Blad, city officials deliver State of the City address

January 6, 2017 GMT

POCATELLO — After an exceptional year for economic development, Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad is expecting even better results in 2017.

On Thursday during a pre-recorded State of the City address, which included summary reports from all city department heads, Blad updated community and staff members on the local economy.

“In 2017, I will be focused on more economic development,” Blad said. “We are working with a number of companies to get them to land here and move forward. We want to continue to keep the unemployment rate down and work on getting wages increased.”

He said the FBI announced it would be expanding its operations in Pocatello, which will add about 300 jobs and have an estimated economic impact of $36 million per year.

Blad said the $75 million-plus expansion of Great Western Malting rolled on with construction scheduled to be completed in 2017.

In August 2016, “Coffee with the Mayor” got off to a successful start. At these events, which were held at the Portneuf Towers, Christensen Court and McKinley Manor, coffee was shared with people who typically don’t have access to City Hall.

The Pocatello Fire Department responded to more than 7,750 fire and emergency medical response calls in 2016 — an increase of nearly 4 percent from the previous year.

“This was despite efforts to reduce calls through false alarm fees and cooperative efforts with local assisted living facilities,” Pocatello Fire Department Chief David Gates said.

For the second year in a row, the department and the Bannock County Ambulance District were recognized by the American Heart Association for maintaining the highest levels of service for cardiac care.

The Pocatello Police Department honored 10 officers with the department’s Lifesaving Award, according to Major Jim Peterson.

Also, the department held its first “Coffee with A Cop,” which provides a unique opportunity for community members to ask questions and learn more about the department’s work in Pocatello’s neighborhoods, following contentious relationships between law enforcement and communities elsewhere in the country.

“Officers also lent a hand to different causes in the community through Shop with a Cop, Urban Invasion, the Secret Santa program and more,” Peterson said. “During 2016, officers were able to keep nearly 30 pounds of drugs off the streets including more than 5 pounds of methamphetamine.”

Out at the Pocatello Regional Airport, SkyWest Airlines added a third connecting flight to Salt Lake City.

“The midday flight has given travelers another convenient option for travel, and the number of passengers taking to the skies above the Gate City is up 45 percent compared to 2015,” said David Allen, Pocatello Regional Airport manager.

The airport also hosted a simulated crash drill. The live exercise is required by the Federal Aviation Administration every three years and allowed first-responders to test their abilities in a real-world scenario.

“The drill was a collaborative effort between Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25, Idaho State University, SkyWest, the airport and the Pocatello police and fire departments,” Allen said.

More than 325,000 passengers boarded Pocatello Regional Transit busses in 2016, and PRT added seven new buses from the Utah Transit Authority at no cost to the city, which so far have run more than 70,000 miles of service, according to Pocatello Regional Transit Director Dave Hunt.

“PRT consolidated its fixed route services from seven to five year-round routes,” Hunt said. “In part because of the changes, PRT was able to finish fiscal year 2016 in the black.”

Pocatello Animal Services was able to modernize its adoption process by making a switch from a paper-based system to a computerized setup.

“The new setup has sped up the adoption, cutting down the time to take home a pet from roughly an hour to about 30 minutes,” Animal Services Director Richard Stewart said.

Animal Services received more than $15,000 in grants to help fund free or reduced adoptions, as well as several projects around the shelter. Animal Services also entered into an agreement with the Simply Cats Adoption Center based in Boise.

“The partnership allows us to transfer adoptable cats or kittens to their facility as they are able in hopes of finding their forever homes,” Stewart said. “Through these combined efforts, more than 1,100 animals went to their forever homes in 2016.”

John Banks, the director for the Parks and Recreation Department, said 2016 was a new beginning for Pocatello’s zoo. In March, it was renamed Zoo Idaho to reflect its status as an ambassador of Idaho and the Intermountain West’s native wildlife.

“The year also saw significant improvements to the zoo’s main entrance with new pathways and landscaping completed during 2016,” Banks said.

New restrooms were built at Caldwell Park and at the East Mink Creek Nordic Center while improvements continued on the hillside north of Pocatello Creek Road. Other collaborative projects completed included the construction of a material storage bin at NOP Park and improvements at Mountain View and Restlawn Cemeteries.

Public Works Director Mike Jaglowski said 2016 was also a successful year for the department and highlighted the continued construction on the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant with the Ultraviolet Disinfection facility becoming operational. He added that the facility is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017.

Additionally, the Water Pollution Control Department was able to rehabilitate close to 10,000 feet of 8-inch sewer line throughout the city and the Water Department replaced 1.5 miles of water main lines. The 500,000-gallon concrete water tank, booster station and supply well also began operation at Pocatello Regional Airport.

Led by Hannah Sanger, the Science and Environment Division collaborated with other city departments, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and various local groups to create the Portneuf River Vision Study.

Over the course of more than 20 presentations, multiple open houses and more than 1,000 surveys completed by local residents, officials were able to identify four guiding principles for future development of the river, which are ecosystem health, access and recreation, community engagement and economic development.

City Council adopted a non-binding resolution to support the vision in December, with projects being completed as funding and resources allow.

The Street Operations Department was able to fog seal, micro seal, chip seal or repave over 33 miles of the city’s streets last year. The department widened Olympus Drive and Juniper Drive and reconstructed a retaining wall on University Drive. By working with the police department and Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25, the department also upgraded flashers in five school zones in the city.

Jaglowski said many of these public works projects were accomplished with the enormous assistance of the city’s engineering department.

“City engineers designed the widened Olympus Drive, Highland Boulevard, Sanitary Sewer Project and the multiple drainage and street projects as well as federal aid efforts like the Second Avenue and Benton Street intersection,” he said.

The department was also honored by the Intermountain Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the American Public Works Association’s Rocky Mountain Chapter for its work on South Valley Road.

The city’s yard waste collection program now boasts 700 participants and diverted more than 370 tons of yard waste from the Bannock County Landfill. Also, the leaf collection program was expanded an additional week, resulting in 38 tons of leaves composted.

Chief Financial Officer Joyce Stroschein said that for the 12th consecutive year, the Finance Department was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. The certificate is the highest form of recognition in governmental accounting and financial reporting and recognizes outstanding work on the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2015.

Also, 2016 was a year for growth at the Marshall Public Library. Director Eric Suess said two computers were added to the Youth Homework Assistance Program, which helps students 17 and younger complete their afterschool research and homework assignments.

“The makerspace program also has grown to include 3-D printing, circuits and programming,” he said.

Public Information Officer Logan McDougall said the Video Services Department helped produce close to 800 television programs, accounting for more than 500 hours of programming. The department also completed the transition of its video-on-demand services from PegCentral to YouTube.

“The change has resulted in a more than six-fold increase in online viewership of Community Access and Government Access programming, with viewers watching more than 50,000 minutes of original content,” he said.

The Information Technology department continued its efforts to improve cybersecurity by participating in the National Cyber Security Review, as well as continued education for city employees on cybersecurity issues through newsletters and training.

“In the community, staff was able to teach the public about good cyber security practices through classes at the Marshall Public Library, a booth at the Community Resilience Fair and online through participation in the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Security Awareness Month,” Chief Information Officer Chris Sorensen said.