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Holladay Journal

Holladay looks toward the next 20 years with '[email protected] Preparing for Tomorrow'

Oct 24, 2019 01:43PM ● By Zak Sonntag

Holladay Village boasts a variety of dining options including Caputo’s, 3 Cups, Tonyburgers and Taqueria 27. (Justin Adams/City Journals)

By Zak Sonntag | [email protected]ournals.com

The year 1999 overflowed with moments of historical importance.

“SpongeBob SquarePants” premiered on Nickelodeon. 

The digital file-sharing company Napster launched and upended our concept of a copyright. 

Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial ended in acquittal. 

And people everywhere redoubled their food storage with anxious vigilance in an overdramatized scenario of potential systemic collapse — aka, Y2K. 

Meanwhile, Utah’s second oldest settlement finally decided, after years of shoestring volunteer efforts, that the time had come to make things official. 

The people of Holladay voted to become a city.

Holladay City celebrated its 20th birthday this year at a September fete that included sing-alongs, giveaway games and, of course, birthday cake.

But mile-markers are also a moment for recalibration, and responsibility comes with age.  

That’s the idea behind [email protected] Preparing for Tomorrow, a multi-year, community-centered project aimed at maintaining the city’s quality of life moving into the future. 

“We need an approach that’s more thought out and responsible. By the time I leave office I want our council to have a clear expectation of what residents expect and how we're going to meet those expectations,” Mayor Robert Dahle said during the project’s first open house held in October at City Hall.

[email protected] is interwoven with a series of ongoing citizen priorities surveys, which continue to narrow in on issues most important to residents. 

So far, one priority in particular seems to stand out: roads and sidewalk improvement

“All you have to do is walk by one of our schools and you’ll see the sidewalks are crumbling. Roads are breaking apart, and I’m safety-conscious so I make my son wear a reflective belt,” said Jermaine V., a former Air Force pilot. “I think that’s a clear starting place where we can improve.”

Other top priorities identified by the surveys include trail system development for walking and running, improved lighting throughout the city and environmentally sustainable buildings.

Yet some of our biggest needs are hiding underground. 

Infrastructure professionals from the firm Lewis & Young inventoried the city’s structural needs and found that one of the city’s biggest vulnerabilities is its drainage system and canals.

“People aren’t generally aware of things like storm drains. And it’s pressing because even though we’re a young city, some of our infrastructure is up to 70 years old. The problem is you don’t realize it’s a problem until it’s too late,” said Jim Wilson, a volunteer citizen advisory committee member.

But maintenance and improvements aren’t free. 

The report from Lewis & Young indicated the city’s unfunded needs totaled $75 million projected over the next 10 years.

“I’m surprised at how much it costs to do something like drains and canals, especially because we don’t see them. The problem with roads is obvious, but you don’t think much about drain systems,” said Sloane Roney, a recent Holladay homeowner.

Even public officials were caught off guard. 

“It is shocking to see how far behind we are. The cost of these unfunded liabilities are big. Our job will be to educate people about how these needs have stacked up and come to an agreement about how to meet them,” Dahle said. 

If the city wants to maintain its standards and improve its aged infrastructure, it will likely need to revamp its traditionally thrifty budgeting practices.

“We’ve been able to survive as a city because we’ve been clever with grants and matching funds from the state and private institutions. But that won’t work forever,” Wilson said.

Holladay’s certified and comparatively low property tax rate leaves little surplus. 

And the closure of the Cottonwood Mall resulted in a significant dip in sales tax revenue. 

Raising new revenues could include things like additional obligation bonds, grants, stormwater fees or a property tax increase.  

“Nobody wants higher taxes. But they want better sidewalks, parks, roads and well-lit streets. Trouble is it’s much more expensive to do remediation than maintenance. So it’d be smart to do something now,” said Allen Eastman, advisory committee member. “Because you don’t realize that a drainage system is messed up until you have a flood. And then it’s a bigger problem.”

The citizen advisory committee will hold additional open houses and solicit resident feedback between now and next spring when it intends to supply the city council with an advisory proposal. 

“If the community decides they don’t want to pay for repairs and they’d rather drive on crumbling roads, then that’s what we’ll do,” Councilmember Paul Fotheringham said.

Much needs to be decided before next year’s budget proceedings. 

But the October open house gave community members a strong sense of confidence in the process.

“I think people are buying into the process. I like that they’re coming to us first and their having a conversation instead of talking at us. They’re saying, we really want your feedback,” Jermaine V., said.

“The [advisory committee] has really helped me understand what’s going on. I took the survey, but now I wonder if I would have answered differently if I’d have known this stuff before. I love Holladay. My family plans on staying here so I want these things to be done right,” Roney said.

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