As we come to the end of 2019, I would like to look back on some of the highlights and accomplishments. But before I do that I have to again call out our Public Works Department headed by Joe Zierden on the job they performed during the snow storm on Dec. 1. Along with Joe, Bryant, Dave, Neil and Jory all worked very long hours to get more than 60 miles of streets passable as soon as possible.
And as I write this they are still out plowing, cleaning up intersections and moving snow piles.
At the beginning of this year we actively kicked off a project to rewrite our comprehensive plan. During the year we held several focus groups and community gatherings, evaluated surveys and reviewed draft chapters of the text. We expect to approve the final draft in January, barring any last-minute revisions generated by the Planning and Zoning Commission in their December meeting.
During the open forum of our December council meeting, a resident came to the microphone to personally recognize one of our police paramedic officers for aiding his wife when she had a heart attack. He indicated that he was still on the phone talking to the 911 operator when paramedic officer Dan Sathre arrived at the door.
His wife was stabilized and airlifted to the hospital and is currently back home. I wrote about the Breezy Point Police paramedic program in a previous Mayor’s Notebook where I pointed out that when a call for help is received, police paramedics are dispatched immediately by pager and are able to begin advanced life support procedures within minutes; long before the ambulance arrives.
In many cases this rapid response allows the patient to be within the “Golden Five” window where lifesaving treatment is obtained within 5 minutes of a call being received, providing the greatest chance of recovery.
Another significant accomplishment this year was to get the county to allow the use of golf carts on county roads. For a long time golf carts have been an alternate mode of transportation for our resort community. When the county allowed ATVs to drive on the county road, it was only logical that we needed to pursue the same allowance for golf carts.
We have had a license program for golf carts driven on city streets for many years to ensure that golf carts have the basic requirements for driving on the streets, insurance and that the drivers are of a minimum age. In 2019, we licensed 498 golf carts for operation on both city streets and county roads, which nearly depleted the 500 licenses we ordered. We will be ordering more licenses for 2020 (a few of which have already been sold).
When I first became mayor I said my primary goal was to grow the city a little bit every year without assuming any debt in doing so. I really wanted to establish a pay-as-you-go policy (as far as possible), which will eliminate a significant expense in interest payments going to the banks or other lending institutions.
So far this has been very successful. Going forward into 2020, we took the first major step to fully realize that goal in that we are starting to reserve funding for projects and capital items that are wanted and/or needed in the future. Our baseline levy increase was projected to be 6% that covered cost of inflation, employee pay raises, additional insurance costs, etc.
That coupled with a 5% growth in the city make this the opportune time to start funding items that have been put off for so long. As such we elected to fully fund two engineering studies, partially fund three projects to be completed in the two- to five-year time frame and not to fund one project.
In addition we also authorized some money to be set aside for an unknown contingency project should an emergency arise that needs funding. The result of the baseline increase plus the additional project funding made this year’s levy increase come out to be 16.6%, which seems very high; however, it is attaining the goal for long-term growth and no debt.
Finally, I mentioned above that the city experienced a 5% growth in property value this year. This is a direct result of the improved local, state and national economy and, as such, we had a total of 25 new housing starts this year for a total of more than $8.6 in property value added to our tax rolls based on building permit declared value.
We will reap the benefit of this growth in the next few years as the value of these new homes is added to the tax roll based on actual assessed valuation (which may be more or less than the declared value on the building permit).
As the year closes, I and the entire staff of the city of Breezy Point wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year as we look forward to an exciting 2020.