The other day, I had a chance to converse at length with Anderson City Manager Jeff Kiser about the challenges and opportunities city employees and residents will face together in the New Year.
The economy was the weightiest of those issues that first sprang up.
“Staffing is our greatest concern. In these economic times, staffing continues to be a challenge. We continue to manage conservatively and wisely by using technology to do things more efficiently,” Kiser said.
One example, the city has replaced all residential and commercial water meters with Smart Meters capable of transmitting usage data via low frequency radio transmission to computerized receivers that very quickly pick up the information from a vehicle in the street.
Gone are the long, tedious hours that Public Works Department employees used to spend collecting data by hand. Gone, too, are the many hours spent keying that hand-written data into the city’s billing computer, correcting errors and even going back a second or third time to confirm the data as correct when disputes arose, Kiser said.
“The system has worked out extremely well. We are very happy with that program. It has created great tools to alert people when they have had leaks in their system,” he noted.
Human error and the need for re-reading meters has dropped to near zero in the process, and while the time saved has not reduced any city staffing, it has allowed those Public Works and accounting employees more time for their many other duties, Kiser noted.
The city police department’s use of SHASCOM for dispatch duties and answering emergency calls for police assistance has also proved beneficial, he added.
“Our officers are pleased. We are getting professional dispatching. The service is performing as promised,” Kiser said.
Turning to the economy once again, Kiser said that property taxes continue to drop each year by nearly 7 percent. After four or five years, the city’s General Fund has dropped nearly 24 percent as a result.
When 75 percent of the city’s General Fund goes to support the Anderson Police Department’s efforts, staffing in that department is quickly at jeopardy, Kiser noted.
“Captain Robert Kirvin has announced his retirement at the end of June. He has been in the department a long time, so we are working on a succession plan. Conversely, our newest officer, Nathan Ramirez, is a great addition to the police force,” Kiser added.
On the positive side, the city is gearing up to promote commercial development opportunities throughout the city.
“The property owners of the two largest parcels adjacent to the roundabout intersection have paid to extend city water and sewer services to their properties in anticipation of interest from developers,” Kiser said.
Other projects may fill in vacant commercial property in Anderson’s south end as homes sales are generated by The Vineyards at Anderson subdivision and Pleasant Hills nearby to the Wal-Mart SuperCenter, he noted.
“It’s still a tough economy and cities throughout the state are still struggling with the loss of redevelopment funding as a way to stimulate economic development, but we are not going to take a wait-and-see approach. We are going to go out and market Anderson. We have a lot of Interstate 5 frontage property to offer. We also have commercial frontage along the Sacramento River. And we even have a few parcels of commercial property with both,” Kiser said.
City officials intend to work hand-in-hand with the Economic Development Corporation of Shasta County on commercial development, but look for city employees and elected officials attending a few conventions and trade shows as well to market the city’s growth opportunities.
“We already have a consulting firm working on updating and upgrading the Gateway Shopping Center. I have also challenged staff to make sure they are helping people with projects rather than just saying ‘No!’” Kiser said.
“We are working as a community to be more proactive. For example, our police department is working with our schools to reinstate the school resource officer position. We are trying to make Anderson an attractive and livable space. Our streets continue to remain in good shape and we are excited about the many opportunities that will come along once the roundabout intersection construction is completed in August or September of 2013,” Kiser said.
Looking ahead to formulating the city’s new two-year spending priorities and budget for 2013-2015, Kiser said he plans to start a series of public workshops in February “to educate and involve the community in our budget process.”
While the economy continues to be Kiser’s greatest worry, Kiser remains optimistic about Anderson weathering the storm.
“There will be cities that are successful in these tough economic times. We want to be one of those cities,” he said.
“Anderson is a great place to live, work and recreate. We have many new development opportunities in the south part of town. We want to help developers with their projects. A ‘can-do attitude’ will do more for Anderson than a ‘can’t here approach.’ We are championing our community. Our staff has that attitude because it must start at City Hall, and it must start first in my office,” Kiser said.
Here’s to a Happy New Year, Jeff. May all your dreams for this city come true!