Monday, August 31, 2009

City budget workshops set tone for upcoming FY in Rolla

The unseasonal, yet beautiful fall-like weather we have experiencing the past two weeks can only make you appreciate more the advantages of living and working in the Rolla area. I hope you have had the opportunity to enjoy the weather, take a stroll, play a little tennis, and maybe spruce up your yards and businesses as we roll out the welcome mat as we once again play host to the Tour of Missouri international pro cycling event (Stage 3 Finish) that is just around the corner on Sept. 9 in downtown Rolla.

When you add to all of this record-high enrollment at Missouri S&T, the restoration of the downtown business district, and the birth of a new Arts and Entertainment District, momentum for our enhanced quality of life continues to build.

Every year about this time is also the review, discussion and proposal of the City’s annual budget, which was discussed by members of the Rolla City Council for nearly four hours at a budget workshop held last Monday at City Hall. City Administrator John Butz, together with all of the City’s nine department heads presented an overview of the City’s General Fund, Special Revenue Funds, Capital Projects Funds, Proprietary Funds, Fiduciary Funds, and current budget situation. The dialogue, questions, and feedback helped to address many important budgetary aspects of the proposed $23 million budget that impact the delivery of city services. I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate the amount of planning and effort that went into the preparation of this year’s budget by the City’s department heads, City Administrator, and the Budget Review Committee that consisted of City Council members Gary Hicks, Don Barklage, and Monty Jordan; John Butz and Steffanie Rogers, Finance Director. Their diligence and ability to meet the fiscal needs of our City, cut costs, and provide a balanced budget, was greatly appreciated.

While about $1 million in unfunded requests were discussed during the workshops due to sales tax revenues dipping to about .5% for the year, there was a sense of optimism among Council members and City staff that Rolla will rebound from the downturn in the economy and resume a 2% to 3% growth rate in the years to come. Sales tax revenues, which are the primary generator of revenues for the City of Rolla, are once again projected at 1 percent for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which will allow the City to provide the same level of services you have come to expect.

Some equipment, unfunded positions, infrastructure improvements and capitol improvement projects once again have needed to be put on hold due to lagging sales tax revenues, but the operations of all City departments are running smoothly and efficiently. And while a 1 percent Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) will be proposed for all full-time City employees in the 2009-2010 budget, funds were not available for employee merit increases this year. Given that the State’s annual budget is down 5.5 percent and many cities and towns across Missouri are experiencing deficits as low as 6% to 8% in their budgets, the City is somewhat fortunate to be keeping its head above water during these challenging economic times.

Public hearings to discuss and provide input on the 2009-2010 City budget, which officially begins on Oct. 1, will be held during the Sept. 8 and Sept. 21 Rolla City Council meetings at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Rolla City Hall (901 N. Elm Street). For more information regarding the City’s upcoming 2009/2010 budget, please contact the City’s Finance Director at (573) 426-6980 or visit the City’s Website at A hard copy of the proposed City budget is also available for review at Rolla City Hall.

Growing and stimulating the economy continues to be of utmost importance to the Rolla City Council and City staff as we continue to work collaboratively with organizations and agencies such as the Meramec Regional Planning Commission, Rolla Regional Economic Commission, Missouri S&T, Phelps County Commission, Rolla Downtown Business Association, Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and the Missouri Municipal League.

Attracting new businesses and industries to the area, completing phase one of Rolla West with the new entrance to the Missouri S&T Innovation Park on Bryant Drive off Kingshighway, and implementing a new Community Improvement District (CID), which will help fund the first phases of the Rolla West project, will help accelerate economic development, encourage growth, and create employment opportunities that will fuel our economy.

The creation of an Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EZZ) along I-44 east of Rolla is another way the City and Phelps County can address the economic lull we are experiencing, and create property tax abatement incentives that will attract businesses and industries to our area that will create the job opportunities that everyone is talking about in our area and across the state of Missouri.

In fact, there are already over 63 such Enhanced Enterprise Zones located throughout every area of the state, including many of cities located along I-44 such as St. James, Waynesville, Cuba, Sullivan, Lebanon, and many other cities who compete with our city for new industries, businesses and ultimately employment and investment opportunities. The boundaries for the proposed EZZ in Rolla are being finalized through a series of meetings attended by members of the MRPC, RREC, Phelps County Commission and the City of Rolla. These are public meetings that have been attended by members of the local media, and interested residents. A public hearing to discuss the proposed EZZ in Rolla was originally scheduled for the Oct. 5 Rolla City Council meeting, but was recently canceled when the City was informed that the representative of the Missouri Department of Economic Development could not attend the meeting due to a scheduling conflict. A new date for the EZZ public hearing has been set for Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Rolla City Hall (901 N. Elm Street).

I highly encourage all residents and members of the community to attend the EZZ Public Hearing on Oct. 13 to become better informed, and provide your input and feedback on this important and economic tool that will attract businesses and industry to the area, and most importantly create the badly needed jobs to our area.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Law Enforcement agencies work together to protect Rolla community

Normally I like to use this column to discuss the many outstanding things that make Rolla one of the top places to live and work in the Country. However, I feel that this week I should discuss a very serious problem we have in our community -- the use and sale of illegal drugs.
As you may have been reading in the Rolla Daily News, the largest drug operation to ever occur in the state of Missouri recently took place in Phelps County with some 130 warrants being issued. The drug operations were executed in three phases due to the manpower needs to execute such an effort and the fact that the Phelps County Jail is somewhat limited in size considering the normal prison population.
I wish to thank our Prosecuting Attorney Cortney George and our Judges for forming a grand jury to review the evidence and issue the warrants. I also wish to thank and extend my personal gratitude to the men and women of the Rolla Police Department, the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Troop I, the South Central Missouri Drug Force and the law enforcement officers of the U.S.
Forest Service.
I especially want to thank the undercover narcotics officers for their relentless efforts. They are certainly the ‘Airborne Rangers’ of the operation.
I also want to make it clear to everyone that our war on drugs is not over and will not be over as long as I am Mayor. The bottom line is very simple – those individuals who sell drugs need to stay out of our City and out of our County.
I ask our citizens to be observant and if you notice suspicious activity of any kind, whether in neighboring residences, park properties or private parking lots and businesses, to please contact the Rolla Police Department, the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department or the Missouri State Highway Patrol. It will require a concerted effort of our citizens, law enforcement and the court system to eradicate this ongoing problem.
Of particular concern to me is that some of the people who have been arrested are addicted to drugs, and because of their addiction they are unable to attain or retain meaningful employment. In turn they may choose to sell illegal drugs in order to support their habit and in some cases even turn to other criminal activities.
These unfortunate people will do jail time and then when released will have no where to turn. This situation leaves few alternatives other than returning to their addiction and same illegal activities. It is a hopeless, endless circle that in some instances, sadly, affects other family members and innocent children. Consequently, we must address this issue through every means possible.
In closing, I want to personally thank the efforts of all the law enforcement agencies and personnel involved in this operation for their unending efforts. It has been a humbling experience for me to observe the coordinated cooperation between all of the agencies involved. I can tell you one thing, when a call for assistance goes out, it comes!
I ask that when you see a law enforcement officer or any public safety officer that you give them a friendly wave. And when you see them in public, simply say “Thank You”!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tour of Missouri is must see events for area students

With the start of a new school year, one of my top priorities is attending the New Student Convocation at Missouri University of Science and Technology – a Missouri S&T tradition that sets the stage for Opening Week Orientation and the rest of the school year at Missouri S&T. At this year’s Convocation, which will be held on Monday, Aug. 17, I’m told by University officials that there will be over 1,070 news students attending the event.

Knowing that I will be addressing some of the brightest and best educated students in the country – and in some cases the world, is both an honor and a privilege that I am looking forward to again this year.

One of the messages that I will be sure to include in my welcome remarks during the Convocation, in addition to welcoming the students, and thanking them for choosing Missouri S&T an invitation to attend the Tour of Missouri elite pro cycling race that will be finishing in the heart of the Missouri S&T campus.
Word is quickly spreading that on Wednesday, Sept. 9 some of the world’s most elite cyclists – many of whom competed in the Tour de France - will be traveling 114 grueling miles in the Stage 3 Finish of the Tour of Missouri, which will finish between 3:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on 10th Street in front of the Castleman Hall Performing Arts Center.
Missouri S&T and the City of Rolla, together with the members of the Tour of Missouri Local Organizing Committee, have been working together for many months to bring this world-renown elite pro cycling event to the Rolla community and Missouri S&T campus. The state, national and international media exposure this event brings to the Rolla community and Missouri S&T is unsurpassed in the number of countries throughout the world who will broadcast the event via television, the Internet and other global communication devices.
I highly encourage all the students at Missouri S&T, Rolla Public Schools, and all the area colleges, and private schools alike to attend and participate in this great event. The Health and Wellness Expo, which is a significant aspect of the event, will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. next to the finish line on 10th Street across from the Castleman Hall Performing Arts Center.
In closing, I would like to echo the remarks of Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse regarding your awareness that school is back in session, and to please be careful while driving in school zones, crosswalks, school entrances, and those neighborhoods where schools are located.
I would also like to wish all the students in our community, and their parents and siblings, a very memorable, productive and successful school year. We’re glad you are here!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Projects are moving forward in Rolla area

Last week I mentioned the tremendous progress being made with the renovations at the old Benton Grade School that will soon become the home of Benton Square. And how these improvements, coupled with the enhancements being made to other structures in the area, will eventually culminate in the creation of a new arts and entertainment district that will help make Rolla a destination City.

From an economic development standpoint, in investment, jobs, and the revitalization of this area, this is welcomed news. Continued investment in this area, along with the revitalization of several large buildings in Rolla’s downtown business district, have already made a big impact on the visual appearance of these areas, and will provide a catalyst for other businesses, restaurants, and shops to relocate to Rolla’s city center.

The planning, research and discussion regarding the future revitalization of Rolla’s Downtown Business District by the Rolla Downtown Business Association, City of Rolla Community Development Department, Meramec Regional Planning Commission, and Engineering Management students at the Missouri University of Science and Technology has also been very beneficial.

Many community and public meetings hosted by the Rolla Downtown Business Association and the City of Rolla have been very well attended by business owners, merchants, County Commissioners, City officials, Rolla Chamber of Commerce officials and community leaders. The interest and support for the revitalization of Rolla’s downtown business district, and the realization of a new arts and entertainment district is gaining much momentum with the potential for many future growth areas in both the arts and entertainment district and the downtown business district. All of this revitalization at a time when other cities and communities are stagnating or experiencing very slow growth and development is encouraging.

Other growth areas in the City of Rolla include the new $35 million St. John’s Medical Facility being constructed on Martin Springs Outer Road; and the improvements made at the intersection of Missouri Hwy. 72 and State Route 63, including Bishop Commons and the new Walgreens store.

Many positive projects, relationships and collaborative partnerships, both in the private and public sectors, are fostering the kinds of proactive developments we are continuing to see in many sectors of our community. It is my hope and belief that despite the challenging economic times our state and country are facing, that Rolla will continue to emerge as a stronger, more vital and vibrant community.

In closing, I’d like to invite you to attend and participate in the City Council budget workshops scheduled for Monday, Aug. 24; Wednesday, Aug. 26 and Thursday, Aug. 27 at 5:30 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers located at 901 N. Elm Street. These annual budget workshops are open to the public, and will give you an opportunity to see first-hand the City’s proposed annual budget for the 2009-2010 budget year.