The lobby of the Galaxy theatre was filled with more than movie goers on Wednesday, Feb. 24 as members of the community gathered to hear Mayor Richard O’Brien’s 2016 State of the City address.
People made their way into one of the theatres where the address began promptly at 6:30 p.m.
City Manager Jill Anderson greeted the guests and acknowledged several people in attendance like representatives from Congressman Jeff Denham’s office, Senator Cathleen Galgiani’s office, Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen’s office and local officials including County Supervisor Bill O’Brien, Police Chief Erin Kiely, Riverbank Unified School District’s Board of Trustees, Riverbank Chamber members, School Superintendent Daryl Camp, business owners, nonprofit groups and faith based community members.
Riverbank High School NJROTC color guard presented the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance as all guests stood and then a prayer was given by Deacon Richard Williamsen.
Mayor O’Brien began his speech with light comments that caused a ripple of laughter throughout the theater. Then it was down to business, as the discussion turned to the highs and lows for the city over the past year.
The following excerpts were taken from O’Brien’s speech that was presented that night.
He stated the following in his opening statement, “I have always believed our government - Democracy - works best when everyone is actively involved and your presence here this evening is part of what makes Riverbank the city that works for everyone. After all we are the city of action.”
He added, “You can be extremely proud of this City Council. They work very hard to understand the issues and attain solutions that minimizes unintended consequences. Most are on State and local boards and they all have the best interest of the City while on and off the dais.”
The mayor also touched on a problem that is not unique to Riverbank.
“Many of our last year efforts surrounded the drought. As we all know these last four winters have not brought the normal rain and snow falls that are crucial to the growth of this region,” he said. “Riverbank as a whole began conserving water as soon as the first year of the drought was realized. As we entered into another extreme drought condition we were required by the state to reduce water consumption by 32 percent from the 2013 water consumption. No matter if we had already reduced consumption prior to 2013 we have to meet this goal. And we have failed. Many have reduced their landscape water consumption; but there are others that just don’t get it.”
O’Brien noted that even while it is raining “there are residences still watering their yards, over spraying onto sidewalks or into the streets. The failure to meet the goals established by the state have brought the full attention of the (Water Board) WB in to our daily life.”
He said the city does recognize where its shortfalls are - in its aging infrastructure especially the Water and Sewer Systems. City officials, he added, were called to the Capitol to explain the water use.
“They provided the data requested and they recommended our City’s solutions,” O’Brien explained.
The state’s Water Board and the City agreed to several steps, noted O’Brien, including restrictive watering measures, installation of smart water meters and more.
Smart Water Meters will be installed by the end of this year with an expectation of the majority being installed prior to the summer months.
“We are looking at the installation process to help isolate problem areas,” said O’Brien. “These meters will save over 2200 hours of meter reading time to allow more concentrated effort in repairs and maintenance in the areas of greatest needs for service, repairs, and/or replacement. This will restore sections of neglect to fully operational systems.”
The State directed the city to employ water code enforcement personnel that monitors water use and issues citations in the event of violation.
“In addition, we are looking for ways to capture all the water possible for continued reuse,” the mayor said.
The city also did a needs assessment at the waste water treatment plant and has a plan of action there including completion of a low pressure air system to aerate ponds and save on electrical consumption.
“We are looking at systems that will clarify the waste water to be used for agriculture or other non-potable water use. Our goal is to reuse all of our water,” O’Brien said. “The bottom line is we will conserve our water resources. We do not want the State Water Board in our daily lives, nor do we want to pay fines that will further increase our water rates.”
O’Brien also discussed the progress of Riverbank Police Services including Nextdoor.com which is a free private social network that our neighborhoods use to communicate with each other throughout the entire city. Information is received via personal computer and smartphone which increased the convenience and responsiveness. The Police Services also share, and ask for, information through this medium. In 2015, Riverbank Police Services handled approximately 15,000 calls for service 1655 traffic stops, issued 1830 citations (traffic and misdemeanor violations), and made a total of 474 arrests.
In terms of Strategic Financial Planning, O’Brien said the city conducted its second Financial Review, looking out to the next five years identifying revenue sources and obligations.
“We analyzed the threats to our income as well as our opportunities to increase revenue streams,” he said.
Overall, he noted, the City of Riverbank’s budget is stabilizing with revenues slowly beginning their recovery to pre-recession rates.
The address also touched on the Riverbank Industrial Complex, District Elections, Annexation Strategy, and more.
“You can see that the future is what we will make of it as we continue to move forward in planning, development, and improvements,” said O’Brien. “Our city is strong because of you and those protecting our city interests – all of us, coming together, working together, we are succeeding together.”