TWIN FALLS — A strategic plan update approved this year brings new emphasis to workforce development, housing availability and the pursuit of a recreation center in Twin Falls.
Those were a few of the key points Mayor Shawn Barigar highlighted in Tuesday’s State of the City address at the Orpheum Theatre. This year’s message included comments from City Council members and city staff, and it was hosted by the Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce.
The city’s strategic plan serves as a guiding document for budgetary and planning decisions moving forward, but it’s also up to city staff to help make these goals happen.
“We all function as a team to help you, the citizens,” Barigar said as he acknowledged city staff members attending the ceremony.
The City Council first adopted the strategic plan in 2013, and staff and consultants spent most of 2017 gathering public input for an update. The latest update was adopted in March.
Each speaker addressed one of the focus areas in the plan, and some measure the city is taking to see it through.
The city can help foster a healthy community with projects such as the Canyon Rim Trail, Barigar said, but many of the 230 residents surveyed asked for a community recreation center.
An ad hoc committee formed last year and is working with architectural firms to study the needs for a recreation center, Vice Mayor Nikki Boyd said. If viable, the center could be designed for community recreation, classroom learning and other uses.
“As a team, I believe we’re going to build a long-range, sustainable community center that we’re all going to use,” Boyd said.
In the past, Barigar said, the city has largely overlooked the Twin Falls Public Library as a community learning center. But this strategic plan relies more on the library as a partner.
Under new leadership, the library has increased membership by 10 percent and programming by 25 percent, City Councilwoman Suzanne Hawkins said. These programs include things such as veterans services and recycling education.
“They’ve reached every age group in our community,” she said.
In 2017, the city finished moving its police department into a newly remodeled office space. Now, Barigar said, the focus is on the city’s fire stations.
The city has two firms working on a plan to meet fire service needs over the next 35 to 40 years, Deputy City Manager Brian Pike said.
“At this point, we’ve had a review and analysis of all of our stations,” he said.
After a harsh winter in 2017, city roads had $12 million worth of road damage, Barigar said. Reserve and emergency road funds have been helpful with repairs, including one ongoing project at Eastland Road North and Pole Line Road East.
This year, the city’s master transportation plan update will address a plan for sidewalks, Barigar said.
Councilman Chris Talkington spoke about the Magic Valley Regional Airport, which expanded its terminal last year and recently added a fourth flight to Salt Lake City. The airport also has a $4 million taxiway project that should be completed in the next two months.
“We have great expectations at some time to be able to have a connector going west, instead of everything to Salt Lake and east,” Talkington said.
City Manager Travis Rothweiler also addressed the city’s plans to develop a metropolitan planning organization to assist in a regional transportation planning effort. The formation of an MPO will likely be federally mandated after the 2020 Census when Twin Falls and Kimberly are estimated to have a combined population of more than 50,000.
The city has made great strides in conserving drinking water, Talkington said. Peak water usage has gone from 33.5 million gallons per day in 2003 to 25 million gallons per day since the city began using pressurized irrigation on lawns.
“We started a secondary water system to take care of the non-potable parts of our water (use),” he said.
He believes there’s still a long way to go, however, in educating people about not wasting water.
“Probably the easiest conservation is behind us,” Talkington said.
Urban Renewal Agency Executive Director Nathan Murray talked about the downtown commons plaza, expected to open July 7 at Main Avenue East and Hansen Street East. He also brought up the URA board’s decision Monday to demolish the Idaho Youth Ranch building across the street to make way for a $6 million investment downtown.
“I appreciate the amount of response and thoughtful dialogue that happened,” he said.
Twin Falls continues to have a responsibility to be welcoming to new residents, Barigar said. But the city is also working to find better ways to communicate.
One of these will be through a new archway and electronic message board over Shoshone Street at the City Park. The city had an art contest for designs and settled on one that resembles the I.B. Perrine Bridge spanning the canyon.
“The option selected actually was a combination of two different designs,” City Councilwoman Ruth Pierce said.
The archway committee and Twin Falls Community Foundation have raised $139,000 of $225,000 needed for the archway, she said.
Donations can be made at twinfallscommunityfoundation.org.