Thank you, Moab. It truly has been a privilege to serve on the city council these last four years. As with many of life’s most worthwhile endeavors, it has also been very challenging at times. But I leave office knowing that we have taken some important steps forward, and I am glad to have been a part.
During the first “visioning” session I attended, back in early 2014, council members took turns listing priorities for the coming year. All the items my fellow council members put forth were important, but no one mentioned housing affordability until I had my turn. Today, Moab’s housing crisis is at the forefront of local government’s attention.
The Interlocal Housing Task Force, composed of a diverse range of community members, including government staff and officials, is a key and driving force in shifting policy to improve housing opportunities in Moab. Both the city and county councils have adopted the Moab Area 2017 Affordable Housing Plan, and are moving forward on implementation. There is an excellent website dedicated to the subject: www.moabhousingplan.com.
Moab’s new mayor, Emily Niehaus, has long been an integral part of the task force as well as a key developer of affordable housing in the area through her non-profit, Community Rebuilds. The council’s other new members, Mike Duncan and Karen Guzman-Newton, are also quite knowledgeable on Moab’s housing issues. City government is poised to make important further strides regarding housing.
City spending has increased over the past few years, apace with increased revenue from tourism. A large proportion of our expenditure is due to catching up on deferred infrastructure maintenance needs that accrued over several decades. This includes water storage capacity and conveyance, as well as waste conveyance and treatment. After negotiations with other stakeholders, as well as obtaining a multi-million-dollar, low-interest loan, the new sewage treatment plant is under construction and will be completed in autumn 2018. Residents all over town — and particularly on the far west side, where odor issues from the old plant have been a real nuisance — will breathe a sigh of relief when the new plant takes over. Fortunately, operational improvements appear to be managing the odor issues in the interim and keeping the plant within environmental standards.
Our roads have also had some much-needed maintenance, with further upgrades planned over the coming years. New surfacing and fresh striping have revamped some of our busier thoroughfares, and future projects should help alleviate some of our traffic congestion. As these road improvements occur, elements of “green infrastructure” will be included where appropriate. Green infrastructure incorporates elements of the natural environment to provide added benefits such as water quality protection, resilience from fire and flood, and aesthetics.
The city just adopted a storm water master plan, the implementation of which will, over time, reduce flood impacts and hazards.
Moab’s law enforcement is thriving under the leadership of Moab City Police Chief Jim Winder. Department policies are being updated, new officers are being brought onto the force, and outreach to the public has been very well received, perhaps especially via the department’s popular Facebook page. Several potentially disastrous situations, such as an incident involving an active shooter in downtown Moab, have been peacefully resolved, bringing the department some much-deserved accolades.
The Moab City Council established the position of sustainability director after adopting an updated water conservation plan and passing a resolution for a community goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2032. Dr. Rosemarie Russo brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position.
The U.S. Geological Survey completed a three-year-long watershed study for Moab and Spanish Valley. This determined the rate of recharge for the Glen Canyon and valley-fill aquifers. These findings, along with citizen input, will inform a groundwater management plan to guide future development in the area. In addition, the council formed the Water Conservation and Drought Management Advisory Board to inform and make recommendations to the city’s staff, mayor, and council on water-related issues.
Like many employers in Moab, the city has experienced difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff. The city council commissioned a salary survey of comparable community governments. We found that the City of Moab had below-average wages, and we approved a new salary structure that put us in a competitive position. This has had a positive effect throughout the city, and demonstrates that one important aspect of attracting and retaining quality recruits is by paying a good wage. City Manager David Everitt is one example of a newer hire that does great work on behalf of the city.
As far as we have come, there is still much to be done. And there always will be. As the saying goes, “Change is the only constant in life.” My deepest thanks to all those working, in myriad positions both in and out of government, for the greater community good.
Heila Ershadi is an outgoing member of the Moab City Council.