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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. 



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.

south meridian town hall

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

The Season of Change

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 By Mayor Tammy

The start of school always means that change is in the air: new teachers, classmates, curriculum, sports, clubs, etc. It signals the end of summer and the start of a new season is right around the corner in our community. It’s a good time to remind area residents that this brings about changes on the roads and in our neighborhoods.

Drivers need to be aware of students walking or biking to school and busses stopping to pick up area kids. In addition, we hear from many parents about the challenges associated with drop-off and pick-ups at schools and from residents about parking issues in and around schools in many neighborhoods.  I ask everyone to be mindful of one another and your neighbors as this change takes place.  Be respectful and be safe, and for those of you headed to work, be sure to adjust your commute times in order to make way for this changing season.

Another big change is here at City Hall as we kick off a new year with the Meridian Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC).  Last year was the biggest year we’ve seen yet, with more kids joining MYAC than ever before and our advisor, Ken Corder and I are expecting even more this year.  Meridian students in grades 9-12 are invited to be a part of MYAC. We’re holding a kickoff event for those who are interested on Monday, August 29 at 6pm or 7:30pm.

Our MYAC students continue to be leaders in the state and our community. Whether it is promoting legislative solutions or social causes that impact our youth, their voices are heard and they are stepping up donating their time and energy. But they are more than advocates and community volunteers – they are also charged with organizing events for their peers and area residents. One of their first objectives will be focused on the Youth Safety Summit in September. It brings in teens from across the state and educates them on the dangers of texting and driving, as well as the effects of bullying and drugs and alcohol. Teens say the one day interactive event is a game changer and sets the tone for the school year.

This fall the group will also get to witness last year’s participatory budgeting come to fruition with the opening of a permanent outdoor gym at Tully Park. This is a historic moment for Idaho – in that these teens piloted this participatory budgeting exercise for the first time, helping to direct funds to an amenity the community has wanted for quite some time!

Leading the charge for our MYAC group this year is a new Executive Council comprised of students from each high school, including Charter and Home Schools. New this year – they plan to focus on middle school outreach. This is great way to connect our high school leaders with middle school students in our community.

I have high expectations again for this group. They have a passion for their community that is inspiring.  I have no doubt we are in for another successful school year!

For more information about MYAC and this year’s orientation meetings, visit www.meridiancity.org/myac.

myac flyer - 2016

Listening Tour: Your Voice Matters

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By Mayor Tammy

Each year I host a Listening Tour with community members from across our city. People from all walks of life are invited to attend - and from all parts of our community - into my home to have a conversation about Meridian. The group meetings are set by geographical areas with the goal of getting a pulse on our City from those who live and work here. These conversations help us identify things we are doing well, and ways we can improve. 

We had a great group of diverse individuals who participated this summer.  We had parents, grandparents, children, business owners, employees, students and retirees.  Some were new to Meridian; others have been here for years.  They all brought unique perspectives to the conversation as we had a refugee, commuters who bike to work, some who are struggling to find jobs, military veterans, a widowed woman who appreciates the safety of our community, a college student and more. I enjoyed meeting each of them and listening to their thoughts about Meridian.

One of the questions we ask is what are we doing well in Meridian? I heard our parks are a big hit! People appreciate the safety of our community – our responsive police and fire departments – and the cleanliness of our city. They also tell me The Village at Meridian is a favorite place for entertainment, but also enjoy seeing more dining and entertainment options in our downtown. Affordability is also a bright spot! My favorite quote I hear often is that we have “big city amenities with a small town feel”. I agree and we want to keep it that way.

When it comes to things we can improve on, the same topics seem to pop up with each group no matter where people live: Schools and Roads. I want to assure you that we hear this feedback and we pass it along to the agencies who oversee these elements in our community.  People love our school district, but they are concerned about the inequities in funding from the State and options on how to pay for needed additional schools. With roads, they wanted to know about coordination with the Ada County Highway District - how we communicate and work with them to highlight needed improvements and how we work together in community planning.  Along those lines, tour attendees said they would like to see more attention paid to the needs of bicyclists, joggers and walkers. This is something we are working on as we expand our Parks and Recreation master plan for pathways over the next decade - with a focus on connecting sidewalks throughout the community.

I really appreciated the discussion on our downtown – people were quick to point out that they liked the façade improvements, banners and aesthetic improvements; but would like to see more outdoor dining opportunities. I also received great feedback on the new Youth Farmer’s Market – those who have attended say it is a great addition to our City! People expressed a desire to see expanded events and activities in downtown such as a music or concert venue. All of these comments are near and dear to my heart and I’m so excited to see many people from the community are already working to make these dreams a reality.  

Specific areas within our community had their own area of focus as well.  North Meridian would like to see more commercial businesses and improvements to Chinden – validating and building on efforts by a task force I created last summer with the goal of reducing congestion, improving safety and creating economic opportunity along Chinden. One frequent question that was received was ‘when are we going to get a new Costco?’ At the time of this writing, the City has not received an application so there is nothing to confirm at this point. 

In South Meridian, people wanted to know about what infrastructure is expected in this area and when. Of course many were aware of the South Meridian project that includes a YMCA, city park and other partnerships - set to open in 2017. But those at our meetings wanted to talk about sidewalks, pathways, and road improvements in the area as well. We plan to hold a Town Hall at the new Hillsdale Elementary on Wednesday, August, 31 at 6:30pm. If you live in South Meridian I would encourage you to come and talk about this area of town. As well, participate in a ‘BE THE MAP’ exercise and show us what priorities are important to you for sidewalks, pathways, road/intersection improvements and more.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in this year’s listening tours. I appreciated your time, comments, and the opportunity to hear what you think about Meridian. Your voice matters and we care what the people in our community think. Working together we will continue to be the best place to live in America.

If you are interested in taking part in next year's Listening Tour, please contact Ken Corder in the Mayor's Office, kcorder@meridiancity.org.

For the Men and Women in Blue

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By Mayor Tammy

I had already started writing my musing for this week when the incident in Dallas occurred (and now the latest in Baton Rouge). I am horrified by what I see unfolding. That musing will be saved for another day… My heart aches for Dallas and Baton Rouge. My prayers go out to their law enforcement officers, their families, and their communities. My thoughts and prayers are also with the families and friends of those lost in shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota and their communities.

Such tragedy. Where is our moral compass at this time in our nation? There is so much hatred everywhere. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of it channeled at law enforcement – even here locally.

Following the news out of Dallas, Meridian Police Chief Jeff Lavey sent a note to his team that said this: “I’m feeling sad, frustrated and angry about what happened in Dallas. I’m trying to wrap my mind about what the heck is happening in our country. Now is not the time to become paranoid or create gaps – it is not an “us versus them”. We must be diligent, aware and watch out for each other. We must continue to do our jobs. Officer safety is always paramount but we have a community to serve in partnership with each other for the common goal of ensuring Meridian remains a great place to live work and raise a family.”

I work alongside our police officers. I can attest to you that our department is one that cares for our community.

Councilman Joe Borton summarized their service perfectly after the Dallas incident when he said, “The Meridian Police Department does care about the safety of our citizens, and its officers, and has been proactively conscious of that mission every day.  It is one of the factors that makes our police department outstanding and our city safe.” 

Our police officers get ready for work each day not knowing what lies before them. Just last month, a Boise Police Officer was shot in the line of duty. Our officers’ days could be filled with danger as they seek to serve and keep our communities safe. It’s no accident that Meridian is one of the safest in the state – it is thanks to the service of our department as well as their relationships with our community.

Shortly after the Dallas events I received a couple of emails asking for accountability in our police department.  My initial response was what makes people think our officers aren’t accountable? The Meridian Police Department’s mission is “to provide the highest quality service in partnership with the community to preserve and protect life and property through education, prevention and enforcement”.  The department is focused on accountability and transparency – something enriched with the body worn camera program. The department also has an Office of Professional Responsibility. This includes a strict process of reviewing all public complaints, comments, inquiries and even praise our employees receive and involves our legal department. They have a professional policy manual that is reviewed to make sure it meets or exceeds national standards at a minimum of twice per year, which we hold our officers accountable to. Because of this, we are one of the few law enforcement agencies that is accredited through the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association. And many of you may remember the recent video we had go viral - when one of our officers responded to a dangerous dog situation and handled it without the use of force.  This is because of the training programs we use.  We take public safety, officer training, preparedness, and accountability very seriously.

Our department has 97 police officers and 26 civilian staff dedicated to making Meridian a great place to live, work and raise a family. I’m thankful for their service, as I am with law enforcement across this nation. Unfortunately there are rare and tragic incidents that cast a shadow on all law enforcement. We simply can't let that happen. Not in Idaho, not in Meridian. All lives matter! It’s time to rise up and unite as people - as a country - and stop spewing hate.