The theme of Carson City Mayor Lori Bagwell’s speech on the state of the city in 2023 was “Charting a Way Forward,” and the mayor used words to outline a vision for the future while highlighting the accomplishments of the past year – a generally positive picture, but not without challenges in the community.
The 13-page speech was delivered at Gold Dust West on Tuesday. The Chamber of Commerce organized the event and Southwest Gas sponsored it. Early on, Bagwell joked that she would highlight more accomplishments than just numbers, and referred to herself as “the mayor of spreadsheets.” The city is doing well financially, she said.
“I’m just telling you, we’re in good shape,” she said.
One of the few parts of her grant presentation was about federal grants. The mayor reported that the city received more than $17 million in federal grants in 2022, which is about 20 percent of the city’s general budget. Jump Around Carson received $2.3 million, a new fire station and emergency response center on Butti Way received $2 million, and road and infrastructure improvements in the city received approximately $10 million in grants.
An additional $1.5 million in federal funding went toward upgrading the Quill Water Treatment Plant. Bagwell addressed this later in her speech. The upgrade is 60 percent in the planning stages and will eventually increase the city’s water production from 1.5 million gallons per day to 6 million gallons per day. Bagwell said treating surface water will protect the city’s water rights, ensure they are used wisely and also meet the city’s water needs during the winter months without using wells.
“You don’t have to be a math student to know that’s a lot more water,” she said.
Bagwell highlighted past and future priorities for city governments, often making reference to department heads in the audience. She said serving the public meant finding the best people for the job or “getting the aces in their place.”
One achievement Bagwell touted in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces was the hiring of a full-time Volunteer Coordinator, Chelsea Kincheloe. Last year, Kincheloe worked with 562 volunteers and a total of 4,643 hours of work. Bagwell put the value of this volunteer work at $139,030. One such volunteer group is Muscle Powered, a local nonprofit that is helping build 10 miles of new trails this year, including the completion of the Capital to Tahoe Trail.
Bagwell also commended the Community Development Department for overseeing 350 housing permits issued over the past year. That number is still fewer than the more than 600 permits awarded annually under the city’s growth management program. The mayor expects more than 400 apartments and condominiums to be built in 2023, including 36 apartments as part of the Friends In Service Helping project along North Carson, 207 units on East William and North Plaza streets, and 126 units in Northridge Drive and Roop Street.
As part of their community development update, Bagwell spawned several new businesses, such as Panera Bread on Cochise Street and System’s Edge, a new virtual reality arcade in South Carson.
“It’s hard to take money and take a risk and open a business,” she said. “But I want to thank you.”
For those concerned with zoning and development legislation, a March 3 meeting between the Planning Commission and the Board of Directors will offer a review of Title 18, which deals with zoning, and Title 17, Chapter 17.10, which deals with shared open space developments . Bagwell said the latter is one of the most important issues raised at public gatherings. Supervisor Lisa Schutte later added that 17.10 was designed to create connections between neighborhoods. She said the March 3 review was “an opportunity to learn from what we have.”
Speaking of public health and safety, Bagwell noted that Carson City Health and Human Services organized a distribution exercise at Fuji Park in October that provided free flu shots but also ensured the department was ready for a large-scale event. In addition, Bagwell said the Carson City Fire Department presented fire and life safety programs to more than 2,000 elementary school students last year.
Operations at the senior center are also looking good, Bagwell said. Last year, employees served more than 148,000 meals and home delivered more than 110,000 to seniors. This year, the seniors will see a redesign of the main bathrooms, dining room and kitchen areas at the center.
Not everything in the speech was good news. Bagwell mentioned several challenges the community faces. She said the tobacco prevention coordinator at CCHHS continues to educate teenagers about flavored vape products. Bagwell said the city is going in the wrong direction when it comes to underage vaping.
“We really see youth vaping as an epidemic in our community,” she said.
City lists tobacco and vape prevention resources online: https://gethealthycarsoncity.org/tobacco/.
Another challenge for the community is street funding, particularly for neighborhood streets, which make up the majority of city streets but are not eligible for some federal grants.
“There’s no easy answer other than one: It needs more money,” Bagwell said.
Even after Carson City voters approved a 5-cent diesel tax in November’s general election, the city still faced a $21 million gap between funding and maintenance needs. A report prepared for the Regional Transportation Commission last fall examined potential sources of funding, such as B. a new quarter-cent sales tax and general improvement districts with special valuations for real estate, among other measures.
Later, when Bagwell gave the floor to supervisors, Supervisor Curtis Horton said roads are a major problem across the city. He said a collective solution will be needed.
“We have to play as a team,” he said.
Making Carson City the best possible team was a predominant theme of Bagwell’s speech. She commended HR for reviewing more than 4,500 applications last year for 227 open positions, a 14 percent increase from the previous year. Also last year she highlighted 63 promotions.
“We have to keep the employees that we have,” she said. “It’s good for all of you.”
Bagwell also expressed gratitude for the Treasury Department, which oversaw an upgrade in the city’s bond ratings and a clean year-end audit.
“Let me tell you that not having exam results is pretty spectacular,” Bagwell said.
Bagwell urged viewers to look at the city’s finances at https://carsoncity.finance.socrata.com/#!/dashboard.
“We are a very transparent government,” she said.