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Business Issues Dominate Mayor's Town Hall-Video
Posting Date: 07/27/2012
By Barbara Ellestad
A small group of Mesquite citizens attend Mayor Wier's Town Hall meeting, July 26. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.
"As Mayor, I've been meeting with different business groups, developers, restauranteurs, real estate agents, retail stores, and others," over the last year Mayor Mark Wier explained to a small group of Mesquite residents Thursday morning, July 26, at his Town Hall meeting.
"When we were running for office, the buzz words were 'make us business friendly,'" Wier explained, adding that he had asked each industry group a few basic questions. "I thought it would be important to talk to all the businesses to see what they thought."
He said the questions ranged from what people wanted from City government to what their biggest complaint was about the City. Wier said the best answer he got from all the groups was "let's do something and stop just talking about it."
"We're moving forward on business license fees and impact fees in September," Wier advised the group. The City Council restructured the liquor license fee in the Spring, stretching it out over several payments rather than requiring it be paid in one lump sum upfront. "We're moving ahead on impact fees so that they can be paid over time also."
Wier explained later in the meeting that he had met with Overton Power District and the Virgin Valley Water District to discuss the impact fees they also charge new businesses. "We all understand at this point that we all need to take some steps to make it easier for businesses to get here. Paying those impact fees over time as opposed to a big lump sum makes a lot more sense. They are going to work with their respective Boards and hopefully we'll all come together and make this thing happen."
"We're going to look at the gross revenue portion of business licensing. We'll talk to Staff to see how we can work some things out," he continued. Wier has long been a foe of taxing businesses on their gross revenues saying that it punished people who were successful and increased their sales, thereby increasing their taxes.
"We have some business licenses that we are charging a whole lot of money for that we need to cut back on," Wier added. The City charges variable license fees based on business categories.
"Everybody in town hated the fact that they couldn't get a human being on the other end of the (telephone) line," when they called City Hall. "Thanks to Mr. Barton (City Manager) I think we have that solved." Barton announced at his Citizen's Coffee last week that City Staff made arrangements to have a person answer the phones rather than have it go to an automated system.
Wier also discussed the situation of City Hall being closed on Fridays. In July 2011 then-Interim City Manager Kurt Sawyer announced that staff offices would only be open four days a week as a cost-cutting measure. During the May budget hearings this year, it was revealed that the four-day work week did not save money over the past year. Barton announced in June that the primary reason City Hall was closed on Fridays stemmed from union negotiations last year when Staff took a reduction in the number of working hours per week.
"We're really not saving a whole lot of money. Right now, with the contracts we have with our different unions, we have to work through those. We'll negotiate next year with all of our unions about getting at least a skeleton crew here on Fridays," Wier explained.
"Basically, we want to make it simple and get out of the way," he remarked.
Barton took the floor and announced that he planned to conduct "an independent analysis of our departments," in the coming years. He wants to hire an outside agency to analyze work flows and processes in each area of City Hall, beginning with Development Services. That department includes business licensing, planning, and building services.
"We can find out what's working and what isn't. I would make whatever changes are necessary to facilitate the mission as being business friendly," Barton explained. "I want to do one department a year so there isn't too much tumult in the organization. That doesn't mean they are doing anything wrong. But there are probably things we could be doing better. The things we aren't doing so well we can minimize or do away with."
Barton echoed Wier's words about either lowering business license and impact fees or making it easier for businesses to pay over time. He added that he intends to do more customer service training for City Staff.
"I also intend to do a survey of citizens' attitudes towards municipal services," Barton continued, saying it would probably occur next year. "The feedback we get is usually very frank. We will be told in short order what we're doing right and what we aren't."
Wier explained that the privatization of the Economic Development office was moving forward. "That's one of the important steps that we've made so far," in bringing in new businesses.
In response to a question from the audience, Wier explained that the Mesquite campus of the College of Southern Nevada was one of the greatest assets the City has. "They will bring in any type of training that we need."
He added that the City needs to diversify the type of businesses locating to Mesquite and not rely solely on gaming, tourism, and construction. "We all know where construction is right now. And, tourism has changed. The golden days of casinos are pretty much gone," he continued, explaining that gaming had spread to almost every state in the nation.
Wier commented that in the short term he would like to see more events scheduled to bring in tourists. He later explained that the State economic development director suggested Mesquite focus on bringing in distribution-type businesses and expand health care-related businesses.
"Mayor, if you could make one change, what would it be," Sandra Ramaker, a member of the audience, asked Wier.
"Have you stop calling me Mayor," he quipped.
Turning serious, he explained "I would want this to move faster. Being the person I am I want things done as quickly as possible. Being a political person now, I have to go through the processes."
Returning to the topic of new businesses coming into Mesquite, Wier explained that he wants to focus on smaller companies with 25 to 40 employees rather than very large companies.
When an audience member suggested working to bring in a retail outlet mall, Wier said the City had explored that possibility in the past. "We are constantly looking" for something like that. "That would bring more people off the freeway."
When the subject of a branding slogan came up in the audience discussion, Aaron Baker, Interim Economic Development Director, explained that the City was working with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority (LVCVA) to develop a new marketing slogan that would appeal to visitors and not necessarily residents. "We can try to do it, but we don't have any money to do it. If we can leverage the money we get from LVCVA, and the relationship and the expertise already in place with them, that's what we're going to do."
He explained the slogan issue has been put on the back burner until the next time the LVCVA revamps the City's tourist-related Web site. "They agreed to allow the City and local businesses to have input into the process. "It's not for the community at large but for the people coming in. Local residents say 'that doesn't resonate with me.' It doesn't have to resonate with you," Baker said. "It has to resonate with people coming in. We can't have a slogan that says we are everything to everyone. We have to have a target."
Posted Date: 07/27/2012 "He wants to hire an outside agency to analyze work flows and processes in each area of City Hall." Really? Another mother-effing consultant? Why can't we just hire someone smart enough to figure these things out? Or just say to hell with it and hire a consultant to be our City Manager? I am sick to death of watching my tax dollars go to out of town "consultants" year after year, while things never seem to get better at City Hall. Mayor Wier is on the right track -- meet with local business owners and citizens. We have some very smart people who live here. It's about time somebody listens to them. Mr. Barton has done some very good things since arriving here, but he MUST break the city of its consultant addiction. This ain't Vegas or Chicago. If they can't figure out how to efficiently do things in a town of just 15,000, then get rid of them and hire someone who can. By: Tyrese
Posted Date: 07/27/2012 I to have thought that bringing an outlet mall here would be great for bringing in business. The closest one is in Vegas. For a town of 15,000 people, you would think there would be more businesses here. I have always lived in towns of 15-20,000 and there have been MANY more services available to the community....more grocery stores for example. By: Allison
Posted Date: 07/27/2012 Brent is right on. I went to a computer convention in Vegas this week with about probably 15,000 people involved. I came from a town the size of Mesquite who built a convention center to draw business. It is an overwhelming success and pulled the city from in debt to making money. Mesquite has two shuttered hotels, one would be a great convention center. I can assure you thousands would come to Mesquite. We need to stop fooling around and do something. Supporting a multi-million dollar sports tent just shows our stupidity. Would we rather have hundreds of visitors or thousands? Think outside the box. By: Brent
Posted Date: 07/27/2012 I think we still got a guy who used to work for the fire department, retired, moved to Utah and now is a consultant for a couple thousands a month that does't do much of anything. By: Kathy
Posted Date: 07/27/2012 I largely agree with you, Tyrese. The makeup of our population, along with and including snowbirds, includes many, many highly experienced and highly talented people who certainly have the capability to assist the City in analyzing and refining the processes at City Hall. These folks have a real interest in seeing Mesquite prosper and many would probably help for free or certainly for much less than an outside consulting firm – and whatever money is spent would stay here in Mesquite! Most of what an outside firm would charge would include the time and expense of “getting to know” the City and it’s individual processes and needs – an expense that would largely be unnecessary for people who are already familiar with Mesquite. As an example, look at the excellent work that has been done by the volunteer committee of experienced and capable folks who have developed the plan for a more effective business development process. How much would an “outside consultant” have charged for THAT? The pool of active., retired or semi-retired talent here is a valuable asset – let’s make use of it! By: John Williams
Posted Date: 07/27/2012 Since when do Union contracts tell the city when it can operate? Get them back working Friday's. An Outlet Mall will not work in Mesquite as there is too little money earned and not enough population. People would rather shop in St. George and Las Vegas. You always meet your neighbors there. Wise up. Mesquite is too expensive to have a business. By allowing two casinos to be closed sealed the fate of Mesquite. That will be the legacy of Black Gaming, killing the city of Mesquite by closing two active casinos. Greedy owners. By: ralph
Posted Date: 07/27/2012 Let’s see ralph, first you hate the fact that city employees are unionized and thus have decent wages and fairly negotiated work rules, and then you say that a business won’t work here because the people who live here don’t earn enough? Black Gaming did do the City great harm by his greed, but Randy Black no longer controls or owns much of it and hopefully the new owners (experienced business people) will soon get rid of him. I vote that we try to embrace the new owners and try to engage them in the community. I do not vote for Ralph to be the city manager or the business development manager. By: just sayin2
Posted Date: 07/27/2012 I try to stay positive on the results of these meetings but for goodness sake. We either hire stupid people or expect everyone else to do the job. Aaron Bakers comment basically says he is too dumb to get people together and come up with a workable slogan. LVCVA better do it. We are too stupid here. LVCVA will get around to it whenever they can. If I was a cursing person, I would fill this comment with expetives. Do the job we hired you for. If we need LVCVA, we don't need you. By: Becky
Posted Date: 07/27/2012 Folks, the time for action is now. Opportunity is knocking. Prices are rock bottom. Interest rates are as low as they will ever be. City planners need to grab opportunity while they have the chance. Real estate agents all over the city have been scooping up real estate deals. The city fathers need to stop talking and start acting. Messing around with a million dollar soccer tent in a senior citizen retirement community is folly and even worse, stupidity. By: Kent
Posted Date: 07/27/2012 Sometimes, it makes me wonder what we are paying SOME of these employees for. By: June
Posted Date: 07/28/2012 If these committees have such difficulty do the obvious, then "we the people" have to do it. By: Vic M
Posted Date: 07/28/2012 Kathy...you would be WRONG! Check your facts before spouting off. By: Sherry
Posted Date: 07/28/2012 There is a city in Texas off of Route 66 called Midpoint. This city has refurbished all their old buildings from the 40's, 50's and 60's and made them look like they were just built but with the 40's, 50's and 60's theme. There are signs off of Route 66 directing people to this fascinating city of time gone by. Mesquite could do the same with the old cafe, Harley's garage, etc. Maybe a group of citizens can get together and restore one or two of these old buildings or maybe federal funding? Also, I remember when busloads of foreigners would come to Mesquite on their way to/from Vegas and stop at the Oasis buffet. Now they stop at Chuck A Rama in St George!!! Too bad we don't have a place like Ethel M with a beautiful cactus garden to draw tourists!! By: Esteelouder
Posted Date: 07/28/2012 You really ought to check your facts Kathy. You are wrong or misinformed. By: Sherry
Posted Date: 07/28/2012 Isn't the City Manager already being paid a very good salary to analyze what is and isn't working at City Hall. Why pay an outside consultant to do what the City Manager has been hired to do and is being paid quite well to do. What a waste of money. By: Just Wondering
Posted Date: 07/29/2012 How about Mayor Wier follows the example of Las vegas ex-mayor Oscar Goodman. Have two scantilly clad showgirls go arm-in-arm with him whenever he goes to a public event. By: Idea man