I attended the public hearing the other night, and admittedly went in and came out frustrated regarding the proposed increase in our utility rates. Unfortunately, my intense fear of public speaking prevented me from making any comments. That said, I would like to offer a few suggestions related to the proposed increase and the meeting in general.
I would first like to address the communication issue. I believe more could have been done to inform the citizens. Looking at the newer design of the city web page, I do not understand how and/or why the web master has not set up an electronic newsletter registry. With technology being where it is today, I find it incomprehensible that our city has not kept up with the times. Email, texting, Facebook, etc. are all viable options for communication. From personal experience, it takes less than 3 minutes to set up a Facebook group or Twitter account. I am not technologically savvy, yet even I can do this in a minimal amount of time. I would like to encourage you to set a Facebook account, Twitter account and electronic newsletter IMMEDIATELY. It will be well worth the 5 minutes it takes.
**As a side note to the communication issue, I believe you need to be aware that when I called to confirm the location and time of the hearing on Tuesday night the person that answered the phone did not know. She had me hold while she looked up the information. I find it difficult to believe that information is being actively passed on to citizens when city employees are unaware.
I would next like to address the thoughts regarding amenities. I believe the individual that spoke regarding closing down every amenity, had an interesting idea. Personally, I think total shut down is extreme, in his defense Councilman Jensen initially brought up the idea with the city library in his response to another comment. However, I wish to propose for consideration the possible of modified/limited hours in regards to city amenities. Many governments are already having 4 day weeks or shorter daily hours. I propose the same type of structure for our library, recreation center, golf course, etc. during this economically challenging time. I believe there is middle ground that will help the city and allow for continued availability of some of the resources that make Pleasant Grove great. Unless we are willing to compromise, be creative and think outside of the box we will all lose in this situation.
Finally, I wish to address the issue of the proposed funds for land purchases. During the comment session, Steve gave information that the Sewer/Drainage (?) Fund (it may have been called something else) has been completely utilized to purchase land. Yet, in the initial presentation, he discussed the proposed monies for future land purchases. While we are facing such a large increase, I believe the land purchases can be completely set aside. Not permanently, but short term. We know we already have land set aside, rather than plan on $7 million that will worsen an already frustrating situation, I believe we should set it aside for now and revisit it on an annual or semi-annual basis. Again, I urge you to be more creative and flexible in thinking of solutions. Land purchases are NOT a now or never choice. Recent reports from economists indicate we will have at the very least a very slow recovery, if not a double-dip recession. Consider these facts before you decide to spend money we don’t have.
The majority of you are not first time council members. Do not act as such. Taking a single recommendation is unheard of when looking at a rate increase of this magnitude. GET A SECOND OPINION. With only a single report to garner information from, it appears to be a mandate, rather than a recommendation.
WE THE PEOPLE are watching and are questioning motivations, qualifications and competency. You have within your power, the ability to give us something to believe in.
I know your job is difficult. I know you won’t please everyone. Before you make your final decision and take a vote that will affect every member of our community, be aware that there are options. We live in an amazing city with talented, intelligent and creative individuals. WE THE PEOPLE are the greatest single resource you have at your disposal. Consider a second public hearing, with every possible method of communication to inform the citizens, and use your resources.
RESPONSES FROM COUNCILMEMBERS:
First Response was from CINDY BOYD:
Thank you for emailing us with your concerns and suggestions. We do appreciate the public suggestions and we are trying to answer and consider them all.
Just yesterday we now have a twitter account. I have not checked it yet, but I do know that it is up and running and we are looking at facebook and group email.
In the meantime, I will be sending out all agenda's and information that I can till an email group list is created. Your idea of making the website available for electronic newsletter is great. We will be discussing that as a council.
I apologize for the lack of knowledge by one of our employees. We will also address that.
We are having further discussion regarding the amenities and other suggestions this Tuesday night and then there will be another public hearing.
Again let me thank you for your attendance and your suggestions.
Thank, Cindy Boyd
Second Response was from Val Danklef:
Thank you for your comments. I agree that we have not done everything possible. I spent yesterday researching costs and why we are so far underfunded for water. I will be making some suggestions Tuesday night on that issue. I have also concluded that bonding for the purchase of additional land for storm drains is not acceptable, and will propose we not do so. Others have offered suggestions on communications, and we will look at it very closely. I voted against the budget this year, and still feel we could address what I think are weaknesses in that area, and have ask that our staff be prepared for some cuts to help. Thank you.
Third Response was from Lee Jensen:
Thanks for your email. I appreciate hearing from you about your thoughts and ideas relative to the city. A couple of responses seem in order. First, the city has already proceeded to open both a Facebook and Twitter account.
Since I don't personally use either, I'm the least familiar with how it all works. But they are available, and as I understand it, available now. There has also been talk of RSS accounts that those who are interested can enroll in.
As far as the location of the meeting, it was announced last week, and was posted on the city website. I don't know who it was that you spoke with so I can't explain why that person didn't know the location. Fortunately it sounds like she was able to get the address to you, so that is good!
We can look at your idea of 'modified hours' as a possible savings. However, and not discounting your idea, the savings of what you are proposing probably wouldn't amount any real savings as the increase in utility rates is not a function of a few thousand here or a few there. We are talking about millions here and millions there. But I will take this forward as I have already expressed that I believe we need to look at EVER option to save, including difficult cuts to the budget.
My response to Lee Jensen:
Thanks for your quick response. I thought I would just let you know that Pleasant Grove does NOT have a Facebook account (I just did a thorough search). I appreciate the idea of an RSS feed, that would be a great way to communicate with all of us.
Just a quick response to the modified hours thought. Small savings from many sources add up. Please don't discount the idea quite yet. It is possible combined with other ideas, the total may be more significant than at first glance.
Thank you for your communication, it gives me hope.
Fourth Response was from Kim Robinson:
Thank you Wendy for taking the time to get involved. My desire is to encourage as many citizens as possible to do the same. Getting the word out has presented a challenge and the staff and council are willing to look at any and all suggestions. Increasing our involvement in social media is a great opportunity to reach the masses. It has been presented at previous council meeting, without urgency. I believe the fuel is available for that flame now. I want you to know we are looking at every, and all possible solutions to this difficult situation. "The People" is why I got involved.
Post Script: I still have yet to hear from one council member. Make your own judgements as to who has any idea of what the hud is going on. I've made mine, and I will likely do everything I can to keep them from coming back.