Monday, April 27, 2009

U.S. Census Workers now in Rolla area

The first phase of the 2010 U.S. Census is now underway in the Rolla area where U.S. Census Bureau workers are verifying addresses to ensure that every housing unit receives a census questionnaire. Address verification will take approximately six to eight weeks to complete.

It is important to realize that U.S. Census Bureau workers are not in uniforms, but they will have official identification and they are using hand-held computers equipped with GPS to increase geographic accuracy. Census workers may knock on doors to verify addresses and inquire about additional living quarters on certain premises. Workers may also ask people in some neighborhoods a few simple questions about housing units. More than 140,000 U.S. Census Bureau workers are verifying addresses across the nation, as the first major field operation of the 2010 Census is underway.

The actual U.S. Census questionnaires, which will be delivered to residents in March of 2010, will consist of 10 questions asking basic information that gives the Census Bureau the best portrait of America. The form should only take about 10 minutes to fill out. The final step is to simply put the census form back in the mail. Data collected from the 2010 Census is always confidential and safeguarded. Federal law protects all personal information, and policies and safeguards are in place to help ensure the confidentiality of your information. Personal information cannot be shared with any other government agency. The Census questionnaire does not ask for Social Security Numbers.

The City’s Community Development Director, John Petersen represented the City of Rolla at the first meeting of the statewide Complete County Committee in Jefferson City on March 30; one-year before Census questionnaires are sent to homes. The 26-member committee includes community leaders from across the state that will be working together to ensure every Missourian is counted in the 2010 Census. The committee will be working with the Missouri Office of Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau to devise the best ways to reach Missouri’s hard-to-count populations and to educate all Missourians about the 2010 Decennial Census.

According to Dennis Johnson, Director of the Kansas City Regional Office, which includes Missouri and five other states, over $300 billion in federal dollars get distributed every year to state and local government based on census data. That funding includes spending for schools, hospitals, roads and disaster relief In addition, he said the data helps inform the process of reapportioning seats to the U.S. House of Representatives.

In closing I’d like to remind everyone to take advantage of the beautiful weather we are having by taking a walk or a bike ride on the City’s 9.2-mile ACORN Trail that connects to many of our City parks and scenic areas. Ber Juan Park, which includes The Centre, Rolla’s Health and Recreation Complex, the Ber Juan Tennis Complex, and SplashZone, Rolla’s outdoor Water Park, is also an excellent place to take a walk, fly a kite, throw a Frisbee, or enjoy a family gathering at one of the picnic areas.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Council members to be recognized at April 20 Mtg.

Regardless of how you voted during the Rolla Municipal Election on April 7, I think most Rolla residents will agree that serving a two-year term on the Rolla City Council is a significant contribution of time, talent and effort. And while the voter turn-out has been better in year’s past than it was on April 7, I applaud the residents who did take the time and effort to cast their votes or ballots.

At the City Council meeting scheduled for this Monday, April 20 at 6:30 p.m., I will be recognizing two outgoing and much appreciated City Council members in Councilman Terry Ruck (Ward 1) and Councilman Rick Morris (Ward 5). Both of these individuals have given generously of their time and energy by attending, preparing for and participating in City Council meetings, workshops, retreats and Ward meetings. Their input and expertise will be missed.

I will also be joining the City Council in welcoming the returning and newly elected City Council members who will be taking the oath of office in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. The Council members who were re-elected to another 2-year term include: Don Barklage (Ward 2); Gary Hicks (Ward 3); Lou Magdits (Ward 4) and Mark Walburg (Ward 6). The two new members elected to the City Council are Don Brown (Ward 1) and Ken Boeker (Ward 5). If you have not yet had the opportunity to meet these City Council members, I encourage you to attend Monday’s meeting or a future City Council meeting so you can get to know the individuals who represent your Ward and the Rolla community.

In closing I’d like to remind everyone about the upcoming Show Me Green Sales Tax Holiday (April 19-25). In February the Rolla City Council enacted an ordinance to allow the Show Me Green Sales Tax Holiday to apply to its local sales taxes so that they will be exempted from all retail sales of any energy star certified appliance, up to $1,500 per appliance. The seven-day tax holiday on energy star appliances begins at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, April 19 and ends at midnight on Saturday, April 25.

Some of the energy star certified appliances that will be exempt from both state and City sales tax include: clothes washers and dryers, water heaters, trash compactors, dishwashers, conventional ovens, ranges, stoves, air conditioners, furnaces, refrigerators and freezers.

Please also don’t forget to attend the Rolla Earth Day Celebration this Wednesday, April 22 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Havener Center on the Missouri S&T campus. The events are free and open to the public.

Monday, April 13, 2009

City Council sends message to 'shop local'

Shopping local is a mantra that frequently echoes throughout most cities and towns across the U.S. as communities continue to realize the significance of making purchases locally. There are few better short-range remedies to bolster an economy than a well promoted campaign to “buy-local.”

The message to shop local was sent again to the Rolla community by members of the Rolla City Council when they approved the Back to School Sales Tax Holiday for the first weekend in August. As stated in the recently passed ordinance to ‘opt in’ to the state back to school sales tax holiday, the sales tax holiday (tax savings of 2.5%) is intended to provide tax relief to families with children attending school by exempting the sales tax on clothing, personal computers, certain computer software, and school supplies. The sale officially begins at 12:01 a.m. on the first Friday in August (Aug. 7), and ends at midnight on the Sunday following (Aug. 9).

The Back to School Sales Tax Holiday was first established in 2004 by the Missouri State Legislature when the legislature passed Senate Bill 11. At that time Rolla and more than 135 other cities opted-out of the exemption over a concern for a loss in sales tax revenue. While it is possible that the Sales Tax Holiday could cost the City of Rolla anywhere between $10,000 and $18,000 in lost sales tax revenue, the tax savings of 2.5% on clothing, school supplies and personal computers should be a welcomed relief for families with school-aged children. As the message continues to spread that Rolla is participating in the Back to School Sales Tax, the City, Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce and local businesses and restaurants will hopefully see an increase in local purchases all across the board.

In February, the Rolla City Council approved a City Ordinance to “opt in” the Green Sales Tax Holiday enacted by the Missouri State Legislature. By enacting this ordinance, the City elects to allow the Show Me Green Sales Tax Holiday to apply to its local sales taxes so that there shall be exempted from all retail sales of any energy star certified appliance, up to $1,500 per appliance, during a seven-day period beginning at 12:01 a.m. on April 19 and ending at midnight on April 25.

Some of the energy star certified appliances that will be exempt from both state and City sales tax during the week of April 19 through April 25 include: clothes washers and dryers, water heaters, trash compactors, dishwashers, conventional ovens, ranges, stoves, air conditioners, furnaces, refrigerators and freezers.

In closing I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy Easter as we enjoy one of the prettiest seasons in the Ozarks!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Employee Wellness program gains momentum as employees shed pounds

Employee wellness isn’t something I often talk about in my weekly column, but with the well documented success of the City’s new employee wellness program, I thought I’d mention what an impact the program is having on our employees, and ultimately our City.

Now in it’s second year, the City’s fully integrated Employee Wellness Program, which is jointly coordinated by Scott Caron, Recreation Director; Steffanie Rogers, Finance Director and April Reynolds, Senior Account Clerk, is producing results that did not exist prior to the program’s launch in December 2007.

Since implementing the program, there has been a significant reduction not only in pounds lost by numerous City employees, but also in the amount of absenteeism and sick days taken. In addition, there were no employee health insurance premium increases over the last year, or the year before – indicating that the City’s employee wellness program is minimizing the rising cost of health insurance seen nationwide. Furthermore, for every $1 the City invests in our new Wellness Program, the City receives $6 back.

So just how is the City of Rolla encouraging City employees to live healthier, more active lives that contribute to their wellness and well-being? Simply put, we are placing wellness as a priority, at the forefront, and not on the back shelf where it will go unheard and unnoticed. You could say the City of Rolla is embracing a new lifestyle change of health and wellness that is based on education, awareness, positive reinforcement and, best of all, teamwork. We have found that without teamwork, and buy-in from employees all across the City’s 9 departments, the City’s wellness program would not be the success that it is.

In addition to an annual health risk assessment made available to all City employees in January, the City has offered several wellness programs such as the Biggest Loser contest, Weight Watchers, and monthly brown-bag wellness seminars that range in topics from stress management to nutrition, and fitness. Each year, the City holds an Employee Wellness Day that provides additional information about how the City’s Wellness Program is doing, benchmark data, and ideas to enhance the City’s Employee Wellness Plan. Testimonials from City employees who have lost significant amounts of weight, and are changing their eating, fitness and lifestyle habits, have been particularly effective.

The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating, and if you take into account the number of City employees who have had significant weight loss, it is clearly evident that the wellness program is doing much more than encouraging City employees to count calories. More employees are discovering the benefits of fitness, better nutrition, portion control, stress management, and life-long habits that can add years to their lives, not to mention, increase energy and productivity, and resistance to sickness and disease.

Regular health and fitness newsletters are e-mailed and made available to all City employees on a regular basis, and the results of the health risk assessments are confidentially mailed to each employee who elects to participate in the assessment. These simple to use materials and tools keep health and wellness at the forefront, and allow City employees to integrate wellness into not only their working environments, but also their overall lifestyles. Wellness is something that is valued, encouraged and now recognized among numerous City employees, and it is only a matter of time before living a healthy, balanced and active life is considered one of the trademarks of every employee in the City of Rolla.

Here’s to a healthier way of living, and to your good health.