Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe highlights city successes, challenges during State of the City address

JASON CHANEY - Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe delivers her State of the City address during a Tuesday evening City Council meeting.

Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe shared many accomplishments during her State of the City address Tuesday evening, following what she called "an unprecedented year of success."

Her annual speech, delivered during the first city council meeting of 2018, highlighted achievements for each of the city's departments as well as challenges that each one of them faces in the upcoming year.

Leading off with the police department, Roppe pointed out that the agency was awarded a $1.4 million grant in 2017 that will pay for seismic upgrades to the department building. Engineer studies have determined the facility, built in 1956, would not withstand a significant earthquake.

The mayor went on to point out that the police department created and implemented an in-house 911 dispatcher academy and added a new 911 phone system with the ability to text 911.

The agency also hired five dispatchers as well as one additional officer to provide to the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team.

Roppe went on to note that while staffing levels at the police department have improved, community growth creates a need for more staff funding in the future.

"Participation in regional enforcement opportunities need to be funded to take full advantage of regional resources to protect our citizens," she added.

The City of Prineville Railway enjoyed a successful year, Roppe noted, with its fund balance climbing to $1.075 million in 2017, an increase of more than $441,000 from 2014. The railway was able to capitalize for the first time in several decades, she added, funding 1,700 new rail ties and rehabilitation of two bridges. COPR also signed a new lease recently with a distribution company that plans to start shipping in March 2018. This will increase the number of rail cars per year by an estimated 150 to 200 and is expected to result in the hire of three yard attendants and an investment of 1.1 million of property.

This success will challenge the railway to create a strategy for developing land for future business growth. In addition, Roppe noted that the railway will face personnel structure challenges as well as associated costs of adding more staff to meet customer demands.

Meadow Lakes Golf Course has enjoyed recognition from regional and state media as "Central Oregon's best golf value" as well as a "top three municipal courses in Oregon, however an especially snowy winter took its toll as revenue for 2017 dropped 9 percent from 2016.

However, Roppe went on to note that despite revenue challenges, the city-owned and operated golf course still managed to increase its fund balance in 2017 from $28,723 to $402,031.

Public works concluded an eventful year, highlighted by the completion of the Crooked River Wetlands Project, which opened officially in April. The new facility was built to meet Prineville's long-term wastewater capacity needs and has earned multiple awards.

Roppe went on to highlight the department's continued gains in reducing unaccounted for water. By replacing old water supply lines, installing new water meters throughout town, and making other upgrades, the city has saved more than 162 million gallons of water per year than in 2008.

Public works has also made strides in adding a hydroelectric power plant to Bowman Dam. Having received a preliminary permit for the project, plans to add a 2.5 megawatt facility could come to fruition within the next five years.

Other noteworthy news was shared by Roppe regarding the transportation department, which begins 2018 with plans to start on a new roundabout at the Tom McCall/Highway 126 intersection. In addition, the city has approved a Third Street Redevelopment Plan that will feature visually enhanced sidewalks, new decorative street lamps equipped with drip systems for hanging flower baskets, and more. Both projects were made possible by passage of Oregon's massive transportation bill and will include extensive assistance from Oregon Department of Transportation.

Roppe went on to highlight achievements at the Prineville Airport as well as the city planning, finance, IT and human resources departments. She noted that the airport staff has completed its airport master plan and is gearing up to start work on a new heli-base facility. The planning department helped facilitate numerous housing starts, ending 2017 with a seven-year high of 62 single-family dwelling approvals. The finance department won an 11th consecutive GFOA budget award, and for the first time received Consolidated Annual Financial Reporting's Excellence in Financial Reporting award.

The IT department played a prominent role in upgrading the public safety telephone system this past year, Roppe noted, and the Human Resources Department updated its payroll software in 2017 as well as its HR Policies and Employee Handbook.

Going forward, Roppe said the city is challenged with protecting its successes and taking full advantage of the opportunities the hard work of different departments has provided.

"This is a challenge I think all cities, large and small, would like to have," she said. "I know that we, as a top-notch team, will meet this challenge."

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