Jones discusses challenges, future projects in State of the City Report

Aiming to focus on some of the positives and detail what’s happening with the city, Kevin Jones, city administrator/chief of police, gave his State of the City Report during the first meeting of the year.

“My goal is to outline the city of Susanville’s past year while providing an outlook with what we hope to do in the coming year,” Jones said to the board.

He outlined some challenges facing the city, recognized staff for their resiliency and dedication and spoke on future projects.

For the challenges, he outlined what he believed were the two major factors.

“The two major, most important challenges to the city are the depleting budget and the public safety of our community,” Jones said.

With the rising cost of PERS, contributions and added liability costs, it’s getting more difficult to “bridge the gap.”

Unfortunately, he added, the highest costs are personnel costs.

“Over the last several years, the city has seen over a 20 percent reduction in general staffing, that includes admin services, fire and police,” he said. “To be frank, there’s no more meat left on the bones. Any type of layoffs or lack of filling positions … will result in the significant reduction of services.”

He alluded to increased response times or lack of response by law enforcement and fire, should personnel be cut further or if the fire department had to move to a volunteer agency.

Jones discussed the public safety tax that did not pass on the March primary election ballot, and said they may have to look into trying for a general tax initiative with an advisory measure.

“It’s something I think the city really needs to consider as we move through 2021. Because, without something like that, there really are no answers,” Jones said.

He also discussed revenue losses from COVID, like those lost from the funds from tourism. With the absence of many community events and people not traveling to the area, the city saw a decrease in the Transient Occupancy Tax .

However, “As much as I hate to say it,” Jones said, the firefighters who came to the Hog and Sheep fires during the summer helped bring income to the city by keeping hotels booked.

He shared some positive budget news, though, including $167,000 received in CARES funding, about $100,000 of which went to salary, benefits and the safety division. He also said the golf course is on set to finish with a positive balance, thanks to volunteers and donations received. The Municipal Airport also finished 2019/2020 with a positive budget.

Also during his State of the City Report, Jones shared some future goals based off of the city’s mission statement: “Working together to engage our unique and diverse population to build a community of the highest quality for present and future generations.”

The four goals include getting a code enforcement officer, the beautification of Main Street, better transparency from the city and improvements to the Susan River Trail.

He also detailed some projects at the various departments.

For law enforcement, the city is looking to overhaul its records management systems, vehicle upgrades, and well as renovations at the Main Street facility to ensure the ability to occupy the building for the long term. The plans will take place over the next several years.

At the fire department, they were awarded a grant to purchase a fully equipped ladder truck. Jones added they are also looking to harden the facility and improve and replace safety gear.

The public works department, Jones said, is working on new overlay projects, along with collaborating with the state on the Gateway Project on the eastern entrance to the city.

The administrative services department is working on replacing the finance manager, working on a contract for the airport and planning to improve buildings with water damage.

He commended the department for completed goals, including the completion of the Fruit Growers Park renovation, with the basketball court and lights, which has helped reduce crime.

Largely, Jones extended appreciation to city staff for their hard work and dedication.

He commended them for their work to connect with the community and put on Safe and Sane in the Park, in addition to the Veteran’s Day Procession.

“City employees continue to do more and more with less personnel,” Jones said, adding the priorities listed cannot be achieved without them.

Acknowledging a difficult year, Jones said he didn’t know when things would be back to normal, but noted residents’ resiliency,

“I don’t believe anyone can predict when we’ll be back to not only normal, but the old normal,” Jones said Wednesday. “However, our community is incredibly resilient. We continue to come together to help one another through challenging times.”

“Hopefully we’ll have a different and happier 2021,” he concluded.