Mayor Garret Nancolas proudly noted a tightened budget, new amenities and economic development strides as he addressed Caldwell residents and business leaders Tuesday.
But the lead item in the mayors 15th annual State of the City was the disagreement with Pioneer Irrigation District that recently heated up over storm-drain access. Late last year the city filed legal action to declare eminent domain over stormwater discharge points within the city, a move condemned by Pioneer, the Idaho Farm Bureau and the Idaho Water Users Association.
Nancolas stressed that Pioneer Irrigation District started the litigation by filing suit against the city in 2008 to restrict Caldwell residents and developers rights to use the drain system that city tax dollars helped build and support. That lawsuit is still inching its way through the courts, and Nancolas says the district has rebuffed numerous efforts to resolve it.
The irrigation district argues they aim to protect farmland irrigators from potentially polluted urban runoff. Nancolas said the city will never do anything, intentionally or inadvertently, to harm agriculture.
We will stand firm, and we will continue to fight, the mayor said, estimating that it would cost $80 million to $100 million to build a separate city drainage system. We will not allow that to happen.
Other topics Nancolas highlighted in Tuesdays speech include:
The city established a Foreign Trade Zone near Caldwell Industrial Airport last year that will allow companies to defer, reduce or eliminate customs tariffs and duties on products sent out from the zone and on foreign parts and materials brought into the zone for manufacturer or assembly.
Economic inquiries are at an all time high, Nancolas said, adding that officials are working with seven potential new businesses that could represent about 600 jobs.
Economic development goals this year include bringing in new and expanded businesses downtown, he said.
PARKS AND AMENITIES
With the addition of the new Mallard Park at 10th and Orchard, Caldwell has more open space and parks per thousand residents than any community in the Treasure Valley, Nancolas said. The park, which will be completed this year, will be completely accessible for people with disabilities, he said.
The city also opened a 3.5 mile pathway from downtown to the YMCA and plans to extend that path out to Mallard Park near Lake Lowell, he said.
Nancolas said the number of Caldwell city employees has dropped by 11 workers from 238 to 227 employees since 2008 in response to tight economic times, but departments are doing their best to make sure residents dont experience a reduction in services.
One cause of constricted city finances is a drop in property values from a total of about $1.37 billion in 2010 to around $1 billion now that reduces the amount of property tax available to the city, he said.
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447