The City of Roseburg as an organization strives to provide a high level of internal and external customer service every day. The “business” of local government is as diverse as the citizens that make up our community. It is clear our citizens, rate payers, and tax payers are customers, and the business of local government should meet the needs and demands of the customers as overseen by our elected officials. Quantifiable services like the water utility is pretty easy to measure. Quality of life services like access to parks, trails, and recreational activities, public safety and transportation are much more difficult. To meet the needs of our customers, it is essential that we continually evaluate demand for City services and the cost of our service delivery models. Balancing the community’s ability to pay for services with the types of services being provided is essential for our organization.
As other forms of government, from the State to counties and school districts, struggle to work together to provide consistent, reliable and adequate funding mechanisms for their services, the City has generally been able to match current resources to the services identified in our long term organizational and operational plans. There continues to be one service/funding issue that we have not resolved as of yet, and that relates to funding for our transportation system. For a community our size, we have historically been able to keep up with our transportation maintenance costs and some new construction through various partnerships with the State of Oregon and our Urban Renewal District. Much of that funding has been reduced or eliminated and the current Urban Renewal area funding in its current form will end in 2019.
Council recently authorized staff to pursue the formation of a new Urban Renewal area that will encompass an area beginning at Stephens Street and Diamond Lake Boulevard and running eastward bounded generally by Douglas Avenue on the south and a few blocks north of Diamond Lake on the north. The plan area will run eastward almost to the City limits.
In addition to day to day operations, Council has provided staff with some guidance for enhancing operations and targeting resources towards achieving four goals that were adopted in April 2017 for the 2017-19 biennium.
The 2017-19 goals adopted by Council are -
1. Support and adopt policy development and implementation to enhance housing and community development.
2. Develop and implement transportation funding policies to meet identified community needs.
3. Take a proactive role in community economic development and revitalization.
4. Develop programs and policies to enhance community livability and public safety
After adoption, staff identified six to seven action items relating to the individual goals that will allow us to measure our progress and determine if we meeting City Council’s goals. Many of those action items were initiated in in fiscal 2017 and will be worked on and completed over the next two years.
Each of these goals are inter-related and have led us to reach out more to individuals and businesses in the community to gather information and input so that policy development takes local opinions into consideration. We work closely with our citizen committees and commissions to gather and share public opinion and synthesize the information we receive as they make recommendations to Council. During 2016 we began using social media as a communication strategy with Facebook pages for our Police Department, Fire Department and general Administration as well as better utilizing traditional media sources to keep the community informed as Council policy decisions are being formulated and adopted.
Work has been initiated related to a housing needs analysis and buildable lands inventory to better identify opportunities for housing development and land use. Staff is working to determine if our current urban growth boundary is sufficient to meet the community’s needs in addition to reviewing our current land use requirements to make sure that infill development can occur efficiently and economically.
Housing availability ties directly into economic development and community revitalization. The community has seen a tightening in the housing market with very low vacancy rates in the rental markets and insufficient construction to meet the demand for single family homes. The single family market has been bolstered by new construction in the last two years, but virtually no multi-family is being constructed. Lack of available housing has impacted businesses ability to attract and retain new employees economically, so we continue to work within the community to encourage building opportunities.
Any local discussion on community revitalization, community development and economic development would not be complete without mentioning the work being done to reopen the library. Since the libraries closed last spring the City has been working with Douglas County and the community to determine how best to reopen the former headquarters library as a stand-alone Roseburg Public Library for the community. We have taken steps to acquire the building and library collection and are moving forward to open a renovated library and begin providing programming and services as early as this summer.
Infrastructure system sustainability and funding and Urban Renewal financing and capital improvement planning are essential to keeping our community healthy and sustainable. To that end, the City has utilized Urban Renewal funding (which can only be spent on facilities and infrastructure) as well as transportation and utility funding to reinvest in our community. In the last few years, about $10 million has been invested in water transmission mains to ensure the reliability of your water systems, transportation improvements throughout the City and downtown, and as part of the Highway 138 corridor project. As the corridor project moved forward, the City, through Urban Renewal invested an additional almost $5 million in improvements to the Oak/Washington downtown project, the Spruce/Parrot street improvement project and enhancements to Oak and Washington Avenue bridge projects which was an enhancement to 138 corridor project. Leveraging State, Federal and local dollars to maximize the investment in current transportation improvements is essential for our community. Our next steps in the process has already begun, as we begin updating our Transportation System Plan and evaluating transportation options to share the cost and responsibility for funding our system with “all users” not just City residents.
As we move forward, and further from the economic recession that seemed to linger in our area longer than many, we will continue to work with other local governments and local businesses through the Partnership for Economic Development. Attracting and retaining businesses and creating an environment where local businesses can thrive and expand are essential for small rural communities. Quality of life for employers and employees is one of the most important attributes that we have to offer. Working with high quality local businesses who are here and want to expand is clearly our highest priority from and economic development standpoint. Expansion of our enterprise zone to allow local businesses to expand and redevelop is encouraging local reinvestment. The addition of the e-commerce overlay to our existing enterprise allowed local employers to take advantage of state tax breaks to ensure they can cost effectively operate in our rural environment and employ hundreds of local employees. It is essential that we continue to do our part to keep Roseburg a great place to live, work and play!