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Thankful for #MyMeridian

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By Mayor Tammy

This week is Thanksgiving a time to reflect on all the things we are thankful for. That is so easy to do sitting here at my desk! I can think of many reasons I’m thankful to call Meridian home - #MyMeridian. We get to live in a community that is recognized as one of the top places to live in the nation! I don’t know if you realize this, but recently we were named among the Top 5 Cities in the Nation from 24/7 Wall Street, the Top 10 in the Nation for Economic Growth (2nd amongst Small Cities) according to Wallethub.com, one of the safest cities in Idaho by SafeWise, and Meridian earned the title for Happiest Renters from AparmentAdvisor.com.

The word is out, and while part of me wants to keep it a secret, we can’t help it when the nation notices that our economy, our safe community and our home is one of the best!

Meridian just keeps getting better - recently our community welcomed even more opportunities for family fun! Wahooz just opened a brand new addition that only enriches the experience for families. And this past week, the City of Meridian opened the new Tully Park Outdoor Gym to give families a place to get healthy together, in the outdoors. It’s a special project that was lead entirely by our youth in the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council – showing them that they can make an impact and leave a legacy in our community.

When it comes to economic development we have a lot to be thankful for. Businesses are expanding in our community and/or moving here! Brighton Corp and AmeriBen are building corporate headquarters off the Ten Mile I-84 exit. The plans for that area are huge – combining residential, business and entertainment developments. I look forward to sharing more with you during my State of the City address in February!

In Downtown Meridian we’ve welcomed new businesses, including Blue Sky Bagels – located just down Idaho from Frankie’s Java, to add to the many selections opening in the area. Recently, downtown was recognized by Idaho Smart Growth – earning a Redevelopment Award for “placemaking” efforts to create a sense of community along Idaho Avenue.

We also live in a safe community – consistently one of the safest in Idaho. I’m grateful for the service of our Meridian Police and Firefighters who work hard to make sure we remain that way.

I am a Mayor who certainly has a lot to be thankful for – but aside from all of this – I am mostly thankful for our people. I know I say it all of the time but I can’t stress enough that a strong community is the direct result of the people and businesses who call it home. I’m thankful for all of you!

Have a very happy and safe Thanksgiving – filled with family, friends, and good food! Meridian City Hall will be closed on Thursday and Friday for the holiday but we will be back in full force the next week – preparing for our Christmas in Meridian festivities Dec. 1-3, with the Winter Lights Parade and Tree Lighting scheduled for Friday, Dec. 2 at 6:30pm.

I look forward to seeing you at these events and other functions in our wonderful community!

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'Tis the Season

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By Mayor Tammy

This Tuesday is Election Day and I encourage everyone to head out to the polls (8am-8pm) and let your voice be heard. This election has the ability to transform our community, so do your research and cast your vote! You can find the information you need, and your polling place at www.idahovotes.gov.

As much of the country has been focused on this election for nearly a year, I think it is important that we not lose sight of the season ahead – my favorite time of year – the season of giving! We have so much to be thankful for here in Meridian, but there are always those in our community who need a helping hand during this time of year.  Luckily, there are many ways you can give back this season in our community.

The City of Meridian, like many others in the area, just wrapped up our United Way campaign. The United Way has been an organization I have supported as they fight for the health, education and financial stability of every man, woman and child in the Treasure Valley! Careful research helps the United Way Vision Council determine what organizations will receive funding and the resources needed.  It’s an organization where you can truly see your dollars in action – and why funds were distributed in certain ways. I was overwhelmed to see so many employees get involved, whether by donating money or time, or just attending presentations to learn more – it all counts!

While the United Way focuses on the big picture, this time of year there are several organizations who are doing what they can to brighten the holidays for all residents in our community.  This Saturday the Meridian Parks and Recreation Department is hosting the annual Holiday Classic Volleyball Tournament to kick off the season for one organization focused on the holidays. The tournament raises funds to buy Christmas gifts for low-income pre-school kids who take part in Meridian’s Head Start Program. It’s a great cause and annual event for our city!  

From ‘Toys for Tots’ to stuffing the bus campaigns, angel trees, bell ringers, coat drives, food drives, and more -  the next several weeks are a critical time heading into the holiday.  I’m sure now more than ever the Meridian Food Bank, the Salvation Army, the Marines Corps and so many more would welcome donations in the form of money, toys, food and time to help make this time special for everyone.

Speaking of giving time – I would encourage all residents to join us on Friday, November 11 as we honor those who have served our country at the Veteran’s Day Ceremony. This annual event is held at the Rock of Honor in Kleiner Park and begins at 11am. Part of giving back is showing our military men and women that we support them! I am proud to be part of this year’s ceremony and look forward to personally thanking many of our local veterans.

Whether it’s time given to family or friends in need, or donations to a local organization – I appreciate the focus of this time of year. 'Tis the season for giving!

Courthouse Details You Need to Know

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I wanted to update our citizens as we move to the next step in the process begun long ago on providing a courtroom, or not, that was initiated in 1994. The Ada County Commissioners brought to life this ’94 court order that was long forgotten, frankly, because the issue was already addressed in the ‘90's.  

The county found the ‘order’ and sued our cities, Meridian and Garden City, in 2010 – to build a court facility or pay the county to use the facility our citizens helped pay for.  Much has happened since 1994. Since then – voters said they wanted a consolidated courthouse in Ada county which opened in 2002 and is paid in full. Ironically, Meridian asked to house magistrate court services while planning for the new City Hall in 2004, but the county said no. Despite turning down Meridian providing a courtroom, the county continues to press the issue. Why?

It seems to be about money. They didn’t want a courtroom in 2004 and we have yet to find anyone associated with the courts that wants one now. Ada County says they are just enforcing an active court order, but they say that can be fulfilled if we just pay them money.  The county wants us to pay $660,000 by using what we collect in fines and then some. These are the fines the city receives from infractions. That is, fines that are received after: fees are paid to the county for the court facility, the state, a court technology fund, and for the Idaho State Police POST Academy. The remaining amount of these fines we receive support the efforts of our law enforcement. How does paying the county fulfill a court order for a courtroom?  It doesn’t. In fact we believe Meridian taxpayers already pay for the court system – just like all Ada County residents do – through your county taxes. They are asking you to pay again through your city taxes as well.    

I’ve asked the Commissioners to tell me why county taxpayers in Meridian will have to pay this extra cost when all county residents don’t have to? They still can’t give me an answer. They will tell you that Boise pays. Boise was the only city in Idaho with a municipal court – even before the courts were consolidated. Boise’s situation is different.

On November 4, 2016 I will go before a panel of District Judges and testify on behalf of you.  While I would like to be talking about whether or not a courtroom facility is even needed, we will not be able to do so. That’s because the court can order a city to provide a courtroom but they don’t have to justify why it’s needed. We can’t ask why, we just have to present a plan for providing a courtroom. So we will. We will present what we’ve found to make the most fiscal sense, even if we won’t know the problem we are trying to solve with such a plan. If the court demands we provide a facility, it will be one that is accessible and a more convenient service for our residents and police department.  

We believe that this is something that could go away entirely if the Commissioners stood with us and testified that a facility in Meridian isn’t in the best interest of all county residents. Sadly, they seem entrenched with their position that they are just asking the court to enforce a 22-year-old order. They won’t work with us to define what the problem is that our plan needs to solve! One candidate running for Ada County Commissioner gets it and says it’s time to get out of these legal battles and find solutions – together! I couldn’t agree more! 

I’m still hopeful for a resolution that is fair to all Ada County taxpayers. We will be discussing this more at our Town Hall on Wednesday, October 26 at 6:30pm at Compass Public Charter School. You are also welcome to attend the public hearing to show your support of the cities. That is scheduled for Friday, November 4 at 1pm at the Ada County Courthouse.

I still maintain what I’ve said along - we need to discuss what makes sense today. We are elected to lead. We should also be expected to come to the table and publicly have a conversation about how we, as two cities (Meridian and Garden City) and one county can move forward.

More information at www.meridiancity.org/courthouse.

Early Voting and W.A.R.D. Bond Information

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By Mayor Tammy

Absentee voting has begun and early voting for the November General Election begins one week from today. Ada County voters will have the opportunity to vote early at Meridian City Hall, October 17 – November 4, 9am -6pm (closes at 5pm on Nov. 4).  This is a great time to cast your vote ahead of Election Day, November 8, when polls are open from 8am-8pm.  

While this November election is anything but typical, it is an important one that has the ability to transform Meridian with the addition of services and amenities our citizens have been requesting. 

The Western Ada Recreation District (W.A.R.D.) has a $20 million bond on the ballot that would provide for two indoor, year-round aquatics facilities; one each in south and north Meridian to complement the outdoor Meridian Pool the district operates at Storey Park. Our citizens have rated aquatics as a high priority need - for play, wellness, space for community gatherings, competition, swim lessons and water safety. Water safety is critical—Idaho ranks in the top five states for the highest drowning rates. Swim lessons save lives, and we need to make sure Meridian families have options locally to learn how to swim.

I’ve also heard people comment we should have more than the one outdoor public facility, built more than 40 years ago to serve 5,000 residents. Currently, our citizens say they travel to Nampa or Boise to meet their aquatic needs. It is a fact that we are the largest community in Idaho without an indoor aquatic center. Now, we have a rare opportunity - the land for both proposed sites has been committed and an operator has offered to cover the operation and maintenance costs of the facilities, which can save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs annually. 

The proposed south facility would be part of 'The Hill' project which includes the YMCA that will be breaking ground later this month; and next to Hillsdale Elementary, a new city park and the proposed library – creating a unique community gathering spot.  A similar vision is being laid out for north Meridian and if the bond is approved, the YMCA would look to focus fundraising efforts, once they complete the south Meridian facility, for a north Meridian location as well - creating a second community gathering spot. If this is important for our families - our citizens the time is now. The opportunity to support the building of these community assets that our citizens have been asking for, and one that families and children can utilize in many ways, is in the hands of our voters

Also in the hands of voters - the Meridian Library District’s bond that is on the ballot. The $12 million bond would fund the construction of two new branch library projects: one in south and one in north Meridian. Both these bonds require a super-majority to pass—which means every vote is very important. You can click here to read more about this bond. 

While Meridian is the #1 Place to Live in America, with these two bonds we have an opportunity to transform and enrich our community by adding resources and services that make Meridian a great place to live, work and raise a family. I am ‘all in’ and will be supporting these two bonds on the ballot. I urge you to get informed and get out and vote—your voice is important.

The Meridian Library – A Huge Community Asset

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By Mayor Tammy

Recently my husband Jan and I spent some time at unBound, the Meridian Library’s makerspace located in downtown. We expanded our imaginations and experienced innovation first hand with the virtual reality headsets, 3D printers, the woodworking and engraving machine and more. Needless to say we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and all the learning that takes place for people of all ages and abilities at unBound.

During our experiences, my husband made the comment: “Do people realize that libraries are more than just books and movies?” Although using my library card for e-books, magazines, and movies saves me major dollars every year, the Meridian Library District (MLD) offers so much more! Patrons have the opportunity to check out mobile hot spots (you can take the internet with you on your next camping trip!); graphing calculators; as well as Robotics, computer programming and even American Girl Doll kits. There’s also free scanning, faxing, and notary services as well as 3D printing and so many innovative and educational community programs. The list is extensive.

MLD has endless possibilities that await us in our personal and professional worlds! The library’s three branches and Bookmobile are all huge assets to our community, but one thing that is sorely needed is more space. In order for MLD to continue as one of our community’s gathering and learning centers, additional branches are needed to accommodate for the district’s rapid growth. This is why I will vote in favor of the library’s bond this November. The $12 million bond would fund the construction of two new branch library projects: one in south and one in north Meridian. The bond requires a supermajority to pass—which means every vote is very important. 

The main library on Cherry Lane was built 20 years ago, in 1996, for a city of 40,000 residents. While the library has done a great job adding branches in downtown and in south Meridian (at a cost of $100,000 per year to lease the Silverstone space); these facilities can’t effectively handle the more than 92,000 patrons in the City and outlying district. By moving the collection currently in south Meridian, they could re-program the funds being used to lease the Silverstone space and bring additional services to the new branch at the Hillsdale location, once constructed. This would allow for more programs, collections for checkout, and professional staffing.

This is just one example of why the library has identified these projects as necessary in order to continue providing much needed services to their rapidly growing district. I can’t emphasize enough the key role that libraries play when it comes to being a strong and healthy community.   

With this bond we have an opportunity to change our community for the better. To learn more about the bond, visit the library or go online to www.mld.org. Or you can attend one of two open houses the library is holding to educate the public about the bond: Saturday, Oct. 1, 10:30am at unBound or Tuesday, Nov. 1, 12pm at the Silverstone Branch.

If you haven’t been to the library recently, I encourage you to spend an afternoon learning about what they do and what they bring to our community. MLD is a great community partner! I’m sure after you spend a little time learning more about our library, you too will see how they are providing resources and services that make Meridian a great place to live, work and raise a family. 

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The Future of South Meridian

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by Mayor Tammy

I was thrilled to see so many people attend our recent Town Hall at the new Hillsdale Elementary gymnasium. It showed me that the feedback I received from my Listening Tour was true - people want to hear what’s happening in South Meridian! So here’s a recap of what we heard regarding developments.

Bill Parsons with our Community Development Department kicked off the presentations with a look at what is under construction or coming soon to South Meridian. There are several residential neighborhoods moving forward with a majority of the developments occurring between Overland and Amity and Eagle Road to Ten Mile. There are also two multifamily projects along Overland -- the Silverstone Apartments near Eagle will join the new complex just opening near Camping World. When combined with the new assisted living facility that is planned as well, there are several new types of housing to meet the needs of our community and residents. 

On the commercial side - a Bish’s RV Dealership is going in next to Camping World on Overland and Walmart is looking to add a gas station. There is also a Winco planned between Eagle and Locust Grove on Overland. Several businesses are planned for the area along Meridian Road near Overland including a new Dutch Bros., Starbucks and Dowdy’s Automotive. For more information on projects like these, you can always visit the Citizen Access page on our website to learn about what is under construction (www.meridiancity.org). It’s part of our commitment to be as transparent as possible and make sure the public has a voice in planning.

These new businesses and services are contributing to the job growth we have seen with many employers located in our Silverstone and El Dorado business parks grow over the last several years. Power Engineers, Ameriben, and Citi have been helping to fuel the job growth in this area. With a low vacancy rate, Silverstone is also looking to add up to 150,000 square feet of additional space in the future.

Two much needed schools also just opened in South Meridian: Victory Middle School and Hillsdale Elementary. Heartfelt thanks to the patrons of West Ada School District for always supporting our kids regardless of the locations of the schools – its all about our kids! As you may or may not already know, Hillsdale is the beginning of a larger partnership project! The Treasure Valley Family YMCA calls the partnership one that others will emulate across the country! It includes a Y facility with a health provider, the elementary school, a City park, and space for the Meridian Library to build a facility as well as a Western Ada Recreation District (WARD) indoor aquatic center if voters choose to support the bonds needed for these projects to be included. The YMCA says they are very excited to break ground on the first phase later this fall. It's a project they have spent over a decade working toward.

Meridian Library Director, Gretchen Caserotti told the crowd at the Town Hall that the proposed Library would be utilized by the public and Hillsdale Elementary with a unique design to make it a great, safe space for all. Of course that capital project is contingent on this November’s bond election - which would provide for that facility in South Meridian as well as a new library branch in North Meridian. While not discussed at the meeting, just a few days ago WARD agreed to put a bond request on the November ballot which would allow for the construction of the indoor aquatic center at the South Meridian YMCA, and an indoor facility in North Meridian. I’ll have more on the importance of these ballot initiatives in upcoming blogs.

As for parks in South Meridian, Meridian Parks and Recreation Director Steve Siddoway spoke about our plans for a 10 acre park that will be on the same property as the Y facility and Hillsdale Elementary – and potentially a library and indoor aquatics center. The park will include a half mile pathway and an agricultural themed playground, along with other amenities. Crews are expected to break ground next spring with an opening a year from now. One year after that, in the spring of 2018, we expect to break ground on the first phase of another park in South Meridian - a 77 acre regional park that when fully built will be a regional park similar to Settlers.

Finally we wrapped the meeting with an interactive session with COMPASS, designed to find out what residents want to see when it comes to infrastructure projects in South Meridian. During the meeting, attendees chose what types of infrastructure projects were important to them – road widenings, intersection improvements, pathways and sidewalks, and lighting – and which specific projects. We also asked them about what types of services they would like to see and grocery stores was most important – glad to see we have at least one coming to the area! To see the outcomes from this session, including what road improvements the audience listed as top priorities, click here. We also have videos of the Town Hall so you can see design plans that were presented during the meeting.  

I am so grateful to those who took the time to attend the Town Hall and share feedback with us. And I was thrilled to have so many partners present; sharing what they are doing to help our City add even more amenities for residents in South Meridian. Together, we can take this information and use it to work with our departments and partners to focus potential improvements in this area.

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Citizen Engagement Opportunities

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By Mayor Tammy

This is a busy week for the City with two huge opportunities for citizen engagement.

On Wednesday, you’re invited to a Town Hall at the brand new Hillsdale Elementary. We put together this Town Hall to give residents a chance to: Discuss and provide feedback on infrastructure in South Meridian; learn about new developments planned for the area south of I-84; gain understanding about the Meridian Library bond; and hear updates on the South Meridian YMCA partnership project. The meeting begins at 6:30pm. We will live stream it on our City of Meridian, Idaho Facebook page and we’ll post a video to our website, www.meridiancity.org, the following day.

Prior to the Town Hall, on Tuesday, you’re invited to weigh in on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2017. The public hearing is set for 6pm at Meridian City Hall, and council will vote on the proposed budget following the hearing. We’ve held two workshops during the summer ahead of this public hearing. These workshops allowed the council and I, as well as the public, to hear presentations from each department on how your dollars are invested in bringing services to the community and what is needed in order to maintain levels of service.  From those workshops, the council and our finance team have put together a proposed budget.

The proposed FY17 budget for the General Fund is $53.2 million. This includes a projected $9.9 million carried forward from the current budget year for projects currently under construction.  The General Fund, comprised primarily of property tax revenue, is the account which pays for Police, Fire, Parks and the administrative functions of the City.  The FY17 budget includes a 2% increase in the allowable property tax, primarily focused on public safety needs, along with several park projects paid for by growth impact fees. This includes supporting the City’s Public Safety Fund for future capital projects in the Police and Fire Departments.

The proposed FY17 budget for the Enterprise Fund is $66.7 million, including a projected $17.1 million carried forward from the current budget year for completion of ongoing projects.  The Enterprise Fund, which is funded by water and sewer assessment fees and user rates, is the account used to fund the City’s water and wastewater operations and maintenance as well as the infrastructure necessary to serve our community and respond to ongoing regulatory requirements.

Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, you are welcome to view the budget summary and notice, by visiting our website and clicking on City News and Meeting or view a full budget proposal in the Meridian City Clerk’s Office at City Hall. We will be live streaming the public hearing as we did our workshops in June and July, so those interested could follow the discussions. We want to be completely transparent in how we are putting tax dollars to use. We work diligently to keep our tax rates among the lowest in the State for a full-service city, while providing the levels of service you should expect. That transparency and openness is one of the many reasons residents tell me they love living in Meridian.

Citizen engagement in Meridian is necessary to ensure your voice is heard and that our services continue to meet your expectations.  As your Mayor, I encourage you to take part in one or both of these opportunities - learn more about what’s happening in Meridian and discuss the future of our community!

Meridian Budget Hearing: Tuesday, August 30 at 6:00pm at Meridian City Hall

Meridian Town Hall: Wednesday, August 31 at 6:30pm at Hillsdale Elementary