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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Cottonwood Heights mayor issues first state of the city address

Feb 29, 2024 01:45PM ● By Cassie Goff

Cottonwood Heights continues to be a 'no-kill' animal shelter city. With the help of animal control officers, CHPD finds "forever homes or placements for unclaimed pets," said Mayor Weichers. (Beatriz Mayorga/Cottonwood Heights)

Cottonwood Heights Mayor Mike Weichers called on the city’s residents to: focus on driving cautiously by adhering to all traffic laws; discourage crime by watching out for neighbors and reporting suspicious activity; and to contact legislature representative to ask them where they stand on any legislation that threatens local authority of cities.  

These pleas for resident involvement were only part of the state of the city address delivered on Feb. 13 by Weichers.

“The state of (Cottonwood Heights) is strong and sound,” Weichers said. 

Weichers summarized the city’s achievements over the past year to a crowd of over 80 attendees including: Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, Salt Lake County Councilmember Ann Granato, State Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion, Canyons School District Board of Trustees Member Amber Shill, former Cottonwood Heights City Councilmembers, current city staff members and department heads, city committee leaders, volunteers and city residents. 

Over 90 residents volunteer on the city’s various boards, commissions, programs and projects (many of which were in attendance as well). Weichers recognized all of these local leaders and impassioned residents before detailing some reasons why the city is currently in a strong position. 

“Volunteers serve quietly and without fanfare, yet their impact for good is immeasurable,” Weichers said. “Our community is so much stronger because of the great service of our residents and their attitude of volunteerism.”

The current councilmembers of the Cottonwood Heights City Council believe it is one of their prime responsibilities to create and maintain the city’s budget. 

“The city is financially secure,” Weichers said.

Unique for 2023, the city was issued a $13,157,000 bond for purchasing the Hillside Plaza area. Even with last year’s expenditures, the 2023 General Fund ending balance was $9,474,275 (which represents 34.3% of the city’s budgeted revenues). Entering the 2024 fiscal year, the city has approximately $7,075,971 in reserve ready to be budgeted and spent on various city projects and programs.   

Weichers boasted that the city’s Finance and Administration Department has received the Distinguished Budget Presentation award for 16 consecutive years, along with the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for 11 consecutive years. 

Weichers mentioned that the city is one out of only two municipalities in Salt Lake County to not raise the property tax rate within the last five years, noting the inflationary environment of the last two years as well. 

“We were one of only two municipalities to not raise the property tax rate within the next five years even within the inflationary environment within the last two years,” Weichers said.

The Public Works Department remained busy managing and maintaining the city’s infrastructure during 2023. The Public Works team surveyed 2,779 manholes, collected 650 tons of debris while street sweeping, repaired 4,180 potholes, cleaned 4,387 storm drain grates, raised 172 storm drain manholes (that had been covered before the city’s incorporation), and applied 1,972,386 square feet of slurry seal improvements. 

The Public Works Team also applied for and received grants for: the installation of a HAWK light on Fort Union Boulevard near Bella Vista Elementary School; enhancements for crossing Bengal Boulevard near Brighton High School; a $600,000 grant for the construction of a pedestrian trail project on Highland Drive; and $500,000 for the construction of a pedestrian trail project on Bengal Boulevard.

During 2023, a variety of road enhancements throughout the city were finished, sidewalk improvements along 2700 East were completed, the new Ferguson Park was constructed, the Prospector Drive storm drain waterway project was underway, and the reconstruction project for the Big Cottonwood Canyon Trail was completed. 

A new Public Works building is under construction with plans to finish by this spring. The new building will allow for better and more salt storage, which the team believes will lead to an expeditated response in snow removal during the winter. 

“Our Information Technology (IT) staff continues to exceed expectations in keeping us safe,” remarked Weichers. 

The last year came with increased training and implementation of cybersecurity measures to protect the city. 

Over 2023, the Community and Economic Development Team reviewed 60 land use applications, 829 building permits and 71 Design Review Committee (DRC) requests. In addition, they conducted 2,116 site and project inspections. 

The Community and Economic Development team also revised the Sensitive Land Ordinance within the city’s code, received two planning grants to develop a master plan for the Hillside Plaza area and to conduct a feasibility analysis for expanding the East Jordan Canal Trail. 

Wiechers praised the accomplishments and collaborations with the city’s emergency management team, business association, planning commission, architectural review commission, human resources department, arts council, planning staff and Butlerville Days Committee. 

“The Cottonwood Police Department has continued to be one of the most effective public safety organizations in the state,” Weichers said.

He explained that the officers continue to work closely with the community to foster trust and build/maintain relationships. The officers undergo specialized training with regards to intervention response to people with autism spectrum disorder and mental illnesses. 

A licensed clinical social worker was brought in to provide counseling services to the police staff including offering instruction to develop mental toughness and resilience, working through strategies for maintaining family health, offering strategies for identifying and combatting depression and anxiety, and building coping patterns for burnout and compassion fatigue. 

The council recently decided to expand the department by dedicating a traffic safety of four new full-time officers focused on traffic management and enforcement of traffic-related incidents. The goal is quicker response to resident-related complaints. 

“This initiative aims to enhance the safety of both motorized and nonmotorized forms of transportation. The unit will bring a heightened focus to anyone driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as well as inspections for commercial vehicles driving within city limits,” Weichers said.

Weichers emphasized the training the officers go through for exercises with the community’s schools to maximizing response time and efforts. He wants to ensure the schoolchildren’s parents that the city is putting a lot of effort in to ensure the schools are as safe as possible. 

The CHPD’s K9 program is one of the best ranked in Utah. They took first place in narcotics detection last year. 

Weichers acknowledged the firefighters and representatives from UFA for their timely responses to pedestrian and auto efforts. 

“Their heroism has saved many lives and the city is blessed by fortitude and courage,” he said. 

Weichers also expressed gratitude for the entities that partner with the city including: Canyons School District, the Cottonwood Heights Parks and Recreation Service Area, Salt Lake City Public Utilities, Cottonwood Improvement District, the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District, Holladay Justice Court, the South Valley Chamber of Commerce, Salt Lake County and the State of Utah.

Looking forward into 2024, the city council will be reviewing their priorities of: continuing to find ways to improve road safety and enhance pedestrian protection; continuing to support the city’s public safety efforts; building a tax base through effective, economic development efforts; finalizing a vision for future redevelopment of the Hillside Plaza area, enhancing continuous improvement and efficiency in city work; facilitating planning processes to formulate and adopt an updated general plan; continuing to work strategically and methodically through the budget process to be effective and efficient in the use of taxpayer dollars; working to secure additional funding to maintain existing infrastructure, and continuing to preserve and enhance existing trails and open space areas. λ