State of the City
Mayor Greg Nelson
February 18, 2015
Our 3rd year review
2014 was the city of Kuna's 150th Anniversary for it was in 1864 that the 1st stage stop along Indian Creek was built on the Silver Trail, a wagon trail road from Idaho City and Boise to Silver City in Owyhee County. The Stage Stop was built by Mr. Nelson Records and was characterized as a place to stop, rest, exchange horses and have a good meal next to the waters of Indian Creek. The Stage Stop had various names attached to it, but was known as 15 Mile station, 15 Mile House or the Records Station.
Indian Creek was also known as 15 mile Creek but seemed to cnge names to Indian Creek in the Kuna area as it headed west to the Boise River. Kuna's leaders in 1964 picked, as Kuna's 100th anniversary the date of the Stage Stop construction in 1864, and this date is the recognized date of the beginnings of the city of Kuna. In August's gala celebration of Kuna Days and in September with an old fashioned Birthday party, Kuna celebrated our heritage and humble beginnings and welcomed our 2014 achievement of becoming the 14th largest city in Idaho with 16,500+ citizens and a bright future.
In 2014 we turned our attention to Kuna Youth and declared the year as "The Year of the Kuna Kid" We hired a recreation director and put summer recreation as a priority and accommodated many kids through our Kuna Ranger program, safety programs, bicycle recycling program, Arbor Day program and expansion of our east greenbelt. We repainted the Kuna water tower and with the help of the Associated Student Body of Kuna High School we painted a Kavemen Pride "K" on the tower and aimed the letter toward the High School so that the student body would be able to see the "K" from the High School. Our parks department added a very popular and challenging Frisbee Golf course along the downtown greenbelt and placed identification markers by the greenbelt trees so that visitors will know the names of trees they are enjoying.
We were fortunate to win a Blue Cross foundation "High 5 grant" in the amount of $150,000 and this year began utilizing it to help motivate our children in activities that increase physical fitness as well as make them more aware of the role of good nutrition in keeping healthy. This grant is a three year grant and has been utilized as seed money in many of our accomplishments involving youth activities in our city. As a matter of fact Chris Engels (our acting City Clerk) has become a terrific grant writer and this past year was instrumental in securing $117,971 more funds in grant money to help the city with aid in numerous improvement projects.
We partnered with "KPAL" (Kuna Police Activity League) in converting Arbor Ridge Park into Soccer Fields and that work is still ongoing in 2015 but promises the addition of one large official field and a number of smaller practice fields in 2015. Soccer is a growing interest in the community and adding additional fields is a priority.
We also began in earnest the dream to create a Kuna Boys &Girls Club, a YMCA and an indoor swimming pool. To cross all of the challenges to implement this project took considerable time, but in 2014 the signatures were gathered to put the idea on the May 2015 ballot to create a Kuna Recreation District which will then be followed with a vote on a finance bond to build the complex. Look for the Recreation complex to be built in 2016. Originally we had planned to have the Recreation District and Finance Bond at the same election, but were overruled by Ada County, for the District must be established before the bond is passed.
Community Gardening is still growing and although it took a lot of time to get BOR permits to cross Indian Creek with water and electricity, we are on track to start a big community garden and tree nursery across from Indian Creek School. In 2014 we again planted the community garden across from city hall and started a garden at Crimson Point elementary. These gardens are well received by the community and attract a lot of interest from both our youth and adults. We in addition, helped the Farmers Market move ahead this past year and find our goals of educating our youth in good nutrition are enhanced by the presence of a good Farmers Market. We intend to expand this program again this year. With the growth in Ada County, Kuna is now the agricultural center of the county and a natural for the county population to look for fresh production that is available in Kuna's farmers market.
In cooperation with the Blue Cross Foundation and Boise City Parks we put together a Mayor's Walking Challenge for our grade schools this year where the school that turned out the most walkers and the school that walked the farthest would each receive $500 to use in purchasing their choice of fitness enhancing equipment. Reed Elementary was the big $500.00 winner and walked over 8,000 miles and both Crimson Point and Silver Trail won $250.00 each for turning out their entire student body to walk the challenge.
Reed Elementary 6th graders decorated downtown and city hall for Christmas and many students participated in the Christmas tree lighting and Christmas Caroling. This year we expect to expand both events to involve even greater numbers of students.
As you can see we as a city have, along with our schools and citizens, met our goals of involving our young citizens in meaningful and rewarding programs in our city and occupying some of their pent up energy in fitness activities. We intend to do more so look for greater involvement this year.
Other achievements this year included a beautiful and inspiring "Come Together Christmas celebration by Kuna's Community Choir where our citizens gather to Celebrate the Christmas season. This event is becoming a strong tradition and really does signal Kuna is growing up. In addition this year was our first Prayer Breakfast where people of faith gathered at Ana's and Enrique's Kuna Event Center for a delicious breakfast and to participate in a community blessing. We expect this gathering to become another Kuna Tradition and this year already has outgrown the Event Center so will probably be held in the old gym site on 4th street.
This year we expanded the economic development committee of the city and chamber and produced literature and contacts to attract business. We joined the Boise Valley Economic Partnership to become better educated in the role of attracting business and I am proud to announce we are seeing results. We have a new McDonalds that opened as well as working on a $100,000,000 Simplot packing plant and a number of other businesses and manufacturers that are currently planning on locating here. Watch for upcoming announcements -- We think you will all be surprised.
We redesigned and upgraded Kuna's website this year to better reach our citizens with news and happenings in the city. The website is becoming more popular each month and is utilized by our citizens as a vital source of information and events occurring in our city. Our city website address is kunacity.id.gov
This year Ada County Highway District was a great help to us. The new SW entrance into the city is wider, safer, much more attractive and a nice and popular addition and ACHD was a great and appreciated leader in getting this project accomplished. In addition, ACHD worked on bike paths and seal coated most of the roads in the city. Signs were erected that tell visitors just where they are and the mileage to other attractions in the city and ACHD helped pick Swan Falls crossing as the site of Kuna's overpass. This project is still chasing funding, but at least the site is picked so we can get on with funding. You who live south of the tracks now have a glimmer of hope for better connectivity and much faster emergency service.
This year we installed about $500,000 in new screens to further protect our membrane filters at the new Sewage plant. This state of the art plant handles effluent rather efficiently and is precipitating out phosphorus, making it one of the few plants in Idaho capable of meeting the Phosphorus standard imposed by EPA. Our next step is to secure a permit to utilize this plant water back into the city's pressurized irrigation system to help prepare us for using less water and surviving drought conditions better. In addition, this past year we added well #10 to augment the city drinking water supply and are reexamining well number 3 to put its water in the pressurized irrigation system and digging a new well number 11 to put into the city's drinking water inventory. This is scheduled for completion in 2015.
In 2014 we also began the process to convert the city's lights to LED lighting and eventually change lighting ordinances throughout the city. Look for some new and less expensive innovation in energy usage in Kuna. Bob Bachman has been picked as our Conservation director and will lead our efforts in reducing energy costs in the city.
Idaho Power in cooperation with the Southwest Idaho RC&D have been furnishing trees for southwest Idaho citizens to plant on their properties to help block the afternoon sun and provide shade and use of less energy to stay cooler in summer. Kuna is participating in the program and many citizens have taken advantage of the program.
We reported last year we were working on a BLM committee to locate the new Gateway West 500 KV transmission line across this area to the Hemingway Station in Owyhee County south and west of Melba. The site has been selected and is in final scoping hearings and expected to be approved by summer. The line will parallel the existing 500KV line crossing the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey and cross the Snake River south of Melba so should not adversely affect either Kuna or Melba and is located, "in my estimation" where it belongs.
Mitigation for this location will include habitat improvement and enhancements which we still have an eye on to involve Kuna youth in learning to grow, plant and care for sagebrush, bitterbrush and rabbit brush in the area south of Kuna, as well as recognize and learn the habits and needs of raptors that make their home in the area.
Budget wise 2014 continued the decrease of the total budget that began after settling the LID lawsuit in FY 2013 and again dropped from $11,965,000 in FY 2013 to $11,656,787 in FY 2014. The General fund increased from $2,958,809 in FY 2013 to $3,466,720 in FY 2014 a 17.17% increase based mostly on growth in the city.
Full time employees increased from 34.21 to 35.01 in FY 2014, so again we are running the city with considerably fewer employees than many cities our size.
Our police contract remained unchanged this last Fiscal with staffing of 13 officers, one secretary, and 3 associate School Resource officers. FY 2014 increased $6,193 a 0.4% increase which was primarily vehicle and operating costs. The total police budget for FY 2014 was $1,525,148. Our new police chief is Justin Dusseau and we are very pleased with his tact and leadership as he directs Kuna police activities. 2014 marked a welcome decrease in drug problems in our city and a drop in most every category of criminal activity.
This occurred while the city grew with the addition of 364 permits, 116 new homes, 4 new commercial businesses, 3 commercial tenant improvements and over 400 new people. We are well satisfied with our Ada County Sheriff Contract but continue to watch costs vs results. In addition, this year we will be watching Middleton who has ended their sheriff contract and bravely struck out on their own, to see how they do with costs and accomplishments.
We continued to use the Ada County Prosecutor to prosecute Kuna Criminal cases, and continue to receive activity reports from the Prosecutor's Office which really helps us in determining what is occurring in the courts with Kuna offenders.
The Prosecutors contract increased from $48,911 to $53,700 or a 9.8% increase. We are now under a new Ada County Prosecutor so things may change a bit. We will watch our costs carefully. In addition we are revising our ordinances to drop many of our misdemeanors to infractions to relieve the burden on Ada County Courts for many offenses. Infractions can cost up to $300.00 in fines, so enforcing the laws are still functional.
The city is beginning the process to form an Urban Renewal District that will help take infrastructure to the City's industrial zone and some additional subdivision sites. Urban Renewal Districts have proven important links to attracting and supporting new business and manufacturing entities for cities throughout the State. If Kuna is to economically develop, we need this tool to help us. Our Urban Renewal will only be utilized for infrastructure so we will not build buildings or city structures to make sure the district is utilized for its intended use.
The Boise – Nampa metropolitan area is now the 85th largest metro area in the United States which is another reason to be proud of Kuna's growth along with the rest of the valley. In the Pacific Northwest this metro area is the 3rd largest and makes it competitive with a great many larger metros especially in the West and Midwest. This should continue to help us develop.
Starting in 2014 we have turned our attention to downtown Kuna to start a revitalization effort with the business community. We are working with JUB engineers and a dynamic and involved business group to direct this effort. One of the first things you will notice is the move of the Historical Center to the refurbished old city hall on Main Street. The move of contents will take place shortly and it should prove popular and help with downtown revitalization.
The city began, with the help of DEQ, offering emission testing of autos at city hall as a temporary solution of not having a station that offers the test in Kuna. We are proud to announce this year Affordable Transmission & Auto Repair now offers the service in Kuna for $11.00. No longer will you have to drive to Meridian or Nampa for the test.
Many people have asked why we have not yet moved our utility billing from Caldwell to Kuna. That move has proven problematic, but in 2015 we expect to overcome the problems and switch the billing.
Currently the city is moving into preliminary design of a busing system that will offer "in city" and "out of city" busing. We are working closely with Treasure Valley Regional Transit to implement a workable, effective and affordable system.
With the opening of the Boise Downtown Terminal, Kuna should be connected and that is the hope of developing our busing system. It will be added as we can afford it, but it promises better connectivity for our citizens in the future.
We are still toying with the idea of purchasing the old gym site to locate our city hall. We think we can locate there at about the same monthly cost we are currently paying for rent. In addition that site is becoming more the center of downtown Kuna and would anchor parking and busing in the middle of the downtown area. Stay tuned as we get closer to a decision in this matter.
In closing, 2014 will go down in the history of Kuna as a transition year where we basically pulled out of a 7 year recessionary period. It was a year where the city and Chamber combined our economic development strategies and got on with recruitment of businesses and industry to build commerce and jobs in the city and surrounding area. We also implemented an inflation factor to our enterprise funds so that sewer, water and pressurized irrigation rates would increase slightly to cover that year's inflationary rate. We also placed Kuna City Staff on a published rate schedule so that raises are based upon standards and longevity that is known, understood and published. We are proud that our employees now finally have a modern crafted and adopted career path pay scale.
We wish to thank all of our citizens for their strong support, great ideas and enthusiasm as we take our place as a dynamic growing middle sized Idaho city. The future looks bright as we enter 2015 and we will strive to maintain our small city charm as we push to become an economic, job producing hub of the area.