I’ve been in office for just over 100 days and if asked today what are Mapleton’s biggest challenges, I’d respond with one thing: Money. My most pressing worries are regarding funding for streets, funding for the sewer plant replacement, and an underlying need to diversify our revenue sources to ensure long-term solvency (let’s get our eggs into more than one or two-ish baskets (property taxes and development-related fees). Yet, somehow, Mapleton is stable or even in an advantageous position that, 100 days ago, I would’ve sworn impossible. As this pandemic devastates sales-tax-revenue-driven cities, we’re resting cautiously, but optimistically, on our high property taxes and non-dependence on sales tax.
In the absence of an economic catastrophe in our city, we’ve been fortunate to spend the majority of our recent efforts moving forward pre-crisis initiatives, albeit adjusting to Zoom-based City Council meetings, where I anxiously await to see who will have the best background. (So far, I don’t think anyone has beaten my Star Trek Enterprise bridge; however, Sean Conroy, Community Development Director, is apparently known to sneak in old photos of employees – be warned!)
So, while my original “first 100 days” blog was intended to be a list of insights and lessons learned (e.g., Mapleton is well managed; progress comes through prioritization; citizen engagement varies – and that’s okay), I decided that was more for my “Dear Diary” than for the citizens. Instead, I present to you three things I wish our citizens all knew:
Watch the State of the City Address
Given in March, Mayor Dallas Hakes reviewed accomplishments, challenges, and opportunities for the City. Whether you are a constant critic or an engaged enthusiast, take the initiative to learn this fundamental information. The straightforward update will also reinforce the City’s commitment to transparency – it isn’t all rainbows and puppies, folks (but there sure are a lot of rainbows and puppies, thankfully). Please watch and share this important once-a-year information found HERE, at the Mapleton City official Facebook page. It’s about 28 minutes, so grab a beverage and pull up a chair.
Understand the Wastewater Treatment Plant Situation
Currently, Mapleton owns 26% of the operations for the Spanish Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant. New requirements from the State Division of Water Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency are resulting in upgrades or total replacements to treatment plants across the State. The 50-year-old Spanish Fork Plant is outdated and has inadequate capacity to support the growth of both cities. As such, a replacement is required. The replacement is estimated to cost $80M, $20M of which is Mapleton’s portion. We are currently working through multiple scenarios to ensure a win-win for both cities and citizens. No matter the scenario, however, a fee increase will occur.
The unfortunate aspect for those of us who have to cast votes is that citizens will not likely observe any improvements to service: your toilets will still flush, but won’t magically become self-cleaning. Throughout the process, we have considered our citizens and their needs, including those on fixed incomes, those with smaller households, those with larger households, and our large senior population. For some, this will be painful. We know that and are working to find the best option. As of our Council meeting yesterday (4.15.2020), it looks like there is a potential solution that I’d consider a huge win. I’m hoping our summer rate increase (about July 1) will be no more than $10 per month (per connection) and that future annual increases will be comparable until we hit a maximum rate that’ll carry us until the facility is paid off. (As a note of consideration, we are currently one of the lowest rates in the State at $25.45 per month.) I also support publishing a 5-year fee schedule to provide advance notice for citizens who would benefit from advanced notice and as a measure of transparency. I expect this will also occur.
While it’s hard to be in this position, it’s is something we must do; now, though, our responsibility rests in finding the best financing model for our city and citizens. I believe we’ll get there. Meanwhile, what our citizens can do to support this initiative is to understand the cost of municipal services, accept the “must-do” reality of the situation, and begin identifying strategies to accommodate a fee increase for their household monthly budgets.
(Also, it would be helpful if no one brings rotten fruit to throw at the Council. Perhaps that’s another reason Zoom is beneficial.)
Learn About Optimal Street Degradation Schedules
Okay, so I like the phrase “optimal street degradation schedules.” As I’ve learned more about this subject, what I’ve come to love is that this term reflects the City’s transition from an often-reactive street maintenance strategy to proactive, long-term strategy driven by data science and enhanced by technology. Steven Lord, our Public Works Director and City Engineer, has put on his magic sorting hat and is finalizing a streets master plan that includes the assessment and grading of every street in Mapleton, goals for maintenance, and identification of in which year each maintenance strategy is applied to each street. By following this plan, we could effectively add up to 20 years to the life of each street, saving us millions of dollars over time.
We anticipate a major investment (potentially $6M) to get the entire city to the optimal maintenance level and we would like to tackle this within the next few years. In fact, last month we approved a historic $1.4M investment in our streets for the 2019-2020 fiscal year (maintenance to be completed by June 30; check out the interactive 2020 street maintenance map here.). Our approach to funding this investment was through conservative routes that protect our reserves, too. In addition to improving the long-term strategy, this plan maximizes the use of each tax dollar and responds to the citizen requests (including those documented through the recent survey) supporting investment in our streets.
So, what can our citizens do to support this effort? Give Public Works an elbow-five if you’re ever able to get within six feet of them. This is a positive step for – literally – generations.
Finally, since this is my “100 Days” blog, I wanted to include two of the most personal observations during my brief service:
It’s a tough job and I love it.
I’ve invested hundreds of hours in City work over the last few months. It has challenged me, brought out every emotion, and made me question myself one too many times. Yet, the biggest conflict for me is how much I love it – I want to work on all the things and with all the people – so finding a balance with family, work, and other responsibilities is difficult at times.
Service is at our core.
I’ve been in dozens of committee meetings to see how our citizens, elected officials, and staff take on challenges, create beautiful opportunities to enhance relationships and culture, and give generously of their time and other resources. What we have here is amazing and my gratitude and love for our neighbors grow all the time. We need you – thank you!
After a long day of work, I look forward to picking up my son from daycare at Lollipop’s. Because he loves to explore, nearly each day we choose different roads to meander around town on our way home. This works out well for us; he tells me about his day and eats snacks while I learn more about the state of our roads.
Earlier this summer, we both noticed something interesting. It seemed to be that, city-wide, there were an increased quantity of lemonade stands. At nearly-four-years-old, Lukas is old enough to understand what they are and seeks down as many “lem-ade stands” as possible. (I’ve learned I must keep a stash of coins on me just for this purpose!)
So, we stop.
We don’t stop just because I’m afraid my son will melt down if we don’t (although that lingering threat is always in the air), we stop because I love lemonade stands. I love the nostalgia of the lemonade stand that harkens back to my own childhood. It represents innocence and neighbors, safety and joy. These days, it represents Mapleton.
As an adult, I see the classic lemonade stand for even more than I did as a child. A lemonade stand shows creativity, entrepreneurialism, goal-setting, and resilience. I’ve purchased many non-lemonade products at our neighborhood stands where mini-Fiizes pop up to include flavored sodas and homemade cookies. I’ve seen supply-and-demand drive up prices on hot days. I’ve watched kids save for new scooters by learning how to increase margins and calculate earnings. Similarly, I’ve seen kids disappointed as their sign-waving proves ineffective while another car drives on by, but who also get right back up to flag down someone else. (These are the kids that don’t settle for participation trophies!)
These things also represent Mapleton.
We are creative and entrepreneurial in our problem-solving. We are goal-oriented in how we want our city to feel and function. And, we are resilient in the face of crisis and conflict: we unite to support each other and our children…and our parents.
While this isn’t my usual factoid-grounded blog, I felt that after this past weekend and with the conviction I have for preserving the feeling of our community that there is no greater message I would want to share today.
Thank you for valuing people above all else, for passionately planning for our futures, and, of course, thank you for your lemonade stands.
These three words have impressed me as I’ve interviewed over 100 people as part of my preparation to serve on the City Council. While I’ve focused primarily on infrastructure on previous blogs, I want to draw attention to these words that mean so much to our City and towards the values we’d like to sustain as we grow.
Hard Work & Service
Founded on the backs of homesteaders, Mapleton has a rich cultural history of hard work and service. Settlers arrived to the Union Bench area in the mid-1800s and Mapleton City was incorporated in 1948. We’ve managed to retain those cultural nuances that both celebrate our heritage and grow our futures. Our challenge is to determine how best to continue this legacy – this feeling – through a period of dramatic growth.
It’s said that culture eats strategy for breakfast. As a strategist, I’ve consulted with dozens of businesses and organizations to discover this is only a partial truth. In fact, the best strategies deliberately address culture in their planning. For example, you cannot simply wish for a service-oriented environment; rather, you must build in behaviors that model the desired outcomes and budget accordingly. Therefore, culture AND strategy are breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Investing in Culture & Community
We must be deliberate in integrating strategies which support our culture, heritage, and community. If we value the safe, small-town environment and the friendly atmosphere, we need to have measurable outcomes which demonstrate that commitment. For example, we’re coming up on our biggest event of the year with our day-long Pioneer Day celebrations. This day alone is evidence of those original cultural values – hard work and service. Hundreds of volunteers, tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of in-kind and cash donations, and thousands of attendees unite to celebrate our culture, heritage, and community. Most important are the connections we make and renew which increase our affection for our neighbors and bolster our pride in the community.
We see other strategic initiatives related to these priorities in our Parks and Recreation department, which is constantly working to add and improve services, our Music in the Park series, historic homes, museum, our Historical Society, et cetera. As funding permits, I would support additional investments in the arts, such as increasing the display of local artwork in and around public facilities and cost-effective community arts and music classes in the community center.
Historic Town Square
One project in which I’m particularly interested is the Mapleton Historic Town Square. This project, which is designed to honor our founding citizens and educate our community, is an opportunity for us to rally together once more through hard work and service. Our Historical Society has obtained significant government support (courtesy of Representative Francis Gibson’s efforts) and donations to build the Town Square, yet more is needed. An additional $150,000 and hundreds of volunteers will complete the vision for this project, which project I believe represents our efforts to sustain those three precious words: culture, heritage, community.
So, save the date for Saturday, September 7 from 4-8PM for the Mapleton Historic Town Square fundraising event and Founders Day celebration. There will be an old fashioned barn raising, dinners, shopping, silent and live auction, dancing, and more. This will be a wonderful family and community event.
In addition to attending, the Historical Society needs support in the following:
- Donations from individuals and businesses for the silent and live auctions.
- Cash donations.
- Artifact donations (period pieces to be displayed).
For more information or to donate, contact Mary Fojtek at 801.589.0929 or email@example.com.
Our positive culture, heritage, and community are priceless. However, I encourage our city leadership to continue investing in related initiatives to ensure our future citizens may enjoy the service-oriented, hardworking atmosphere that we currently enjoy.
Finally, if you haven’t gotten a chance to learn about our rich heritage, check out the 2015 Mapleton photo publication by April Clawson and Kjirstin Youngberg. (You’ll feel a whole new sense of community!)
For several weeks, an increasing amount of time in my visits with Mapleton residents has been occupied by discussions regarding the state of water in our City. Conversation topics included the following: pressurized irrigation (PI), ditch irrigation, culinary water, water rights, adequacy of water, water pressure, water sources, ponds, wells, Hobble Creek usage, recreational water, water conservation, water equity, cost of water, water regulations, water metering, water mapping, certificated water, Strawberry water, water deeding, Mapleton Water District ownership versus Mapleton City ownership, investing in water, independent pressurized systems, water zones, and the list goes on. (Seriously. This was just off the top of my head. Hang in there, there is a bullet list coming up!)
I’m pretty sure you get my point on this one.
Realizing my C+ understanding of our complex water issues was inadequate, I sought City Engineer Steven Lord. Now, if you haven’t met Steven Lord, you’re missing out. Like the other City employees with whom I’ve spoken, he is a delightful mix of approachability and expertise. A quick wit and underlying humility quickly endeared me to him and, as such, he has been the unfortunate recipient of likely far-too-many emails (honorable mentions also go to Camille Brown, Cory Branch, and Sean Conroy).
Like Drinking from a Fire Hose
After organizing my thoughts, I spent another hour with Steven this week for a crash course in Mapleton water. The most important thing I’d share with citizens is that the City completed in October 2018 and externally-contracted Water Resources Master Plan. Basically, this is a 74 page document that tells us the history, current state, and future needs to ensure water adequacy through build-out (estimated at about 29,000 residents in 2016). The report is found on the Mapleton City Public Works website or, directly, here. However, after meeting with Steven and reviewing the report, I’m going to translate some highlights into a Cliffs Notes version that will hopefully provide some education and direct questions to existing resources.
20 Things I Learned About Water This Week
- We have a current Water Master Plan. The Plan provides recommendations to correct deficiencies, improve connectivity, and expand the systems to accommodate growth. There are great long-term strategies reaching six years, 10 years, and through total buildout (anticipated 2061).
- Mapleton Water District and Mapleton City are not the same. The District gets the PI water, the City delivers it to citizens.
- Our culinary system is good. It is “…in good condition and provides adequate pressures in accordance with the requirements of UAC R309-510.” (Bonus: Fire suppression flows and pressures also meet requirements.)
- Recent changes on water rights distribution = good for some people. Historically, water rights have been tied to an exact geographic pinpoint; new regulations give water rights to a broader area. This can be good for people who want to develop their own land by providing more flexibility to the development at a cost savings.
- Dry pipe – it’s in there. Dry pipe for pressurized irrigation has been required of developers since 1998.
- Bye, bye canals. To improve water conservation and in conjunction with planned development, the Plan recommends elimination of the canal/ditch system and flood irrigation over time.
- Minimum requirements cover big houses. The minimum requirement for residential fire flow and residential development is 2000 gpm, which covers up to a 6200 square foot home.
- We meet PSI requirements. Subdivisions developed after January 1, 2007 are required to have at least 40 psi during peak day demand; we meet and exceed that.
- Changing to PI may require updated sprinkler systems. Not enough pressure to your sprinklers? Try updating your sprinkler system to heads appropriate for PI.
- PI and gravity aren’t friends. We have a lot of hillsides we can’t develop and 355 developable acres on the east bench that are too high for the City’s pressurized irrigation; they’ll have to stay on culinary water. (There are about 230 acres elsewhere that can’t connect to the City’s PI either.)
- Get the PI done, but it might take a decade. The master plan repeatedly emphasizes the importance of completing the pressurized irrigation project – “If the pressurized irrigation system is not fully developed according to the recommendations of this report, the culinary system will need to provide additional water for outdoor uses. For this reason, timely and full development of the proposed pressurized irrigation system is critical to the success of the culinary water system as analyzed in this master plan.”
- Developers must bring water to the table. Mapleton City Code (17.24.080) is where the City requires developers to dedicate water rights to the City adequate to satisfy anticipated water needs of a proposed development. This MUST be sustained to ensure sufficient water.
- More sources, please. New sources of water are needed to increase reliability and address growth, including wells, which should begin the approvals processes immediately (approvals take a while). A storage reservoir and a new water source to supply the reservoir were recommended for Harmony Ridge/Mapleton Village/Twin Hollow/Preserve.
- Emergency storage is good… for now. If PI isn’t built-out, additional storage will be required to provide emergency storage (even if the emergency storage isn’t mandated by the State, it’s our goal to have it for at least a day; the pond holds two days of peak storage requirements already). Keep the bond full for a storage buffer!
- Bigger, better pipes. There are lots of specific recommendations to increase existing pipe sizes and increase future size requirements.
- Salamanders suck. Salamanders and algae are messing up the PI pumps and plugging filters. Fixing the issues is difficult, but would save on maintenance and increase stability. Large-month bass, aeration, and chemical algaecides are potential considerations. (Maybe we should rethink that old hatchery initiative!)
- PI priorities are trunk lines. The “trunks” include priority buildouts by 2024 of Maple, Slant, 800 S, 1600 S, 800 W and by 2018 of 1600 W, 800 W, Main, 1200 N, Dogwood/1200 E/800 E/1100 S, and 1600 S. (The lack of adequate trunk lines is why we can’t get over to Harvest Park – there isn’t enough pressure or flow in what we currently have in our narrow pipes.)
- Details, details, details. Priorities, timelines, and costs are provided on pages 61-66.
- Priorities may change. The plan gives priority recommendations, but also cautions us to consider the priorities as the situations change.
- Show me the money. None of this will happen without funding. We’re currently maintaining our systems adequately – our rates cover our expenses – but we can’t grow services without additional capital (even existing matching grants would require we have skin in the game – we don’t have it). Bonding and fees are the quickest way to cash, both are common practices, but are highly controversial. (Perhaps if we can diversify our funding sources with additional commercial development in appropriate areas, statewide tax reform, and reallocating funds from high property taxes to water investments, the citizens can end up with a net zero without bonding or fees. A girl can dream, right?)
After meetings and research, I’d like to think my Mapleton Water 101 grade is now at least a B+. I hope this information has been helpful for you as well – don’t forget to check out the awesome maps below, too (click to get to the larger files)!
Disclaimer: Please refer to the Plan itself and consult with your personal engineer to validate accuracy of these statements. Better yet, give Steven a visit. (You’ll definitely learn something – and enjoy it!)
This week I had the opportunity to participate in the Agriculture and Open Space workgroup associated with the Valley Visioning project (through Envision Utah and the Utah County Association of Chambers). The purpose of the workgroup was to consider existing data and community feedback to evaluate potential agriculture and open-space scenarios for the next several decades. I joined the workgroup because of my desire to understand the opportunities and strategies to preserve beautiful communities such as ours as well as better understand Utah’s reliance on externally grown food. I am no agriculture expert!
One of the most important resources associated with understanding the state of agriculture is the Utah County Agriculture Toolbox. (I encourage you to read more here!) The Toolbox provides a sophisticated analysis that includes dozens of strategies and addresses threats to success. Two goals addressed by the Toolbox are:
- Work to make and keep agriculture economically and socially viable in Utah County.
- Encourage development patterns and implement measures that support agricultural land and water resources.
Both of the goals were addressed in the workshop and with consideration for population growth we’re anticipating through 2060. One fundamental question was whether we should grow west or south.
Without the context of geography, topography, and soil science, the answers are more difficult. However, we know that the central and southern end of Utah County includes prime land for producing niche, marketable, and needed crops. For example, hillsides that provide air flow and drainage are excellent for apple production. Yet, you won’t find a successful apple orchard in western Utah County anytime soon. Considering where our land best solves known problems is important in our long-term planning. In this example, it seems obvious that the majority of development should occur on the west side of Utah Lake where the land is less viable for farming these specialty crops.
Hobby farms that grow alfalfa do not solve our self-sufficiency issues. We raise plenty of proteins in Utah, yet we produce well below 10% of the fruits and vegetables we’d need should we no longer be able to import from places like California and Mexico. As a state that prides itself on self-sufficiency (both at the state level and in our own homes), adequacy of agricultural space and the designation of how that space is used are important conversations.
That brings up several other scenarios associated with the first goal. First, we value the rights of property owners. No farmer should be forced to keep land that he can no longer farm, isn’t interested in farming, and, potentially, for which his own children are likewise no interested in farming. However, if there were stronger economic models that incentivized current and future farmers, would that change the social attitude and interests about being a farmer? Would we create new farmers if they perceived a good living would accompany their hard work? Use of conservation easements, designated greenbelts, enhanced technology, improved water resources, and increased awareness across the citizenry are strategies that may support the emergence of a new generation of farmers. Farming which is supported by technology and science, and which is respected by the State and advocated by the community, is essential to Utah’s future.
Regarding the second goal, effective use of transferrable development rights (TDRs), as has been demonstrated in Mapleton, prioritizes the preservation and conservation of strategic lands. However, this is a model that has not been effective in many local communities; in fact, this might be something about which Mapleton may educate other municipalities throughout Utah! Complicated as they may be, having the intention set on open spaces empowers city leaders to make decisions consistent with community values. (TDRs for the win!) Additionally, every city should identify priority land that needs to be preserve for agricultural use or open space. Likewise, cities should ensure alignment between their general plan and zoning maps that respect best practices for growth.
In Mapleton, we have some citizens concerned about higher density developments destroying our beautiful views and gobbling up our open spaces. An interesting case study to watch is with the unique PD-1 zone for Mapleton Village through which we’ll have some high density residencies in a designated cluster and then the majority of the acreage are larger single-family lots. The unique angle is that this zone requires a generous 35% total open space. Providing flexibility for developers may, in fact, reduce suburban sprawl and preserve larger open spaces for us to enjoy. Many residents may feel having a home on every third or half acre is “sprawl” – yet, if we understand our zones, we see our residential zones don’t actually require open space – the PD-1, while allowing higher density, requires that 35% and which is achieved through master planning. For some, this may be a question on what is the lesser of the evils; for others this is perceived as an excellent approach to sustaining the “feel” that brought us all here in the first place. Where do you stand?
I’m interested to get your feedback on these topics! What are your thoughts on agriculture and open space? How should we address these in Mapleton to preserve the small-town feel we love?
Each morning, I hear several killdeer rehearsing their repertoire along 1200 West. These ground-nesting birds fascinate me with their effective use of injury-feigning display to distract would-be maliciousness from their nests. My first encounter with a killdeer sucked me in – I truly believed that mama had a broken wing and that I needed to intervene. When I realized she wasn’t injured and Googled to understand her motives, my concerned turned to respect. This was a visual display of Darwinism.
So, what does this have to do with tax reform?
Firstly, it’s essential to understand the situation to develop an appropriate response. Had I attempted to care for the killdeer, I might have done more harm. Similarly, jumping into tax reform without understanding the situation may, too, result in ineffective solutions and unintended consequences.
Secondly, like the impressive diversion created by the feigned injury, tax reform is an area of controversy and complexity through which agendas and lobbying are ever-present. If we respect one another and our shared goals in society, we receive the killdeer’s message and step away from the vicinity of the nest. If not, we deviously revel in our awareness that her behaviors actually result in the nest temporary abandonment – an ideal time to strike.
Thirdly, tax reform itself – done poorly – may serve a Darwinian role to the economy. Likewise, so, too, may the lack of tax reform.
Regardless of whether you buy the analogy, understanding the situation, acknowledging its controversy and complexity, and being ever-diligent in using data to model effective outcomes prior to changing law are three critical aspects of this process.
Now, for the specifics.
Utah’s tax code is extremely outdated and, although we’re an economically sound state and recognized for our effective financial management, the money isn’t flowing into or out of the right buckets. For example, current law (written in the 1980s) places a large emphasis on sales of goods. However, consumers in the 2010s purchase more services than goods. As such, we see insufficient revenue in our general fund. However, we have an income surplus. Fundamentally, the “robbing Peter to pay Paul” scenario applies in Utah.
Other factors beyond goods and services models that influence our current dilemma include increasing demands on the general fund that accompany increases in population (e.g., air quality, Medicaid, homelessness) and our own choices to reduce food taxes and increase exemptions and earmarks.
An interesting point made by Commissioner John Valentine at the enlightening Bold Ideas on Tax Reform Workshop that I attended this week (through the Public Policy Committee of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce) was regarding the impact of technology on tax code. Technology has changed the delivery of goods to the extent that they’ve become lesser-taxable services. Valentine’s example presented the evolution of movies – purchasing a ticket or downloading a movie results in sales tax; however, streaming the same movie results in no sales tax.
In Mapleton, we understand an urgency to diversify our tax base. This is no different than the wisdom in an individual diversifying an investment portfolio. In the City’s case, this includes filling designated commercial zones (primarily along Highway 89). In my meetings with community members, there has been some concern expressed that we’re too small for retail and services (such as medical offices) do not contribute as significantly. Would a tax reform that broadens the tax base without increasing overall taxes be a potential help for our City’s portfolio? (Yep.)
At the Workshop, potential solutions currently being modeled and some new ideas were discussed, some of which would require a State Constitution modification. Among these conversations included: raising taxes, eliminating exemptions and earmarks, increasing sales tax on groceries and/or services, changing the allocations for income and/or property taxes, and reducing non-taxable federal lands.
One thing I’ve repeatedly said is that win or lose, the process of running for office has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life (and I’m just getting started). The knowledge I’ve gained and people I’ve met are irreplaceable. However, one thing has become abundantly clear and that is this: all politics are local politics. If you don’t think tax reform will impact our community or you personally, consider the examples I’ve noted here – it gets a bit personal, right?
If you’re interested in getting involved, the State Tax Commission is calling for feedback and ideas. Visit the website at https://tax.utah.gov/ for information on all-things-tax, reach out to them at https://tax.utah.gov/contact, or reach out directly to Commissioner Valentine at firstname.lastname@example.org.