By Mayor Trent Staggs
I am honored to stand in front of you and provide an update on our beautiful city of Riverton.
I must preface my address by commenting on how refreshing it is to once again have an in-person event – I think we can all agree this beats another boring online meeting.
I would also like to thank a number of individuals, who have contributed so greatly to the current state of our city.
First, a big thank you to our Riverton City Council members Sheldon Stewart, Troy McDougal, Tawnee McCay, Tish Buroker and Claude Wells for their hard work and dedication in helping to create a vision that will lead Riverton into the future for years to come.
Thank you to our first responders, active service and veteran members of the armed forces for their service and sacrifices. You are the reason our republic still stands today. You are the shield that keeps our community safe. We will forever be in your debt for your devotion and protection of our God-given rights of life, liberty and property.
Thank you to our exceptionally hard-working employees who work day-in and day-out to make the elected officials look good and keep our city services operating efficiently. Our employees are first-class and I’d be hard pressed to find a more united, dedicated and experienced staff anywhere else in the state.
Special thanks to our state elected officials and school board members. You’re contributions to our community do not go unnoticed – we appreciate the hard work and dedication you demonstrate on behalf of all of your constituents.
I’d like to thank the South Valley Chamber and their new CEO Jay Francis for their continued partnership. During this historic pandemic, the South Valley Chamber was instrumental in helping businesses apply for federal and state funding though the various COVID-19 relief funds.
And, a huge “thank you” to all our residents, faith-based and volunteer organizations that make Riverton such an amazing place to live, work and play.
Over the last several months, we have heard from many organizations on the wide-ranging effects of COVID-19. It is no secret that this global pandemic has been taxing on the economy, local communities, businesses and everyday people.
We have seen entire industries shut down, businesses close, social gatherings get canceled and seen changes in the way we celebrate holidays with family and friends.
Coretta Scot King once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
Over the last year we have seen what true strength and compassion looks like. In the face of these challenges I’ve never seen a more resolved and united Riverton.
We’ve seen our very own Riverton Hospital move into overdrive and become a forward operating base in the fight against COVID-19. Nurses, doctors, caretakers and other healthcare providers have spent many sleepless nights protecting the lives of our most vulnerable.
Our amazing teachers have been forced to modify how they teach in order to continue the education of our youth.
In the face of increased state and county regulations and health orders, our business community has modified the way they operate in order to keep employees and customers safe.
Most importantly, our residents have answered the call to care for family, friends and neighbors. They’ve provided meals to those in need, donated time and money to local charities, frequented businesses and restaurants to keep them open, and performed hundreds of hours of community service, all while complying with state and county government mandated health orders.
Through all the challenges faced this year, I’ve never been more impressed and proud of this incredible community. You are resilient. You are fighters. And from the bottom of my heart and with the deepest gratitude, I want to thank the entire Riverton community for your bravery and courage.
2021 marks the last year of my first term in office as Riverton Mayor. As I look back on my first term, I can’t help but recount my initial purpose in running for this position.
- I wanted to ensure Riverton City was taking adequate steps to properly plan for the future.
- I wanted to create a culture of fiscal responsibility and protect residents from unnecessary tax and fee increases.
- With a business and entrepreneur background, I wanted to use my experience to help elected officials and staff think outside the box and innovate the services we provide and how we provide them.
Fast-forward three years and our city is strong, prosperous and growing and I am extremely proud of the progress we have made.
Over these last three years we have strengthened our relationships with neighboring cities, along with state and county leaders.
For the first time, Riverton and cities in the southwest portion of Salt Lake County have decided to collaboratively work together on a framework to address current and future challenges related to growth. This collaboration has given our often-neglected corner of the county a strong, united voice with the ability to make real change.
Fiscally, I am proud to tout that Riverton City has not administered a single net fee utility increase since 2014 and we continue to have the lowest utility fees compared to our neighbors Bluffdale, South Jordan, West Jordan, Draper, Lehi and Herriman.
Year after year our strong and diverse staff continues to keep our city running. Not only that, we prove time and time again that we can do more with less. As of today, our full-time employee count is 2.6 per 1000 residents, which is one of the lowest, if not the lowest in the county.
While we can do more with less, Riverton will continue to experience growth over the next ten years as we approach the build-out of our city. That is why we must be willing to find innovative ways to provide services, cut costs and regulations and strategically plan for the future.
At this time, I would like to share with you some of our major accomplishments from 2020:
The Riverton Police Department completed their first full year of service. Not only have they worked diligently to generate positive citizen-officer interactions and a high level of service in meeting the needs of our residents; under the leadership of Chief Don Hutson, our police department has been a first mover on multiple progressive policies.
In June, following national events and circumstances regarding police use of force and racism, Chief Hutson and I received numerous requests about our own Riverton police department policies. We were able to tell inquirers that we had already instituted, from the outset, policies and initiatives in regard to use of force, body cameras, anti-bias policy and training, hiring practices and the complaint process which truly demonstrate equitable policing in our community.
Chief Hutson and I also announced the launch of the Citizen’s Police Academy. This will be a special opportunity to introduce community members to the operations of the police department, while helping the police department to more fully integrate and build a relationship based on trust.
In November, all 35 sworn officers in the Riverton Police Department completed in-depth training on how to interact with individuals with autism. This training is just another example of proactive steps taken by RPD to ensure they are properly trained to handle any challenge or situation that arises.
Financially, the move to leave the Salt Lake Valley Law Enforcement Service Area over three years ago now and create the Riverton Law Enforcement Service Area has been wildly successfully. Our financial team has reported that this move has cumulatively saved Riverton taxpayers over $4.1 million dollars in the last three years alone. In addition, we have seen approximately $3.1 million dollars in value added through the reclamation of the police building and the addition of nine (9) new officers for the very same price as the 26 officers we were allotted under Unified Police.
We are very proud of the Riverton Police Department and look forward to their future success in protecting our residents and preserving the standing of our beautiful city as a great place to live, work and play.
Last year we announced the city’s plan to replace the Unified Fire Service Area (UFSA) with our very own taxing district for fire and emergency medical services. As of January 2021, we are now utilizing our own Riverton Fire Service Area (RFSA) to pay for services provided by Unified Fire Authority.
With UFSA’s intention to bond for millions of dollars in the next few years to pay for new fire stations in communities outside Riverton, city officials felt it would be fiscally irresponsible to make Riverton residents pay additional taxes for services that will never directly benefit them.
Not only do we fully expect this move to save Riverton taxpayers millions in future years, we have already seen immediate benefits from the reclamation of the three fire stations in Riverton at a valuation of $6.6 million dollars. Yet another example of how elected officials are working to innovatively deliver essential services; ensuring the highest quality of service at the lowest possible cost.
We continue to be very pleased with the work that Unified Fire Authority, and especially the firefighters who serve in our city, do for our community.
While many communities are financially struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic, Riverton’s fiscally conservative principles and vision have allowed for an upward growth in revenues, steady drop in unemployment and faster than expected recovery.
We have seen an upward trend in building permits, sales tax revenues and population growth.
Last year our commercial building footprint grew by 520,000 square feet. Since 2013, our once small-town Riverton has added 1.8 million square feet of commercial space. This growth is mainly being seen in our western commercial district near Mountain View Village.
In addition to construction beginning on Mountain View Village phase 2, in June we were able to share the exciting news that Costco Wholesale had announced Riverton as their next store location. With site preparation already underway, this store located at the northeast corner of 13200 S and Mountain View Corridor, is scheduled to be opened in 2022 and will include a 160,000 square foot warehouse and gas station.
Along with increased commercial building permits, residential permits have increased by 2,048 units since 2013, and our total utility connections reached 10.4 thousand.
To keep up with this growth we have advanced our focus on connectivity and infrastructure. Last year we began construction of Old Liberty Way at 4150 W and 4050 W, which will provide a more local roadway between 12600 and 13400.
UDOT also started construction of a freeway-style interchange at Bangerter Highway and 12600 S. Once completed, there will be a significant decrease in travel time along both the east-west and north-south connections.
Now, let us talk about sales tax revenues.
In the spring of 2020, Salt Lake County and other government entities estimated there would be a drastic decrease in sales tax revenues due to the pandemic. Following their lead, we modestly estimated Riverton’s sales tax revenues would come in around $7.5 million dollars for FY 2020.
I am proud to report that we have exceeded those expectations, having our most successful year in history. In FY2020, we saw sales tax revenues hit $8.3 million dollars, which is a 10% increase from 2019. Looking forward, we are also on track to have another great year in fiscal year 2021.
The growth in sales tax revenues continues to show the economic vitality of our city and reflects the overall success that businesses are seeing even in the face of this historic pandemic. Increases in sales tax revenues continues to help us maintain a 0.00% city property tax and keep fees lower than our neighboring cities, if not the lowest in the county.
The economic growth we saw in 2020 is exciting. It shows just how attractive our city has become as both a place to do business and as a place to live.
With that said, parts of our business community are still trying to recover from the pandemic and the multitude of state, county and health department regulations forced upon them.
As a community our greatest asset will always be our people. As Mayor, it is my responsibility to look out for the well-being and safety of all Riverton residents, while at the same time guarding their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve been very vocal about the need for elected officials to protect the health of our communities while also preserving the right of all people to work. Protecting lives and livelihoods. With the multitude of state, county and health department regulations forced upon businesses, this has proven extremely difficult for many industries.
In an attempt to mitigate the effects of these regulations and to support our local business community, I introduced the Riverton Economic Recovery Initiative last April.
This successful initiative consisted of:
- An extension of the $0 business license fee.
- Approval of temporary signage for businesses
- An Eat Local campaign
- A Virtual Business Roundtable
- The Business Blitz
Last month I penned a letter to Governor Cox, County Mayor Wilson and their respective health departments. The purpose was to ask them to begin rolling back regulations as the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more available.
As a follow-up campaign, earlier this month we unveiled the “Local First” initiative to support our business community.
The goal of this campaign will be to educate residents on the benefits to our community of buying local and to encourage residents to support businesses in Riverton when and wherever possible.
Local First Utah has reported that $0.55 of every dollar spent locally stays in the local economy. Through this campaign we hope to motivate our 45,000 + residents to shop, spend and buy local to support our businesses.
I implore each of you to also do your part to think local and keep and eye out for our various “Local First” contests, giveaways and other developments with this initiative as they come out periodically over the course of this year.
While we have accomplished so much over the last year, there is still much work and future planning to be done.
Over the next 10 years, our western commercial district, anchored by Mountain View Village and Costco, will see significant changes.
We are currently creating a vision to redesign the downtown area near City Hall and our beautiful Riverton City Park. We have conducted visioning and planning efforts in this area and have begun the process of designating portions of it as a Community Reinvestment Area. I envision what can become a destination place, highlighted with monument signage, commercial office, pedestrian friendly retail, and sit-down dining options that maintain and incorporate the unique character and history of our city. Efforts are also underway to work with the county on improvements to the county golf course facilities, and also with the Riverton Arts Council on modifications to our community center and auditorium. All of these initiatives will enhance and revitalize the downtown area.
Water will remain a valuable resource that we must protect. We are actively working on a long-term solution to re-engage some of our well assets to produce clean water that is equal to or better than the quality currently received from the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District. This will cut costs for taxpayers and limit our dependence on the conservancy district for water.
Not only do we need to increase roadway and transportation infrastructure, it is time we begin looking at ways to invest in broadband connectivity and infrastructure.
In this modern era, and if this pandemic has demonstrated anything, municipalities like Riverton must view broadband as an essential service and ensure that this service is available to all residents.
Whether this is through city owned infrastructure or a public-private partnership, now is the time to find a solution that is realistic and cost-effective.
With endless potential for future prosperity, now is the time to be forward-thinking, seek out new opportunities, and find new and innovative solutions to the challenges we face.
New growth will bring about new opportunities and challenges. If we can pull through and accomplish so much during a year like 2020, then there should be no limit to what we can accomplish this year and in years to come. Let us remember our resolve in 2020, to help us push past future challenges and harness the potential of new opportunities. I’ve said this before and I will say this again, more than ever before our city is financially secure, safe and prepared for the future.
Elected officials do not hold all of the answers and we should not act as if we do. We should continue to listen, learn and lean on our exceptional community partners, business leaders and residents. Your input and voice is greatly appreciated as we begin to rebuild and move on from this pandemic.
Together we can and we will create a more prosperous and better tomorrow.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the City of Riverton.