The City of Riverbank State of the City Address was delivered on Thursday, Feb. 22 at the Riverbank Community Center. The presentation began with a greeting from City Manager Sean Scully, presentation of the colors by Boy Scout Troop 1100, and a prayer given by Deacon Richard Williamsen of St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church. After the prayer, Scully introduced Mayor Richard O’Brien who approached the podium and addressed the audience stating that there have been many notable activities this year for the city, some that have come with success and others with controversy.
O’Brien made a mention of the drought which he reminded all to not be too comfortable and although he may not be able to predict the weather he said the area is less than 25 percent of normal rainfall for this year.
“Our Public Works Director Michael Riddell is pushing hard in the conservation and the delivery of water,” stated O’Brien. “The City’s goal is to be at 38 percent below our 2010 Plan by 2020. To meet our goals of water reductions I ask that home and property owners look at drip irrigation and other water conservation methods. We have installed Smart Water Meters throughout the city and residences will be able to view their usage very soon. We are restoring sections of neglect to fully operational systems.”
Regarding development in Riverbank, the mayor expressed that Crossroads West is making progress including the EIR circulation, public hearings in Riverbank and if approved a request to LAFCO for annexation. Crossroads West will offer more retail businesses for consumers.
He also discussed more affordable housing and that the roads are better than in most communities due to the skills of Community Development Manager Kathleen Cleek.
“After years of frustration in the on again off again transfer of property from the Army Corps of Engineers to the City of Riverbank, I personally asked Congressman Jeff Denham to intercede,” shared O’Brien regarding the progress of the Riverbank Industrial Complex. “Congressman Denham agreed and in less than two weeks of my request, he met with the decisions makers from the Office of the Secretary of the Army. On Oct. 17, 2017 the US Army and the City of Riverbank signed the deeds for the first transfer of property from the military to local control. The City received the property at no-cost with the proviso that all revenue gained from the property will be reinvested into the Industrial Complex for economic development. This is a big deal and I am pleased to move forward in this process.”
For the crime update O’Brien pointed out that “although our robbery frequency is up slightly, robberies, when they do occur are dealt with swiftly. Our Police have a high clearance/arrest rate of 52 percent. The national average clearance rate for robbery is 29.6 percent. If you do a robbery in Riverbank, odds are, you’ll get caught. The RPS increased arrests by 38 percent in 2017 to 594 arrests. These increases in part are due to warrant arrests – Riverbank will not be a harbor for criminals whether they committed a crime in Riverbank or elsewhere.”
With the current controversy in the City being the approval of two marijuana dispensaries, the mayor addressed the crowd explaining where the council stands and why.
“In 2013 our financial outlook was bleak. We conducted our first Financial Review which showed our reserves were projected to be lower than three percent at the start of 2018 and negative by 2019,” he pointed out. “Through cost savings, careful use of our discretionary funds, and stronger than expected sales tax revenues we are projecting a more robust reserve but still at a structural deficit of $161,000.”
In closing the mayor noted that the city has been improving each year and that there have been great strides in retail, housing improvements and richer community events.
The mayor also recognized community members in the audience that participate in different groups for the city like the Authority Members, Planning Commissioners, Fire Board Directors, the other Councilmembers, and representatives from other government agencies like Congressman Jeff Denham’s office, Supervisor Kristin Olsen, and personnel from Heath Flora’s office and other city officials.
Although the Mayor was advised not to take questions after he made the final closing statements, he did so anyway and there were a few questions thrown his way from a citizen in the crowd. The questions were addressed and the evening concluded with refreshments and mingling.