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Celebrating success, focused on Covington's goals
Covington has much to celebrate in recent months as well as a half dozen goals to focus on in the coming year.
Mayor Margaret Harto and City Manager Derek Matheson gave the Covington Chamber of Commerce the annual state of the city address at the monthly luncheon Sept. 12 with the review of the city’s accomplishments providing an upbeat big picture while outlining the city’s goals for the short term and well into the future.
Harto pointed out the hard work of the staff as well as Matheson’s longevity in his position before going over three highlights for Covington in the past year.
“This year we really do have reason to celebrate,” Harto said. “We know because we made some really careful, deliberate decisions at the front of the last four years. We can now celebrate because the economic climate has changed — we can feel it, we know it and we’re moving with it.”
Harto lauded the efforts of the 47th District legislators Rep. Pat Sullivan, State Sen. Joe Fain and Rep. Mark Hargrove to find money in the budget for city projects. At the Sept. 10 City Council meeting, Harto said, the legislators told the elected officials they recognized a sense of community and collaborative effort toward a common vision which is not found in every city.
Harto celebrated the completion of the first phase of Covington Community Park. She also pointed to the transportation benefit district the City Council created earlier this year in an effort to generate more revenue.
“No matter who we surveyed, the No. 1 topic was transportation,” Harto said. “We’re going to be seeking funding in November to help take care of those transportation projects and the transportation infrastructure that we have.”
Voters will be asked to approve a sales tax increase from 8.6 percent to 8.8 percent to fill the coffers of the city’s street fund. If approved it could generate as much as $750,000 a year. At this point the street fund is expected to be short $56,000 this year.
The city’s general fund, which is also tight, subsidizes the street fund at $250,000 a year. A significant chunk of the city’s annual $9 million budget, about $3 million, goes to Covington’s police contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office.
Because money is shifted regularly from the general fund to the street fund to cover road maintenance programs Covington has not added to its police force despite the fact it has fewer officers on average than other contract cities in the county.
Among the six goals Matheson addressed during the state of the city presentation was municipal services, which includes the efforts to create a TBD to bolster the street fund, as well as highlighted plans to move forward with a variety of projects, work on the city’s comprehensive plan update planned for 2014, the city’s unique and fruitful partnerships with neighboring cities Black Diamond and Maple Valley as well as the fact the state auditor’s office looked over Covington’s books and there were no issues raised during the annual audit.
“Our vision, mission and goals serve as guiding principles for our city,” Matheson said. “As we continue to evolve and progress we can always look to the council goals to confirm we are on the right path to achieve our vision.”
The first goal Matheson talked about related to the city’s plan for its town center, followed by economic development, services for youth and families, neighborhoods, municipal services and customer service.
Matheson pointed to the work done so far on the Hawk Property subarea plan as well as the efforts by the Covington Economic Development Council in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce on a branding campaign.
As far as youth and family services, Matheson said, elected officials and city staff are pleased with the Covington Days festival in July which was planned in about four months but thanks to hard work by staff led to a significant increase in attendance, among other highlights. Additionally the second annual Covington Summer Concert Series saw its attendance double and Covington KidsFest was popular even among families from outside of the city. Finally attendance at the Covington Aquatic Center’s eight special events have increased by 25 percent from 2012 to this year.
Covington Community Park was a significant accomplishment in the neighborhoods category.
“As many of you know, this park has been a long, long time in the making,” Matheson said. “We just received a legislative grant of $2.1 million to start work on phase two.”
Plus the soccer field just opened up to play which is the culmination of a year-long process to plant and grow the grass. Beyond the park, Matheson said, the city worked to get a variety of other neighborhood projects taken care of and staff are now seeking out grants for the bridge and other elements in need of work at Jenkins Creek Park. He also pointed the high level of engagement at seven different neighborhood gatherings in early August for National Night Out.
As far as customer service, a survey conducted during the spring showed that an overwhelming number of residents who responded gave the city As and Bs, Matheson said. The staff, however, is always looking to improve. To that end upgraded technology was put in place recently which has moved field reports from pen and paper to electronic means which helped make the work more efficient.
Overall, Matheson said, the city made significant progress in the past year and will continue to work toward achieving other goals in the coming year and beyond.
“It’s very easy for anyone, for us to profess a mission, vision and goals,” Matheson said. “We experience roadblocks often, so we approach everything we do with our thinking caps on. Our vision is to achieve an unmatched quality of life but we’re fortunate to have unmatched individuals to accomplish that.”