Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Palmer to residents - let's talk

Developing Palmer-area businesses like the Pioneer Square Shopping Center
 was one of four goals the city council approved Tuesday. 

What are your top priorities for Palmer? Drop us a line. The Post is always interesting in communicating with the people of Palmer. So, apparently, is the city council. 

Two of the four priorities selected by the council during a Tuesday night goal-setting session centered on community outreach: improving customer service as well as communications between the city and the community. The other two priorities are recreational opportunities and retail/business development. 

Mayor DeLena Johnson convened the session. The Mat-Su Borough held a similar one in late December. A facilitator helped council members winnow down their favorites by giving each member three votes to put behind the priorities they liked. The top four won out. 

“These are goals,” city manager Doug Griffin told the Post on Wednesday. “Now it’s laid on me and my directors and city employees as a whole to come back with what objectives and action plans we have to implement these goals.”  

Basically, the community outreach piece boils down to the city doing a better job telling taxpayers where their money goes. Much of the city’s business centers on day-to-day operations -- water and sewer, garbage collection, roads. But most taxpayers don’t actually run across a city employee unless something goes wrong. They geta speeding ticket, or get a call from a bill collector for an overdue notice. A few council members reported going to Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce meetings only to be asked just what the city is doing these days, Griffin said.

The retail-boosting piece has been a local priority for years. And the city can use a stronger tax base. But city government walks a fine line when it comes to getting involved with business, said deputy mayor Richard Best. “You want to support your current businesses, you want to encourage growth,” Best said. “On the other hand, some folks don’t want to see big box stores come in.”

Developers have expressed the desire for Palmer to expand its footprint so they can take advantage of city utilities and the resulting lower insurance premiums, Best said. Some citizens want the city to help market the former Carrs building, and the council would like to see it filled, but it’s privately owned by Carr Gottstein Properties. 

“So its their choice to leave it empty or not,” he said. 

The recreation piece, which also includes library services, is a bit tricky too, Griffin noted. The city has no parks and recreation department and just finished a bunch of budget cuts. But the city does have a number of recreational facilities, including the expanding MTA Events Center - completion is now due in March, after initially being promised last fall - and the golf course. A new recreation and trails master plan is nearly done. The goal involves streamlining these resources, Griffin said. 

So what do you think? Are these your priorities for Palmer? The city is all ears. 

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