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Farmington Spotlight

Posted on: August 17, 2018

What is The Plan for the ¼% dedicated Community Transformation and Economic Diversification Fund?

Mayor Nate Duckett

An open letter from Mayor Duckett to the leaders, stakeholders, and citizens of Farmington:


On July 24, 2018, the City Council published intent to adopt a 5/8% GRT increment to be dedicated: 1/8 Public Safety (Police & Fire), 1/8 Public Works (street paving), 1/8 Hold Harmless reimbursement and 1/4 Community Transformation & Economic Diversification. You will find a presentation with much more information regarding this entire proposal here: 2018 Strategic Financial Planning Presentation. In this letter, I am addressing specifically the vision and plan for the 1/4% tax that, if passed, will be dedicated to “Community Transformation & Economic Diversification”. 


Public Process, Urgency, and Current Investment in Economic Diversification


Currently, Four Corners Economic Development (FCED), which is the regional economic development agency for the City of Farmington, all the other regional governmental entities and private sector, has a total operating budget of only $380,000. If we are serious about investing in the creation of new jobs and diversifying our economy, that investment should be more than 10 times that amount. I proposed this new dedicated funding source precisely because, while lots of great foundational work has been done, frankly, no one has stepped up to fund economic diversification in a meaningful way. If this proposal is passed by the Farmington City Council, we will be dedicating over $4 million dollars a year to economic diversification and transformation.


I, and many others, believe this is a defining moment for our City and regional economy and there must be a new urgency to addressing our future economic viability for our citizens and businesses. I have urged my fellow elected officials to join me to “put money where our mouth is”. It’s time for substantial, strategic, and measurable action.


On August 14, 2018, the second public hearing was held on this proposal. The input was essential to the process of engaging our public and listening to their thoughts on the future of our city. An overflow crowd filled the Council Chamber, voicing their opinions. The sentiment expressed that night, and through other forms of feedback, has been overwhelmingly in favor of this decisive action. Many of those who showed up have given a lot to the regional effort to diversify this economy. We are talking hours and hours over years of time of personal sacrifice, money, engagement, meetings, outings, etc. Why? Because their livelihood, and our livelihood, depends on it. We have 4 years before the next potential major economic hit comes to our doorstep with the potential closure of San Juan Generating Station (SJGS) and San Juan Mine.


How do we collectively reimagine and reinvent our community for a new economic reality?


I offer today more detail on our plan for accountability and prudent investment of this money. First and foremost—the tax revenue will be dedicated and accounted for separately, in an earmarked fund. The revenue will NOT be commingled with the City’s operating general fund. We will continue to vet, modify, and prioritize this plan through doubling down on our many, already involved, community stakeholders and existing partner entities—such as Four Corners Economic Development (FCED), the Outdoor Recreation Industry Initiative (ORII), the Chamber of Commerce-retirement location committee, the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau (FCVB), Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency (MRA) Commission, Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs (PRCA) Commission, Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), State and Federal economic development agencies, and our other regional governmental and private sector partners. FCED will continue to be a vital partner and indispensable link to the private sector. All projects and expenditures will be strictly vetted on a basis of accountability for best return on investment for community transformation and economic diversification. The Farmington City Council, who is directly accountable to the public, will maintain control over these funds.


Transformation through Placemaking


Community transformation and placemaking is a philosophy and a process. It is a comprehensive approach to capitalize on and expand our strengths and engagement of community members and stakeholders who live, work, play, and visit here to understand their needs and aspirations for the future of Farmington. This process will require input and collaboration as a region on a level that has not been tapped here yet. Past work that has been done has laid important groundwork for this moment, and now it is on us to follow through with more action and less planning to fund these well thought out and vetted ideas to create jobs and grow our economy. For more information on community transformation through placemaking, please visit https://www.pps.org/.


Immediate Action Steps and Considerations


  • We will create a separate earmarked fund to account for all revenue and expenditures for these dedicated funds.
  • The City will hire an Economic Development Director, who works directly for the City Manager to provide research, economic impact analysis, recommendations, and coordination with FCED and the other regional partners.
  • The projects and services that would qualify for these funds will be focused on 
    • public/private projects that fill the "gaps" that exist now where we are failing to attract new or grow existing businesses
    • city beautification efforts: We need to build our PRIDE and improve our appearance to be an attractive place for new residents, visitors, businesses, AND professionals that are being recruited by current employers 
    • placemaking projects and improvements for existing amenities and facilities that are drivers of public use and increase quality of life 
    • infrastructure improvements that will drive our economy"incentives" for current property owners to improve their buildings to meet desired retail/habitational designs in the MRA
    • carefully vetted economic incentives for actual job creation
  • We will conduct due diligence on the potential to bond a conservative portion of the funds to create immediate capital for big impact projects before the mine and power station close. We will cash fund as many initiatives as possible.
  • I do not believe a sunset of this tax is the correct approach. Sun-setting is fine for one-time projects like bridge building, but Economic Diversification or Community Transformation cannot be limited here to a certain number of years. This is especially true if we bond any part of this. A bond is simply a loan that a specific revenue stream is pledged as collateral providing upfront capital to build high-impact projects. If we were to sunset any part of this, I believe that we limit its impact. We fail to appreciate the reality that the road is likely to get bumpier—and we need to see this through for the long haul. These funds are a comprehensive investment in the future of this City and region.
  • I call upon my fellow elected colleagues to stand strong as dedicated leaders of this city, concerned not just with the here and now, but with the reality that our kids or grandkids are going to inherit. The public input has been overwhelmingly in support of this effort from those who are invested here to follow through with this initiative. It's in our hands to hear our community and follow through.


The Plan


The plan includes a long list of examples of projects that have been presented to us by our many stakeholder focus groups. To be clear, all of these projects have not been fully analyzed by our economic development professionals and community stakeholder experts to ensure the best projects are prioritized to create a return on investment for job creation. The final vetting is to follow. We surely won’t be able to do all of these and there will undoubtedly be new ideas added. However, I do think this list adds a level of specificity to our plan that our citizens have asked for.

  • Airport runway expansion: In order to bring commercial jet service back, we must meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations for our runway. The FAA says they will help us with funding. Either way, I think this is a must do.
  • Farmington Lake amenities: Expand City utility services to the lake for long-term private and public development opportunities; improve the road; build boat dock; build pavilion and park area; create opportunity for private land owners to develop entertainment venue/restaurant/etc.; build zip-line attraction; develop trail head to connect into the Glade for MTB, OHV, horseback riders; shade structures installed at the beach and campground; lake dog park; bike/running path around lake. The lake will become a year-round driver of people from all over the four corners into our city. I would like to see a private company operate the zip-line and add additional on-land activities.
  • Removal of the most dangerous and dilapidated buildings throughout the city that property owners refuse to address. There are at least 13 known properties identified for condemnation.
  • Land acquisition to give the City ability to direct development for things like a retirement or senior living development or local food places farm areas or food manufacturing to take advantage of NAPI.
  • Industrial building development (currently there is a lack of industrial-sized buildings with broadband and full utility connections for large scale operations). This is a "gap" that constantly comes up for industrial businesses relocating to new cities.
  • Incentives plan for large-scale industrial companies or expansions.
  • Develop Industrial Park.
  • Implement updated Bike Plan to create intertwined, off the road bike paths that connect all points of our city with parks, schools, river, lake, college, hospital.
  • Improved recreational trail heads that are accessible within city limits for MTB, OHV, Hiking...pavilions, parking, picnic tables...This is what outdoor enthusiasts are looking for.
  • Piñon Hills Bridge Extension: $26 Million is too much to bear alone, but having funds available for matching state or federal funds, should this project get their approval, is critical. We cannot expand our city through annexation up the mesa without this road. The bridge and road addresses traffic congestion and dramatically improves transits throughout the east side of the county into Farmington.
  • Gateway Park at the Museum: Development of land north of Museum that stands as the beacon for our city and represents our pride in our city, our parks, our river. Full vision has river access point for all river uses; dam the river up to have year round standing water to kayak, wade-in, paddleboard; potential zip-line adventures. Property south of Museum used for commercial development associated with the river access, entertainment, and retail.
  • Beautification projects: complete the medians as you go out towards Lake Farmington; improve visual aesthetics of roadways as you come into town on 64 from Bloomfield and Kirtland; among many others.
  • Downtown MakerSpace for ORII Manufacturing or other uses and a Local Foods Local Places commercial kitchen for small business food production.
  • Downtown, park, trail security upgrades: Cameras, additional Park Police Units: Safety has been an issue for people not visiting downtown or Berg Park and other trails. We need improved visual security in these areas.
  • ORII trail and Bike projects: BMX Track for sanctioned state, regional, and national races; MTB Flow Track; Animas River trail and park completions. Outdoor recreation has been deemed the most important economic development initiative by all entities in San Juan County. This is low hanging fruit for us. We have to do this.
  • Ricketts Park Field updates and bleacher addition: Turf field, Grass field… Additional Seating needed for Connie Mack: Turf would save millions over its 10-year life span in labor and maintenance. We cannot under estimate the value of Connie Mack and Rickett's Park to this community. I have spent the last 4 years working with schools, FABC, AABC, etc. on this field. It is the most used field in the city and needs upgrades.
  • Ricketts Softball Park facility updates: We had 3 softball tournaments this year that attracted hundreds of teams from across the state and region. Our fields are in need of full renovations with new dirt, fence, backstops, and shade structures to remain competitive in attracting tournaments. Think "Heads in Beds".
  • New Farmington Recreation Center: Current 50-year facility that does not meet needs of community or visitors. Potential to buy old Tibbets property and have rec center next to track and field.
  • Red Apple Transit Hub located downtown: Grant match funds. This would connect Navajo Transit with Red Apple.
  • Piñon Hills Golf Course Clubhouse Upgrade: Potential to be added to second tier pro-golf tournaments.
  • We have a group that wants to help us fund a performance hall/theater at the Museum to tie in with their operations and to use for arts and music. This would be an attractive component for growing the music and arts sector throughout the four corners.
  • Many more projects that are lower-end needs, but needs none the less in a plan to diversify and transform our community.


I want to reiterate that this is a representative list of the input we have received thus far. There are active economic development committees working diligently to identify the “gaps” in facilities and operations that need to be addressed to attract new business, and expand our current ones. This plan is not perfect and it certainly is not complete. It is, in fact, adaptable and changeable. Our community has developed plans in the past, only to see them sit on the shelf and become outdated due to a lack of funding for implementation. Many of the projects listed above come from these plans or existing committees. We are seeking the opportunity to secure funding and then finalize a plan that can be timely, relevant, impactful, and implemented in order to transform our community.


Enough talk! It is time to act.


Thank you for your time and interest in the future of Farmington and our surrounding larger community.


Respectfully,

Nate Duckett SignatureK

 Nate Duckett

Mayor of Farmington

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