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Mayor: City weathered some tough issues
From animal control to public transit, the city of Yuma has weathered some tough issues over the past year or so but is the better for it, says Mayor Al Krieger.
Animal control was an emotional topic for a lot of people, he observed, one that the Yuma City Council got more than one earful about. It was an issue that had been 20 years overdue for a solution, the mayor maintained.
Effective Jan. 1, the city took on animal control, only to find it was more costly than anticipated.
“But the problem was much bigger than we thought,” Krieger said. “It's only fair we give it a chance.”
As for public transit, after a bumpy ride and reforms that included forming the Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority to take over management, Yuma County Area Transit again began serving city residents in January after a year's absence.
“YCAT is now moving along pretty well,” said Krieger, who had been an outspoken critic of the previous management of the system, saying it was inefficient and too costly.
Krieger said with the new organization and under the direction of John Andoh, YCAT is back on track and ridership is up 10,000 per month on average. The system is also in the black with a small reserve.
“It was loud and messy, but today we have a much better system,” Krieger said.
One of his campaign pledges was to address graffiti, he noted, calling the city's anti-graffiti program a success. But it will require continued vigilance on the part of city residents.
The mayor also noted with pride that the City of Yuma, the airplane flown in an endurance flight in 1949, now has a permanent home aloft in the lobby of Yuma City Hall.
The flight was undertaken by the Yuma Jaycees to call attention to Yuma's year-round good flying weather in hopes the military would reopen the air base here after World War II. Today, the installation is home to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and bustles with both military and civilian flights.
Krieger said the aircraft is a symbol of the “can do” spirit of the flight's organizers. He hopes it continues to be a source of pride in the community and inspiration to future generations.
The city is still dealing with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality on some issues, Krieger said, but the new rules aren't as severe as first expected.
“They're working with us on special events that impact air quality.”
And the city's Figueroa Avenue Wastewater Treatment Facility has been permitted for another five years. Addition of a colonia neighborhood to the plant put it at 80 percent capacity, usually the trigger for needed improvements, he said, “but we currently meet requirements.”
Krieger noted that the city's CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) program has done a good job in 2012, and 21 households now have access to decent housing and another seven people were assisted with purchasing homes or small businesses.
But Krieger would like to see much more done to rehabilitate deteriorating housing in the city.
“I want to work to formulate a plan to replace our aging housing stock. If we don't start talking about it today, nothing happens. I think we can work with developers and offer incentives to help rebuild housing.”
That's both old, rundown abandoned houses and vacant lots. In the process, he would like see the new housing be more energy efficient to help offset the cost of the replacement homes.
“We have to find a way to help ourselves.”
Krieger also would like to see some attention brought to the outlying areas of the metropolitan area, including the Foothills, to ensure they have adequate services and infrastructure. “We need to knit our community together.”
Another thing Krieger would like to see is the city and its quasi-public entities going to natural gas-powered vehicles.
“It's the cheapest, most available fuel we have. It's plentiful, efficient and economical.”
One unfinished issue for the year is curbside recycling, he noted.
“There's no harm in taking a little more time to make sure it's appropriate. The city's responsibility is to make sure it's not done in a chaotic way.
“I'm not opposed to it, but I am opposed to the city getting into it too deeply. … The private sector needs to carry the burden.”
Krieger concluded that he wants a priority-based budget, based on real needs of the community and not wants. “Our priority is to create jobs and generate revenue.”