Letter to the editor
This letter is written in response to the Marla Kessel's letter to the editor published in the March 21 edition. We at City Hall believe strongly in transparency and providing factual information. It is for this reason I feel compelled to respond.
In her letter, Mrs. Kessel says she spoke to our Economic Development Assistant Taylor Neveu during one of the scheduled open house events where the city revealed the Downtown Revitalization Plan to the community. She is mistaken. Both Mrs. Neveu and my Communications Director told Mrs. Kessel when she called City Hall in the days afterward she had spoken to our representative from Horrocks Engineers, who helped draft the plan and was on hand to help field questions.
Mrs. Kessler also makes the mistake of saying Neveu is not from Mountain Home and "is not familiar with our town." Taylor Neveu was born at Mountain Home Air Force Base, graduated from Mountain Home High, and has lived here since 2001.
She is an integral and involved member of the community who is raising her children here and has a vested interest in the strength of our schools, the health of our economy and the open dialogue of our politics. Further, Neveu has worked at City Hall for a mere four months and cannot be held responsible for any portion of the revitalization plan Mrs. Kessel may be dissatisfied with. The city has been planning this project for a year now.
Finally, I'll attempt to answer questions in print for Mrs. Kessel.
Q: Why change something that works? We don't HAVE to do anything.
A: While I appreciate your concerns, refusing to take action and hoping the problems with our downtown will self-correct is not a course of action. The status quo is not working. We have flooding issues, broken sidewalks and other failing infrastructure; all of those things need to be addressed.
This plan is designed to address them with a five-year outlook in mind, with the intent of creating a space more businesses and more customers will want to be part of. We understand there will be an immediate impact as we work toward long-term improvements, but we will work to mitigate that to the largest extent possible.
Q: Will lTD keep up the maintenance of this road if changes are made by the city?
A: Yes. We have worked closely with ITD and conducted traffic studies which took our current and projected traffic loads years down the line into consideration. The city could not make the changes without ITD's consent and partnership. They have also agreed to delay repaving until the city has completed the sidewalks, curb and gutter work, to ensure a smoother transition.
Q: How is this project supposed to be paid for?
A: Both the Economic Development Office and the city's grant writer are applying for known grants and exploring new grant opportunities to fund the project.
Q: Why was there no vote on this?
A: Because a vote on a project like this is not required by Idaho statute. However, please note there have been no fewer than six heavily-publicized opportunities for public input over the past year and every downtown business owner, including Mrs. Kessel, has been invited either in person or by email to each one. Public input was taken very seriously at each one as evidenced by the dramatic changes between the first drafts offered for public viewing last summer and the "final" draft we displayed at the most recent open houses.
In fact, my Economic Development team and I are planning to host yet another downtown business owners meeting in the coming days to continue to explain the changes, the reasoning behind them and the projected timeline for this project. I hope Mrs. Kessel will attend.
— Rich Sykes
Mayor of the City of Mountain Home