Mayor Steve Uffelman provides the highlights of a busy 2018 and previews upcoming projects, challenges

JASON CHANEY - Shortly after taking his oath of office, Prineville Mayor Steve Uffelman gives the State of the City address.

Just minutes after his oath of office, newly elected Prineville Mayor Steve Uffelman gave his State of the City address Tuesday evening.

The speech, given during the first city council meeting of the new year, provided a look back at accomplishments from the prior year and future challenges for every city department.

"The City of Prineville is in remarkably good condition moving into the new year," he stated. "We have had a great number of successes and built a strong financial position. Next year, we should continue to build on our successes of the past. Our challenge will be to sustain the momentum of the past years."

Uffelman credited city administration with bringing Bonneville Power Administration to the table in Prineville along with data center leadership, Central Electric Co-op, PacifiCorp, Portland General Electric, third party providers, state and federal lawmakers and city staff to resolve power capacity issues for continued buildout of existing data centers and other industry.

"This is remarkable and unprecedented for a small community," he said. "The effort has led to additional power being placed in que for future development of data centers and additional industry. Final power numbers are yet to be determined."

The Public Works Department has had arguably one of the busiest years, and Uffelman recounted several projects either completed or awaiting launch in the coming year.

"The Tom McCall round-a-bout by the airport was completed, which greatly improves traffic safety," Uffelman noted. "Through resurfacing, paving and repairs the 57.7 centerline miles Pavement Condition Index (PCI) improved from 71 to 73 thanks primarily to funds from electrical franchise fees. By maintaining this $94.6 million asset in good condition, maintenance dollars are extended."

Future projects Uffelman highlighted include a Rails to Trails system that will provide a paved trail from Combs Flat Road to Seventh Street. Design will be done this year with construction expected in 2020.

"Prineville's Aquifer Storage and Recharge project was very recently announced," Uffelman added. "We are extremely grateful for the data centers' support in this endeavor."

He went on to note that the Public Works Department replaced about 8,000 feet of existing waterline, which is expected to provide greater water flows and savings through significant water conservation.

"The water rights from the 2014 Crooked River legislation have been finalized with the Bureau of Reclamation and will serve the next 50 to 100 years of growth within our community," he said. "Water rate methodology was updated to more equitably charge different customers as well as to support conservation."

Challenges for Public Works are stable funding long range for street maintenance and implementation of water rights with BOR and state agencies, Uffelman said.

Closely tied to public works projects is work carried out by the City Planning Department.

"Planning is working with the Army Corp of Engineers on floodplain reduction potential with the replacement of the Elm Street bridge," Uffelman reported.

"The Planning Department is experiencing an increase in volume," he continued. "As of Nov. 16, the department processed 142 applications, including 71 single-family dwellings and another 1 million square foot data center."

The Police Department was another department that underwent multiple changes in 2018. Uffelman pointed out that the agency assigned an officer to the regional CODE (Central Oregon Drug Enforcement) team and added two officers, including a second School Resource Officer to focus on student safety. The department, meanwhile, upgraded its fleet by adding six new vehicles.

Uffelman gave a glowing review of the City Finance Department, boasting that under the leadership of Finance Director Liz Schuette, the city "again received the prestigious CAFR Excellence in Financial Reporting Award, second year in a row, as well as the GFOA award winning budget 12 years in a row."

"Finance and the City Manager (Steve Forrester) secured $4 million funding at 3.15 percent for a public safety building and received impressive comments for our fiscal management and high credit quality from the City's lender," Uffelman added. "Finance developed and implemented upgraded fiscal policies incorporating anticipated incremental revenue growth from franchise fees, debt reserve funds, capital reserve funds and prudent contingency plans for cyclic downturns in the national and local economy."

He went on to note that the City decreased its long-term debt by $2.7 million, issued new debt totaling $4.5 million, refunded debt obligations totaling $9 million, and paid principal reductions in the amount of $16.3 million.

"This translates to a 14 percent debt reduction per capita to $1,964 based on a population of 9,880," he said.

Uffelman took time to recap accomplishments and challenges for the City's three enterprise businesses, beginning with the City of Prineville Railway, which he noted celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2018.

"Manager Matt Wiederholt has increased its customer base to 55, which in 2008 was only two," he said. "The staff used slower periods to complete extensive training, including hazmat, general railroad maintenance and locomotive repair, which have already saved in what would have been contracted expenses."

Moving on to Meadow Lakes Golf Course and Restaurant, he reported that the business "continues to improve in revenue and public visibility."

"They continue to be a primary fundraising venue for many organizations that have raised over $80,000 to support local activities," he continued. "Staff and management continue to focus on improvements and efficiencies in operations, including updating aging equipment. They continue to operate profitably without financial support from tax payers while roughly half of all municipal golf courses are tax subsidized."

Uffelman went on to note that the primary challenge facing Meadow Lakes in the upcoming year is upgrade and replacement of its 25-year-old irrigation system.

"While this will be a major expense, funds have been set aside in anticipation of the repairs, which will greatly improve turf conditions and water use efficiency," he said.

Prineville Airport appears poised for a busy 2019 and beyond, based on Uffelman's synopsis of the City enterprise.

"Progress continues on the USFS Airbase project with construction scheduled for 2019 and occupancy in early 2020," he noted. "Construction was started on the new $1.2 million aircraft refueling system, which should be completed this coming spring."

He went on to say that the Airport received a $1 million grant from FAA for the aircraft parking apron as well as a $75,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Aviation.

Uffelman thanked the voters "who have put their trust in me and honored me to lead your city into the future" and thanked Betty Roppe, whom he replaced following her retirement, for her years of service. Gratitude was also extended to city staff, the city council, and even the Crook County Court, which partners with the municipality on multiple projects.

"I look forward to the future, continuing the progressive projects already initiated and more to come as well," Uffelman said. "All the achievements and more were the result of a close working relationship between managers and administration, encouragement to be creative and imaginative as to how departments can perform better in service to our community. After all, that is our role as government, servicing the needs of the people of Prineville in the most effective, efficient and productive way possible."

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