Community members, residents, city staff, various groups and organizations made their way to the Riverbank Community Center to witness the annual State of the City Address, presented by Mayor Richard D. O’Brien on Wednesday evening, Feb. 8.
City Manager Sean Scully introduced the Riverbank High School NJROTC that presented the colors and then Pastor Trudy Jewell with New Life Community Church gave a blessing.
To begin his speech, Mayor O’Brien acknowledged Congressman Jeff Denham for his direct involvement with Caltrans and solving the access issue along Highway 108. He also added that Denham is assisting the city in the transfer of the Riverbank Industrial Complex.
“His staff is also working with us and BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway) to resolve easement issues along Patterson Road,” stated O’Brien. “Resolution of these two issues will be a great benefit to our city.”
The mayor also pointed to assistance from other legislators as well.
“Senator (Cathleen) Galgiani has continued in her efforts to bring some sanity to the state’s mandates and water grab,” O’Brien said. “We are not lost on the true intent of the Water Board mandate for increase flows down our rivers and the Senator is standing by us in our fight.”
The mayor noted farewell to Supervisor Bill O’Brien after 18 years of leadership on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and welcomed Kristin Olsen, who is now filling the District 1 seat, representing Riverbank and Oakdale on the county board.
Mentioning the historic drought, Mayor O’Brien noted that the City of Riverbank exceeded the state mandated goal in 2016.
With the installation of Smart Water Meters throughout the city, citizens will be able to view their usage. The meters are saving over 2200 hours of meter reading time so that staff can concentrate on repairs and maintenance.
“We have reviewed our water policy to reflect appropriate management measures,” said O’Brien. “Although many feel that their lawns need to be watered three to four times a week to be green, lawns can stay green with weekly watering during the summers but we allow for a twice weekly watering.”
During his public safety review, the Mayor added that in 2016 Riverbank Police Services handled approximately 14,000 calls, made over 450 arrests where weapons and drugs were seized along with stolen property that was recovered.
“Despite having one of the lowest staffing ratios in the county and a consistent number of annual calls for service, over the past few years Riverbank Police Services Patrol Deputies have consistently provided a much higher response still averaging below three minutes, 35 seconds,” stated O’Brien. “Our Police Services will continue to invest in technology as this is a sound solution to sustaining productivity when challenged by staffing shortages.”
Regarding strategic financial planning the Mayor discussed two areas, recession and retirement costs.
Just two weeks ago, the Governor said the ‘R’ word, O’Brien said.
If the discussions of a recession within a few years is realized it will significantly affect the City’s revenue with a possible decrease of sales tax by almost seven percent or approximately $200,000 to the general fund, the Mayor noted.
PERS, the Public Employee Retirement System, retirement costs will continue to increase significantly in the upcoming years.
“We are currently paying an additional $280,000 in unfunded liabilities to Calpers and their recent investments are reported to be less successful than anticipated,” he pointed out.
For the future, the Mayor shared that they will increase use of social media by using YouTube for instructional videos on interface with smart devices and water meters.
“Over the next few years we will remain vigilant and defend our rights as a community from the State grab of funds, water or any other undue burden that does not provide a clear benefit to this community and build a place we can be extremely proud,” expressed O’Brien. “We will identify new sources of revenue to complete the staffing of our police force – to establish and maintain a full 10 percent general fund reserve and – to fully staff the city requirements in the Planning Department, Human Resources, Economic Development, Code Enforcement, and in Parks and Recreation.
“You can see that there is a vision for our future as we continue to move forward in planning, development, and improvements,” said O’Brien.
Congressman Denham took the podium following the Mayor’s address and thanked O’Brien and the council for a great working relationship and mentioned a few accomplishments.
“Sidewalks are not only nice but it is important to have those safety improvements that make our community safer as well as more accessible,” said Denham. “We are going to continue to work together to accomplish much more in the near future and I appreciate the ongoing relationship that we continue to have.”