Mayor Trent Staggs Delivers the 2024 State of the City Address

The 2024 State of the City address was delivered by Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs on Thursday, February 15.

Councilmembers, state legislators, county officials, school officials, and Riverton residents. Tonight, as we gather to celebrate our community, we’re reminded of the successes and achievements of our city over the many years. These were only made possible because we've all been able to work together. I'd like to recognize, before I start my remarks, several individuals that have helped us and got us to this point in our city and the level of prosperity which we've been able to achieve.

First, I'd like to thank the members of our Riverton City Council for their dedication. Councilmembers Tawnee McCay, Tish Buroker, Troy McDougal, Andy Pierucci, and our newest City Councilmember, Spencer Hammond. Would you all just take a moment to thank these individuals for their dedication to the city?

I'd like to recognize also our state legislators and all their support and work on our behalf. We have Senator Dan McCay and Representatives Candice Pierucci, Mark Strong, Jay Cobb, and Susan Pulsifer. Please join me in thanking these legislators.

I'm also very grateful for the partnership and support of Salt Lake County, and you'll see that tonight in my remarks. It's been a fantastic partnership these last couple of years, and I want to really thank Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, who is here tonight, Sheriff Rosie Rivera as well, who's here tonight, and a Riverton resident. And the entire county council, in particular, councilmembers Sheldon Stewart, Laurie Stringham and Dave Alvord. Please join me in thanking these county officials.

I want to recognize as well members of the Jordan School District for their partnership and work on our behalf. I know that board member Tracy Miller is here tonight, Darrell Robinson, Brian Barnett, and our superintendent Anthony Godfrey, as well as our associate superintendent Mike Anderson, who is here, also another Riverton resident. And, of course, all our local principals and other school administrators, some of which are here this evening, as well. Please join me in thanking these members of our school and education community.

I'd like to also invite these individuals to stand. But if there's any members of our planning commission or any other resident volunteer committee, including our youth council, I know we've got our executive Youth Council here tonight, too. Would you please stand to be recognized for all the volunteerism that you do on behalf of our community?

And lastly, but not least, the Riverton City staff. Those that are on our Riverton City staff if you would stand as well and be recognized. These are the individuals that put into place the practice, the vision, and the strategic priorities of the city, and I want to thank them for their tireless dedication and service to the community.

Well, thank you again for being here tonight. I know that you're not here because of me. You're here because you support your community, and you want to be able to see that continue—the success that we've had, and the opportunity, and the great environment that we've been able to make here in Riverton City for our own families.

I want you to take a moment and think back to 2018; a good six years ago. That was when I started as mayor. In my first year, I was much less gray and better rested. My 11-year-old daughter just told me that today; much more gray hair and bags under my eyes, she said. At that time, we were ready to embark on really a big transformation for our community. We wanted to be able to put forth a visioning statement and really take us into the 21st century. We've made some incredible progress over the years.

Lately, I've been reflecting on the lines from a poem from Peter Raible, and it's a poem that says:

We build on foundations that we did not lay. We warm ourselves by fires that we did not light. We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant. We drink from wells we did not dig. We profit from persons we didn't know. We are ever bound in community.

Our city is well-aware of the debt that we owe to those that came before us. Consider the building that we're in here tonight. This Old Dome Meeting Hall is a replica of one built by pioneers long ago. And in that building, they housed community discussions and worship. It served as a gathering place for many, and it became a landmark in the valley, and a symbol of their hard work. And I'm glad that we've incorporated that into our very city logo. It reminds us of the deep and strong foundations that our success is built upon.

As our city completes its transition from kind of a rural farming community to now much more of a bustling suburban city, we're aware of the duty laid upon our shoulders to preserve our quality of life. We can't know where we are going unless we know where we've been. And reviewing the lessons of our past successes has helped us identify principles that govern us today.

One of those principles is fiscal discipline. In 2023, this principle of fiscal discipline is something that our city council wanted to really focus on. By the end of that fiscal year, July of ‘23, we reached several milestones.

One of which is that we now had, after paying down a substantial amount of debt, we've got the lowest debt per capita in over 20 years. It now stands at about $748 per person. And with our triple-A bond rating, this affords us the opportunity to take advantage of opportunities in the future and to improve our community with such a great fiscal standing.

Second, sales tax revenue continues to soar. Many consumers from across the valley have now chosen to shop in Riverton, and that's fantastic. We've seen our sales tax revenue grow from around $4 million when I first was elected in office to now last fiscal year, closing out at $12.3 million—our record sales tax year, and a 10.9% increase in sales tax revenue.

Third, our city's rising economy is the catalyst for keeping our city utility fees low. And you'll see in your programs there the comparison of Riverton City with other communities across the valley. I am happy to say, as it shows in that program, Riverton City’s combined utility fees are really amongst the lowest in the valley. Water, secondary water, sanitation, stormwater. Riverton City keeps its fees low and its taxes low because of our robust and booming economy. There were 79 new commercial businesses last year in Riverton, and we had over 328,000 square feet, new square feet, of commercial businesses. Mountain View Village continues to mature, and I'm proud that Riverton has been largely viewed as a very entrepreneur-friendly, business-minded community.

Riverton City is also very careful to spend its money judiciously and save money for unforeseen events. We have a 30% fund balance, and we also have seen our expenditures increase just 4% in the last year in our general fund. And over the last 10 years, that general fund has only gone up about 30%, which is less than the pace of inflation. The city also maintains a healthy fund balance that I mentioned, saving for a rainy day. And all of this really redounds back to the direction the city council has given and appreciate their support and leadership.

The city is also in the finalizing stages of a new broadband connectivity to all city facilities. This is going to result in an increase in speeds at about four-fold what they are today and save us hundreds of thousands of dollars. We also have Google Fiber that's finishing their installation throughout the entire city. And so that provides another broadband option for residents. We believe that this increase in choice and competition is better for our residents and has driven down costs to them with respect to broadband.

The next principle that I want to talk about is really summed up in the old pioneer saying, “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.” Frugality has always been a big part of our city council, our planning, and it helps guide us today. Riverton lives up to this tried-and-true piece of wisdom by using what is available and repurposing what may be worn out. The Riverton City Hall and the Sandra N. Lloyd Community Center behind City Hall, you'll notice, is going through a renovation. This building is now over 100 years old, and the City Council is directed to again have that principle of frugality. And rather than bonding and paying millions of dollars more for a brand-new facility, a brand-new building, we're repurposing that existing building at a substantial savings. I want to thank Salt Lake County for their grant through the TRCC funds of some $1.2 million in the renovation of this facility. It's going to be opened here in just a couple of months, and we're looking forward to that, inviting our county partners to this event, and all of the public to come and take a look. it's fantastic, and you're going to see just how much more we're able to serve our community with the addition renovation of the Sandra Lloyd Community Center.

The county's partnership is also on display with a grant that we received of $3 million, through their American Rescue Plan funds, to establish a reverse osmosis center on our Green Well over here at Roi Hardy Park. That Green Well is going to service everything in Riverton from 3200 West to the east. It's a good portion of our community, and it includes the Riverbend Golf Course. So, there will be substantial savings. It's going to generate almost an extra 2000-acre feet of drinkable, potable water. And we know how important water is to our community and to our state. It's going to free up resources for other parts of the county that are fast-growing. It's going to save the county around $100,000 a year just in watering costs for Salt Lake County for the Riverbend Golf Course, and again, produce a couple thousand more acre-feet for our community. And so rather than having to buy more and more water from the conservancy district, we're able to produce at this well with this reverse osmosis plant, drinkable water that's at least equal to or greater than the quality of the water through the conservancy district and save us millions of dollars in the foreseeable future.

I also want to talk about the creation of our law enforcement service area. Back in 2018, when we moved to a new tax district, that move (of creating our own police department) has saved now Riverton taxpayers around $15 million. We highlight that, too, in the program. With over $5 million in savings just in the last year. And the creation of the Riverton Fire Service area is also saving around half a million dollars just in the last year.

These new taxing districts are something that pays for our law enforcement and for our fire services. We still contract with Unified Fire Service, but (we) have much more control through this taxing district and can keep those taxes, those property taxes, low. Also, with our police department now and self-providing law enforcement, we're able to use this tax district as a means of paying for that at a significant savings. Like I said, around $15 million.

Riverton City also boasts the lowest staff-to-city population ratio. You'll see that in your programs. We don't need to have a complex and bloated bureaucracy. Riverton really proves that we can do much more with less. I really appreciate the city staff because at times there's a lot that's placed on their shoulders. So, thank you for allowing this to happen.

Another great example of the work that we've completed in this past year, we've added four new pickleball courts to the park here, three new pavilions, we’ve planted over 104 new trees, and that's on top of the 4,000 existing trees that we have throughout the throughout the city. We've made improvements to the Rose Creek Trail and installed an ADA, a playground for children with varying abilities. Additionally, we've applied and received over $9 million in grants. We've laid over 214 tons of asphalt, 37 yards of concrete, and plowed nearly 10,000 miles of streets in the past year. It's only a small sampling of what our dedicated city staff is able to accomplish.

Finally, a $2 million grant, again, from the county that's helping us repurpose a bridge that we saved when UDOT (began) turning 13400 South into a freeway-style interchange. We were able to take that pedestrian bridge, lay it down by the Welby-Jacob Canal Trail, and we're going to be putting up a new pedestrian bridge across 13400 South. And we've been able to do this, again, because of these funds from Salt Lake County, and also the trail network that's going to go along the Welby-Jacob Canal. We've heard from you, our residents, in our citizens survey, that you wanted more trails and more connectivity, and we're able to do that, and have a lot of these funds come from other sources.

Bless pioneer-era wisdom that continues to guide us today as the focus on knitting communities together. And one of Riverton City's main strategic priorities is to provide a sense of community. We're well-known across the valley for our events. I hear from a lot of folks that's why they come here to our great city, because we have such a great sense of community. That's the number one thing that we see also in our residents’ Citizen Survey; they love the sense of community, the feel of community that they have here in Riverton. Some of the examples here of knitting communities together: In 2023, we had tens of thousands of points of engagement across all our events. You think about Riverton Town Days, all the meetings that we've had, and various events through the city—thousands and thousands of people have attended. Our social media platforms, city website, and other forms of informing residents are also seeing great success. Residents engage with our city’s accounts at a rate per capita that's higher than any other city across the state. Over 66% of all our residents, almost two thirds of all our residents, follow the city's social media accounts, and use that as a source of key information.

A great example of keeping our residents informed is when our city recently changed our online utility billing system. We've moved to a new utility billing system that has a single sign-on, allows people to easily look at their utility accounts in real-time, and be able to pay for those utilities. I want to give a shout-out to our utility billing department and our finance department for taking on this Herculean task. I know that it has not been easy, and many of our residents are now benefiting from better service through this platform. So, thank you.

All this paints, I think, a picture of a strong city ready to tackle the challenges of the future. In this corner of America, I see neighbors looking out for neighbors, businesses using their profits to serve the needy, and dedicated city employees doing their best to serve the public. We face some challenges, though, that will be difficult looking into the future. We know that UDOT is constructing that freeway-style interchange at 13400 (South) and at 2700 West. Once those are completed in 2025, this will effectively give us a freeway from I-15 all the way through the southern part of the county. But, in the short-term, it will mean more wear and tear on our roads and a little more congestion. So, we'll need residents and those traveling through our city to bear this with patience over the next year. But after completion, it will immediately improve travel times to include East-West connectivity.

Another challenge is realizing that our sales tax revenue will not continue to have these substantial increases every single year. At some point, we're going to start to plateau. This is going to create some challenges for city councils in the future, I'm sure, and the city government to continue providing these services without looking to raise taxes and fees in a substantial way. And lastly, I would say that we are also experiencing at the state level, not with all, but with some legislators, I think have an ever-increasing view of concentrating more and more land-use decisions at the state level and looking at more top-down approaches. This is something we've been dealing with for the last six years with some 24 pieces of legislation that have come down in, and in some form or fashion have taken a component of our land use authority. We appreciate our legislators, and we want to have an open dialogue with them and continue to work with them so that we can tackle the challenges that we have together and keep what I think is an overriding principle of local governance, local governance.

I typically like to in these speeches with kind of a “rah-rah” and a call to action, but recently there's an experience amongst one of our city employees and just with our employees generally that I wanted to be able to share. And I think it's a really touching story. One of our employees last year received word that their three-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with cancer and that it would require many treatments and it would be a long road to recovery. And when that news was shared with other employees, they responded with overwhelming support. They volunteered to help cover this employee’s shifts and responsibilities so that he could spend more time at home with his wife and daughter. And all the employees around the city seemed to rally and help support, even donating money to this family via Venmo and sent encouraging messages. Employees sent gifts to his daughter. Knowing that the cancer treatments might be very scary for a three-year-old, and they got in the habit of saying, “Just be brave.” The city employees embroidered, in fact, that phrase, “Just be brave,” on a blanket that they gave to this three-year-old. As the months went by, one of our employees was diagnosed with cancer herself. When the three-year-old heard this, she tenderly told this employee to, “Just be brave,” and everything will be all right. So, from a three-year-old to one of our adult employees, our care for one another has gone full circle.

In Riverton City, we’re truly knitting generations together, whether inside the city government or among the residents. We're looking out for one another and ensuring that no one feels that they have to face life's challenges alone. Like our pioneer founders, Riverton today is laying the foundations of success for the next generation. We really do drink from wells we did not dig, and now it's our duty to set the stage for Riverton’s continued success well into the 21st century. The intergenerational effort is what binds us together as a community. Because of the foundations we stand on, and through the work we are doing today, I'm confident in a bright future for Riverton City. May God bless our city, our state, and nation, and may He continue to bless our efforts in building upon this foundation for the next generation. Thank you.

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