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[Editor's note: This is the second of a three-part series in which Mesquite Mayor Mark Wier discusses issues facing the City with the Mesquite Citizen Journal. See MCJ story Mesquite Mayor Celebrates First Year-Part I-Video Part III of this interview will conclude tomorrow with an in-depth discussion of the proposed Gold Butte National Conservation Area with Wilderness designation.]
During an interview with the Mesquite Citizen Journal, Mayor Mark Wier discussed a wide range of issues that he and the Mesquite City Council have tackled over his first year in office. This segment of the interview includes Wier's thoughts and opinions on business licensing and fees, the downtown corridor, the proposed indoor sports/event center, and other issues.
Business Fees and Processes
Wier stated during his State of the City address in January that he wanted to tackle the myriad of fees charged to businesses in Mesquite. The MCJ interview picked back up on the issue.
"We need to restructure our business licensing fees and the whole program," Wier proclaimed. "We need to look at the gross revenue fee. I don't like it. That is something that is a penalty to being successful. It really bothers me that we would try to be 'business-friendly' and then say 'by the way, if you make more money, we're going to charge you more to be here.' That doesn't make any sense."
"My focus for the next year is going to be on getting those things done. We need to focus on whether our processes are working right. Is it a smooth sail to come in and get a license? Is it easy? Is it affordable?"
He referred to recent opinion columns in the Mesquite Citizen Journal when he rhetorically asked, "are we getting out of the way?"
"That's what we need to do. We need to get out of the way."
Wier mentioned that the liquor licensing fees had been restructured to spread the high cost over a period of time, making it easier for a business to obtain one. "We're working on the rest. Obviously, Council is going to have to make a decision. I've put the issue out there."
"Where's the incentive to come here as a business," he asked.
"I don't see an issue at all with spreading the impact fees over time. We've done it with one, we can certainly do it with others. Will that take a burden off of business? You bet it will. Will it make it easier for a business to start a business here? Yes it will."
"Laura Woolsley is one of the best unsung heroes that's been hired by the City," Wier said about the Business License Specialist who was hired at the beginning of the year. "Staff knows those are some goals that I want to address. We'll have the discussions, I guarantee that. It will be Council's choice about how to do that."
"I have a very strong opinion about the gross revenue fee and have never made a secret of that.
Downtown Corridor Revitalization
The discussion turned to improving the appearance of the 'downtown' corridor of Mesquite and Sandhill Blvds.
"In this instance, the carrot will work better than the stick," Wier remarked. "We've tried regulating this. We've had downtown corridor studies."
He mentioned that some property owners were given a choice to join the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) tax program or not. "I personally thought that was a bad move. We should have just said, 'you're now in the RDA.' Some people now outside the RDA wish they were in the RDA."
"We did a downtown study a couple years ago when they brought in the professionals and spent about $250,000 on a plan that would have added another level of regulation, in my opinion, to the land that's already here. I disagree with doing that," he said.
"I see the result every day when I drive or walk the Boulevard of the result of regulation. We have grandfathered in buildings that are not going to change because it costs them [property owners] more money. So they leave it alone unless someone else comes in and buys it and then they can change it. If we add another layer of regulation you will price most people out of it. If it's more expensive to develop a building downtown, they're not going to come here. They're going to go to the outside areas where it's less expensive."
Referring to another opinion column on the MCJ, Wier continued saying, "one of the things that bothered us about the last study, which led us to start the Mesquite Community Development Corporation, was that it eventually called for 90 percent of the buildings in that area to be removed."
He explained that under the study, "you would have to build your buildings a certain way, you would have to change the way the water drains because all the buildings would be brought up to the front of the street and parking would all be in the back."
Wier commented that no one had studied the cost differential of constructing a building under the current regulations as opposed to the proposed, stricter, regulations. "They never had an answer for that."
"Am I concerned about how that area looks," Wier asked rhetorically. "You bet I am. We've had RDA funds available for years. I believe we've had less than 10 people apply for RDA funding."
Explaining that there could be a couple reasons for that, he said, "is the City putting it out there? Do people have any knowledge of these programs? I've been speaking with
Aaron Baker [Interim Economic Development Officer] about how we're going to use the funds that are available."
He clarified that while the RDA bond fund had $2.5 million left, "we also have tax increment funding that we can use. Why don't we get that out there? We're going to. We need to hold a couple of town hall meetings with the people that are affected by the programs. I would love to see the buildings all get new facades. I would love to see paint put on buildings that need it."
"We need to have other buildings removed. But, I am not going to go 'eminent domain.' I think that's wrong. Taking someone's land is not something I will do. I won't support it," Wier stated.
"We need to fully support getting the word out about these programs. Give the [businesses] a deadline, show them what to do, and move forward," he said. "We need to reinvest in the businesses that are here. They've taken a chance. They've been here. They've paid taxes."
Wier added that "I understand wanting to bring new businesses in. But right now, a lot of businesses aren't moving. How do we keep the businesses here and keep them healthy. That's a question business owners have to answer. But we need to make some changes in how we do business."
"We'll find a way to beautify the City of Mesquite. We've spent $8, $10, $12 million dollars now in RDA funds and the downtown corridor hasn't changed a bit," Wier lamented.
He retracted that statement a bit and used the General Store, on the corner of Mesquite and Sandhill Blvds as a "shining example of what RDA funds can do. That is just an amazing process. Hopefully, we'll cut a lot of the bureaucracy out of the way and just get it done."
"I'll say it here now. If you have something you want to do with your building in the downtown corridor, talk to Aaron Baker. Let's get moving with this."
Proposed Indoor Sports/Event Center
About six months ago, the Mesquite City Council approved the issuance of a Request for Proposal for designing an Indoor Sports/Event Center. The RFP has not yet been issued.
"I just looked at the RFP and it will be going out shortly. That needs to get done. Council has spoken," Wier stated.
For clarification, he was referring to the RFP itself and not necessarily the actual construction of the Event Center. "All we're doing at this point is investing some money in [proposed] designs.
"The design is basically going to be for the area up at the current Mesquite Sports and Events Complex. The design can be used anywhere."
When asked if he and the Council would consider alternate locations for the Center, he explained that if the RFP is issued now for locations other than the MSEC, "we would have to do the entire process all over again."
"We can certainly use whatever designs are done for up there for another location. We're not held to that location."
Wier also clarified that the RFP criteria calls for multi-use designs of the facility.
Since the original RFP issuance was approved, St. George, UT, announced that a multi-million dollar sports complex, including an enclosed soccer facility, was under construction near the new airport.
Wier spoke about the impact of that on Mesquite's proposed sports complex.
"We could look at it this way; we shouldn't put anymore hotels here because they have lots of hotels in St. George. We have parks, they have parks. People still want to come to Mesquite. We offer a few things St. George never will."
"That could [impact the proposal]. We need to look at all the details. If it's affordable and workable, I'll support it. The only way to know that is to take a look at it," he said.
He also addressed the question of operating and maintenance funding for the complex. "Whether or not it's affordable, whether or not it's going to work for the City, will come out when we finally have designs. We have to at least investigate what it is we're trying to accomplish. It has to make financial sense. Either it does or it doesn't and we move forward."
Wier mentioned that he had met with representatives of the REAL professional soccer team from Salt Lake City, UT. "They came out and looked at our soccer field. They said it was incredible." Wier went on to say that they had discussed the possibility of holding try-out and training camps in Mesquite. "Hopefully we can continue working with them and keep that moving forward."
Recently the Council approved for further exploration the idea of a public-private economic development function, tentatively called the Mesquite Regional Business, Inc.
The proposed function has not yet received any funding from the City. "They are moving forward with creating the by-laws and picking the Board of Directors that would be a part of that," Wier explained.
In October, 2011, the Redevelopment Agency Board, basically the City Council, rejected an amended re-payment schedule offered to it by Barcelona Partners, LLC, for a $2.5 million loan made to the company in 2009. Since then, no public discussion has taken place regarding the issue.
"We gave direction to the Legal Staff to investigate different areas that they could go for legal issues and to possibly discuss with Solstice and the partners, payment plans and ways to get the money back. We are working with them. There is some back and forth. There's been some contact recently and we're continuing to look at that. We're trying to make a decision that's best for the taxpayers in Mesquite."
Posted Date: 07/12/2012 The mayor is probably doing all he can within what he's got to work with. For example, the new city manager recently said that rundown building across from Maverik will be burned down by the fire department and the property cleaned up. It seems the city has a city code chapter 3 to enforce things like that. As for the MISC, people are suspicious because it's always Utah, Utah, Utah getting the benefit while Mesquite people get the bill. It needs better explaining. Maybe design it around little league instead of soccer would help and take it out of the hands of bryan dangerfield, he has ruined his own reputation and no one trusts him. Overall, good job Mayor. And glad the MCJ is doing great public service like this to help us be a better, more informed city. By: Sharon
Posted Date: 07/12/2012 One thing everyone in our Community must accept and make contingencies for is the probability that the entire Country is in a protracted economic downturn.
Every Municipality in America is trying to attract new business and grow revenue, putting Mesquite is in direct competition with all of them. Regionally, Stockton, Vallejo and San Bernardino California have declared bankruptcy. Stockton had it's projects along the waterfront, we had our Solstice and Desert Falls. Our top priority must be to make sure that is the only similarity. This is not to suggest we stop trying, but to be very careful not to spend more money to attract business (through incentives, tax abatements and OTHER ideas) than will ever be returned in tax revenues. By: Andrew Newcom
Posted Date: 07/12/2012 I really like this mayor. He seems honest, although not necessarily always forthcoming. He hasn't come right out and said whether he supports or opposes the soccer tent. It also sounds like he wants to give tax breaks to existing businesses without trying to bring in new businesses. That model simply won't work. We need to lower the license fees for everyone -- that's inarguable. But the only way that move doesn't break the city's financial back is if you have new businesses moving in. Remember, the idea of lowering the price is to increase volume (the Walmart model of price low and sell a ton of 'em). If we lower the price but don't bring in new businesses, all we're doing is cutting our throats. Bringing in new business is a MUST. And the argument that "nobody is moving" is hogwash. Just visit St. George and see all the new businesses (including big box and chain stores) that are going in. Businesses are out there, and they want to expand, but we have to ask. We have to court them. We have to wine and dine them. Whisper in their ear. I'm sure Mayor Wier will figure that out. He's a good man, and I sincerely believe he's trying for our community. By: Marcus