City in a good state: Rowlett mayor gives annual assessment
Rowlett Mayor Todd Gottel delivered his annual state of the city address during the city council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15. The address is required by the city's charter.
"It really has been my pleasure for the past two years to be able to do this," Gottel said. "We have a terrific story to tell."
Gottel videotaped the state of the city address in advance and included some graphics, city staff members and several Rowlett residents in the presentation. The 27-minute video was projected for all in attendance on the video board behind the city council dais.
The video began with Gottel reflecting back on the two major transportation projects completed within the city over the past 13 months.
"It has been a truly amazing time in Rowlett. Last December we saw the opening of the George Bush Turnpike after a 45-year wait. On Dec. 3, 2012, the DART light rail service began operation in Rowlett after a 30-year wait. Now Rowlett is open to exciting new opportunities," Gottel said.
He then shifted the focus to the completion of the second phase of the Realize Rowlett 2020 plan. The two-year-long community-involved project was completed with the adoption of zoning ordinances in 2012.
"We didn't want a plan that just had pretty pictures; it had to be real and had to be in the market to ensure there was long-time viability," Gottel said.
Gottel addressed the importance of community engagement to the city's success.
"I cannot say enough great things about the level of volunteerism that we continue to see in the city of Rowlett," Gottel said.
Volunteers logged more than 26,000 hours of service to the city in 2012, which saved the city more than $583,000.
"We appreciate your support. We could not maintain our current service levels without you," Gottel said.
The city also involved the community in the decision to allow the county to aerial spray for mosquitoes as part of its plan to help contain the countywide outbreak of the West Nile Virus during the summer. The council scheduled an emergency meeting to gather input prior to making the decision to allow the spraying.
Gottel discussed some of the economic development that is beginning to occur as a result of the turnpike and DART rail openings.
"It's an exciting time to see us to begin to realize some of our potential after so many years of waiting," Gottel said.
He added that since the opening of the turnpike, the city has seen an increase in its sales tax revenue and an increase in developer interest.
Gottel addressed the city's finances.
"The single most important element of what we do annually as council, along with city staff, is take care of your financial resources," Gottel said. "I am glad to report that we have had another banner year, especially when you consider the financial shape of our country."
"Quality financial stewardship is one of the most important things as an organization that we do," said Lynda Humble, city manager. "I am absolutely delighted at the caliber of financial staff that the city of Rowlett has."
Gottel said the council was able to adopt the budget for 2013 while maintaining the same tax rate the city has had since 2006.
He also mentioned the council's decision to raise water and sewer rates to cover the cost of maintenance to the city's infrastructure.
"It would be irresponsible on our part to delay making those much-needed repairs and potentially jeopardize our ability to provide essential services such as water and sewer," Gottel said.
Gottel discussed the city's commitment to public safety, citing the city's participation in a lawsuit against a Garland gun range as an example.
"The goal of the suit is not to close the Garland gun range but to require [the owner] to operate the range in a safe manner that did not jeopardize the safety and welfare of Rowlett residents," Gottel said.
He added that as a result of the city's action, numerous changes have been made at the gun range and a third-party review of the safety of the range is scheduled to be completed this year.
Gottel said that the city's medical service protocol was reviewed by the Medical Center of Plano last year and it resulted in the Medical Center of Plano adopting Rowlett's protocol system-wide, which led to the cities of Plano and Frisco using Rowlett's protocol.
He concluded his speech by looking ahead into the city's future. He said fiscal year 2015 will be a pivotal year during which the city will have to decide on a tax increase to maintain its current level of services due to the continuing decrease in property taxes.
"A tax increase will have to be considered in 2015 to maintain the current service levels that you, our citizens, have come to expect. We will continue to educate you about the service levels and our financial challenges in the months to come," Gottel said.