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Wellton overcomes budget challenges to achieve goals
Despite the many budget challenges the east Yuma County community was facing, Town Manager Rodney Rinehart said Wellton came through 2012 pretty well and was even able to move forward on several quality-of-life projects.
“Last year had its challenges in that as far as the budget and operations, it was more of a maintaining situation,” Rinehart said. “Our population and the size of our town has put more demands on our services, especially police and fire. We just did not have much room to go out and make any big purchases or do much of anything.”
In talking about some of the things Wellton was able accomplish last year, even with a weak economy, Rinehart said the town managed to get a few grants to make improvements to its water system, including having a 600,000-gallon water storage tank built.
The town will also be using some Community Development Block Grants it received to add on to its five-block sidewalk system. Rinehart said that once the project is complete, it will connect the Wellton Elementary School to the Yuma County Library.
“We are currently in the design stage of the project, but we have been awarded the grant, so we are moving forward with it. It should be completed within six to eight months.”
Once the school and library have been connected, Rinehart said, the sidewalk will continue along San Jose Avenue to Center Street, leading to the post office and the downtown retail shops, adding another four more blocks to the town's sidewalk system.
“We have a sidewalk system on our main street of Los Angeles Avenue, so this will be in the center of historic Wellton and connect back to into the major domain sidewalk system.”
Town officials and staff also spent a lot of time last year updating its general plan, which is essentially a guide to the city's growth and land use in the area. Rinehart said the town got a grant to do that as well.
Another highlight of last year, according to Rinehart, was that more people called Wellton home. He said while the town's population, currently at 2,882, has grown over the past decade, it is now seeing more retirees becoming year-round residents.
“The town has grown a little bit since our last census. I don't know what the percentage is, but there has been an increase in the number of full-time residents.”
Rinehart said while he is hopeful the economy will continue to get better, the town will still face some challenges in the coming year, such as bringing in new jobs and trying to meet the residents' demands for services on limited revenues.
“In the economic state we are in, trying to maintain our services is something we have to watch closely. We actually see the same going into next year, but we are hoping that some of the revenues will offset the cost of those services.
“We are hoping to see the light at the end of the tunnel and be able to do more with what we have. I think all municipalities are hoping the economy turns around soon.”
Some indicators that things may be getting a bit better in Wellton are an increase in the number of permits applied for and in the number of housing starts. Rinehart said there were five new housing starts alone in the month of November.
He added that the town will also continue looking for any opportunity to employ people.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.