September 02, 2014      75.0°F (23.9°C) | Fair
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Back to School Means Awareness

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By Mayor Tammy

 

For many of us, last week marked the start of a new school year, heralded with the familiar sights of yellow school buses, flashing crosswalk signals and kids toting backpacks - my granddaughter sported her beloved 'Frozen' backpack as she entered first grade. This also marks the time when I meet with Meridian high school principals to take a pulse on the trends that students in our community are facing. It’s important for all of us to be aware of the pressures our teens face as a caring community and to ensure a healthy Meridian.

 

Common topics in these meetings cover the dangers and abuse of prescription drugs, personal safety, distracted driving and relationship violence. One item of particular concern is the growing trend of bullying and cyber-bullying. This issue is increasingly alarming considering the sheer volume of kids turning to the internet and social media. It is important that we stand together to do whatever needed to stop all forms of bullying.

 

The media has covered stories showcasing the catastrophic results of bullying. Social networks like Facebook and Instagram were never intended for this use; however, easy access facilitates bullying behavior as participants hide behind the mask of a computer or mobile device. It’s incumbent upon us to teach children that any type of bullying will not be tolerated. 

 

Most consider the worst byproduct of bullying as suicide. It happens too often - one is too many; our children must learn proper coping mechanisms to handle everyday stresses. For anyone who has experienced the heartbreak of losing a friend or loved one to suicide, it’s critical to be aware of available resources to help during this time of crisis. Next week is Suicide Prevention Week, an awareness campaign highlighted by World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th. I urge you to be educated and know the warning signs when you see them. In doing so, and knowing what to do, you just may save a life.

 

Though I often extoll the many wonderful things about the quality of life in Meridian (and Idaho), we are not immune to the tragedy of suicide. Our state experienced a higher than normal rate of suicide -- 39% higher than the national average in 2011. It is the second leading cause of death for Idahoans age 15-34, and for males age 10-14. Between 2009 and 2013, 85 Idaho children (age 18 and under) committed suicide; 15 of them were under 14 years of age. 

 

The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) has been a leading voice on this topic. Recently, MYAC members asked our state legislators to provide continued funding to the Idaho suicide prevention hotline. Additionally, they created a public service announcement that was shared with police departments and schools across the state. You can view the video by clicking this link MYAC Suicide Prevention Hotline PSA. I applaud them for their efforts on this topic. 

 

Bullying and suicide are very real and ugly issues that nobody – especially our youth – should ever have to endure. By working together, we can make a difference to stop this alarming trend. These are our future leaders and our legacy, and we owe it to them to feel valued, safe and protected.

 

There's So Much to See and Do in Meridian

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The City of Meridian has worked hard to win its recognition as one of Idaho’s most desirable places in which to live and the park system has been heralded among the best in the state. With approximately 20 community parks located throughout Meridian boundaries, there are a number of amenities, activities, sporting events and unique environments that are bound to appease most every lifestyle choice.

 

We just wrapped up another successful summer of our very popular CableOne Movie Night. As the season and weather changes, the new City of Meridian’s Parks and Recreation Guide is now available outlining the multitude of offerings for participants of all ages. Whether you’re looking for preschool activities or classes in dance, art, cheerleading, martial arts, yoga or Zumba, there’s always something going on in our fine city. All this information - and much, much more – is available at our City website at www.meridiancity.org.

 

And next on the horizon, on September 6th, our fifth annual Community Block Party will be hosted again at Settler’s Park from 10 am to 4 pm. You’ll see lots of food, fun and activities for kids of all ages. We’ll have demonstrations and a sneak peak at some of our upcoming programs offered by our Parks and Recreation team. We’ll even throw in some inflatables to ensure you have a blast at this year’s Community Block Party.

 

One of the popular attractions at both Settlers and Kleiner parks are our splash pads. Those will remain open for the enjoyment of all park visitors until September 21st. And for all disc golf enthusiasts, the courses are due to go up in Bear Creek Park in the mid-September timeframe, once our fall softball season concludes. And we anticipate our disc golf course at Settlers Park course will go up in early November. Be sure to watch the City of Meridian website for updates to these, and many of our other attractions, so that you’re in-the-know and don’t miss out!

 

These are just a small sampling of the multitude of things to see and do in Meridian. To learn more, check out the community calendar on our city website at www.meridiancity.org.   

Changes ahead for I-84 and Meridian Interchange

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Guest column from the Idaho Transportation Department

 

Great progress is being made on I-84 and the Meridian Interchange! The west half of the interchange bridge is beginning to take shape. Construction crews are tying rebar and forming the deck for the bridge.

 

The work zone will be different each night for the next month, so please slow down and pay attention. In general:

 

  •  Eastbound I-84 will be reduced to two lanes under the interchange from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., and until 7 a.m. on weekends.
  • The eastbound “loop” on-ramp from southbound Meridian road will be closed intermittently. Drivers will still be able to access the other eastbound on-ramp from northbound Meridian Road.
  • Westbound I-84 will be reduced to one lane under the interchange in mid-August. 

 

 

Meanwhile, ITD is replacing the outside lanes of I-84, improving drainage and resurfacing the inside lanes between Meridian and Five Mile roads. I-84 has been reduced to three lanes in both directions in this area. That gives crews enough room to haul materials, lay pavement and get equipment in and out of the work zone.

 

Construction is expected to be completed by late 2015.

 

If you have questions, visit the project website (www.itd.idaho.gov/MeridianInterchange) or contact ITD at comments@itd.idaho.gov or (208) 334-8005. 

Our Schools Need Your Help

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By Mayor Tammy

 

As most of you know, I haven’t been shy about my personal commitment to the education of Meridian’s future leaders – our children. One of our the biggest jobs – as parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents – is to ensure that our youth are equipped to face the many new and difficult challenges that will meet them in the future. I write this column wearing my ‘citizen’ hat, while knowing that if I were wearing my ‘mayor’ hat my support wouldn’t change. Businesses and employers who are bringing jobs here cite the importance of having an educated workforce, and that this is their top concern in wanting to locate here, and in some cases, stay here. 

 

While much of our country is successfully fighting its way out of what has been dubbed The Great Recession, the after-effects are still being felt. Budgets across the board have been affected and priorities have been re-aligned to meet fiscal realities. One could easily argue that our schools have been hardest hit and most affected by these changes.

 

As a consequence, our schools have felt the sting of some pretty stiff belt tightening. That has had a direct impact on our schools – our kids and faculty – by reducing school days, hiring fewer teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and eliminating or changing busing, to name a few. However, despite the reductions in funding and changing practices, our school district has continued to grow in the numbers of students they serve, and several of our schools are way beyond capacity in Meridian and elsewhere in the district. That’s why the upcoming vote for the building bond issue is so very important; not just to me, but to all of us.

 

The West Ada School District (formerly Joint School District No. 2) voters now face a very important question: will you support improving our schools for the benefit of our children? On August 26th, we all have an opportunity to weigh in on this very important matter.

 

If passed, the $104 million bond issue will support:

Two new middle schools, costing $60 million. One of the middle schools will be built in south Meridian to relieve the severe overcrowding at Lake Hazel Middle School in Boise.

A new elementary school, costing $12 million, is also being proposed for south Meridian to relieve Sienna and Mary McPherson, as well as other elementary schools south of the freeway from being over capacity.

Completion of the district’s oldest high school, Meridian High’s remodel and expansion, costing $24 million.

Land purchases for new school sites in northwest Ada County, among others, costing $8 million.

 

This important topic has been discussed amongst school district officials for quite some time now, but they have found ways to meet the needs of our children. Now, they bring forward a proposal that if approved, will lower the current levy rate from $438 per $100,000 (of your home’s value) to $399 per $100,000. You can learn more about the bond by visiting http://www.westada.org

 

Our Meridian community has been consistent and firm in their concern that the overcrowding of schools is an issue and the education of our youth is a priority. I heard it last fall on my listening tour from citizens of all ages and this year’s city survey listed education and schools as one of the most important issues we are facing. 

 

I, for one, will support this upcoming bond as I believe our future as a community – and the entire school district, all 385 square miles of it - will certainly benefit from the passage of this important measure on August 26th. Regardless of whether you agree with me, it is important to educate yourself on this upcoming bond and to exercise your right to vote. See you at the polls on August 26th.

 

National Night Out(1)

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By Mayor Tammy

 

It's that time of year when we are all trying to get our family outings organized before the start of the new school year. While we are focused on these getaways and starting to think of school supplies, I wanted to remind you about a great opportunity to get together with your friends and neighbors for the purpose of building community and preventing crime. 

 

Now in its 31st year, National Night Out is designed to help promote crime prevention programs, such as neighborhood watch, in order to ensure safer communities. This celebration brings together neighborhoods, friends, and individuals to cultivate relationships and form strong bonds with one another, which combine to form the fabric of who we are in Meridian.

 

National Night Out is Tuesday, August 5th and it is one of my favorite nights of the year.  People throughout Meridian join together on this special night for celebrations which are unique and just plain fun! These events and activities cultivate neighborly relationships, rapport with our police and fire personnel, and ultimately help create safe neighborhoods by bolstering crime prevention efforts. Celebrations typically range from backyard cookouts, to parades, to full-blown festivals with live bands and catering. 

 

There will be 26 formal neighborhood events this year. I encourage you to take part in your neighborhoods activities if you have one - or if you don't, consider planning one with your neighbors! To learn if your neighborhood is hosting a celebration (that the City knows about), please visit www.meridiancity.org or contact Melissa Delaney with the Meridian Police Department at 888-6678.  Our emergency personnel try to visit as many of these events as possible with our K-9 units, our motorcycle officers, and our fire trucks - are always a hit with the children. This will be an action-packed evening and I know the City Council and I look forward to visiting many neighborhoods to join in on the fun!

 

Whether you attend an event, it is important to note that the majority of crimes in Meridian are crimes of opportunity; such as leaving car windows rolled down, garage doors left up and doors unlocked. We hope you do your part to reduce these opportunities. The celebrations are a great way to expand our residents’ networks in watching out for one another. Our law enforcement agencies need your help and simply cannot do it themselves.  The traditional National Night Out “lights on” theme encourages well-lit neighborhoods that, when combined with awareness and watchful neighbors, helps decrease crimes of opportunity in Meridian.

 

Meridian is growing and in order to maintain our culture and way of life it is important that we come together as individuals and families in order to address the issues we all face in our subdivisions and community. We are the safest community in Idaho because we have partners like you! Regardless of whether your neighborhood is hosting an event, I encourage you to take time to get to know your neighbors, lock arms and declare we are a united community!

 

Proposed Utility Rate Increases

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It’s August and we’re in the throes of the dog days of summer. As many of us reach for the thermostat or the water hose, it’s important to remember that the modern conveniences we all take for granted require upkeep, maintenance and modernization – much like anything else. The water we consume on a daily basis, for instance, requires a pretty large plant and a vast network of people and equipment that operate behind-the-scenes. Those conveniences, though, come with a price.

 

New this month, utility customers in the City of Meridian will find an insert in their utility bills explaining proposed water and sewer rate increases. The total of these modest increases will be minimal to the average utility user and will equate to less than $5 for the vast majority of our customers.

 

So why are we doing this now? These increases will allow the City to fund projects required to meet new federal regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The City of Meridian is renewing its wastewater treatment plant that operates under a special permit. Once renewed, the plant will undergo major upgrades to comply with new EPA requirements. The treatment plant upgrades include multiple projects, spread over a 10-year span, with an estimated cost of $170 million.

 

By making these modest rate adjustments now, we avoid future larger increases for all our utility customers, and we allow the City of Meridian to respond to the demands imposed by the EPA. Failure on our part to comply with these mandated improvements may have serious implications.

 

To learn more, visit our website at www.meridiancity.org. The public is also invited to a public hearing on September 2, 2014 at 6:00 pm at Meridian City Hall. This hearing will offer meeting attendees additional information, as well as an opportunity to direct comments to the City Council regarding the proposed utility rate increase.

 

Storey Park Improvements on Fast Track

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By Mayor Tammy

 

Since the closure of the “temporary” Bark Park at the Meridian Police Department earlier this year, our Parks Departments has been working diligently toward a permanent solution for a facility for our community. The Police Department shared their police dog training area as an interim location pending the development of a long-term solution in west Meridian – and now need the land for police operations and training demands. The park area in which the dog park was expected to be built is still not scheduled for development because the land remains in the county and utilities are not extended to the area.

 

While the temporary location accommodated many of our four-legged friends and their owners – it was cramped quarters on many occasions and the City promised to replace it. The planned completion of an unimproved parcel in Storey Park was identified as the best location due to its central location and had fewer conflicts than other locations considered.

 

Two weeks ago during our Budget workshop, our Parks and Recreation Department presented the need to move forward with expected improvements to Storey Park. They shared how expediting the construction by three months, rather than waiting for the start of the FY2015 budget in October, would be the preferred way to move forward. By starting the process now, it would add needed infrastructure improvements of connectivity and parking issues, as well as using a portion of the undeveloped area for a dog park. It would also allow construction to occur this fall which would minimize the impact to neighbors and maximize the use of the park for the 2015 summer, rather than potentially not being able to open the park until 2016. 

 

Our City Council approved two separate motions unanimously for the development of Storey Park to move this forward. One motion was in the amount of $1,344,860 for completing the undeveloped portion of the park, including the drive aisle, parking, utilities, drainage, restroom, ditch pipe repairs, landscaping, trash enclosure, etc. These improvements would finish this existing park. The other motion was to fund an additional $226,408 for the cost of the dog park improvements, including fencing, pathways, surfacing, additional shelters and more. Once completed, the total acreage of Storey Park will be about 19 acres, with 2.25 acres dedicated to a dog park. 

 

Parks are enjoyed by citizens with different interests and needs - never a “one size fits all.” Just take a look at any of our parks to see the wide variety of activities and uses.  Dog parks are not for everyone, but there is a big demand for a dog park in Meridian as we have more than 17,000 dogs in our community according to the City's 2014 survey.  It is important to note that dog parks are as much about people as they are about dogs, and there are a lot of residents asking for this amenity. Many people have a real sense of pride and community with a dog park and they go to them to socialize with other dog owners while their dogs play. It is true that not everyone will use a dog park, but that is the case with most park amenities - for example, not everyone uses the softball fields, tennis courts or horseshoe courts, yet they are well-loved and used heavily. 

 

The decision to move this project forward quickly will help alleviate existing parking issues in and around the pool and ball fields, bring in needed restroom facilities and improve the connectivity of the park. It will also help fulfill the community promise to provide a place for dog owners to interact with other owners and dogs at-play. I know that once completed we will have a park we can all be proud of and enjoy regardless of the reason we visit Storey Park or our community pool.


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