to think about things we do that take our energy and effort and is there a way to make them more efficient.”
The idea of efficiency was returned to throughout the discussion, but when it came to infrastructure, there was no alternative to money.
“I think the city did a great job getting our facilities,” City Council member Doug McElhaney said. “We’re very lucky to have them. We need to step up and spend some money to take care of them.”
City engineer Rebecca Andrus said spending a little more now will save the city later on.
“We’ve functioned lean and mean. It’s amazing,” she said. “But there’s a point where if we don’t start spending money on things now, we’ll have to spend more money later and it will end up being a lot more.”
Metzler said that money is the issue keeping the city from being able to fix its infrastructure. So far, the city has paid for all capital improvements and infrastructure projects with funding from the federal government.
“Is that a city that survives?” Metzler asked. “Is that what we want?”
The priorities the city set for 2014 were extensions of the same priorities they had set in 2013. The city will continue to focus on leadership and teamwork, asset management, communication, community design and financial sustainability
This year, however, they will focus on fixing and maintaining what the city already has. They will look harder at revenue sources, both locally and from outside grants. And they will continue their efforts to increase and improve communication, both internally and externally, and especially between the city and the community.
“We’re in a situation of really trying to get our house in order in the most efficient and best way possible,” Peterson said.
Department heads present budget priorities