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The City Journals

Cottonwood Heights City Council Review of 2015 and Anticipations for 2016

Jan 04, 2016 01:04PM ● By Bryan Scott

By Cassandra Goff

Cottonwood-Holladay - In honor of the Cottonwood Heights City incorporation on Jan. 14, 2005, the city celebrated its 10th birthday in 2015. Within the past 10 years of being a city, Cottonwood Heights has undergone major remodeling. Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore Jr., Councilman Michael Shelton (District 1) Councilman Scott Bracken (District 2), Councilman Michael Peterson (District 3), Councilman Tee Tyler (District 4) and John Park (City Manager) are proud of the city that they serve and have colossal optimism for the future. 

Salt Lake County built most of Cottonwood Heights’ infrastructure prior to its incorporation as a city. When the city was incorporated, it adopted a “somewhat aging infrastructure” councilmember Tyler said. “We did not anticipate what we found under the roads.” 

Within the last year, the infrastructure has shown its age. During Bengal Boulevard construction, vibrations from the equipment caused water lines to leak which required fast action on the recently completed road. 

Water lines are maintained by Salt Lake City Water, so Cottonwood Heights is “most concerned about storm water lines that we maintain,” Cullimore, who believes that the city should work on a sustainable financial plan for infrastructure needs in the future, said. “We finished mapping our storm water lines and found many more than we originally thought, and many are in need of maintenance.” 

In 2015, Cottonwood Heights gathered many new employees. The city welcomed new staff members including the new finance manager, deputy city manager and multiple police officers. 

City manager John Park is excited about the new Trader Joe’s that recently opened. It’s a “really iconic brand” that “stirs excitement,” he said. 

Butler Elementary began construction as well. The council is excited about the new building’s availability for the next school year. 

Cullimore is excited about signing onto the Mountain Accord in 2015. The “PDD [Planned District Development] ordinance passed” this year in addition, Bracken said, “This will bring the development approval process for the areas the PDD covers into alignment with what most of the public feels the process should be.” 

Within the last 10 years, business within the city has increased. This last year, the city council has been “more attentive to the business community,” which has resulted in the creation of the Cottonwood Heights Business Association (CHBA) according to Cullimore.

Peterson is excited about some “fabulous restaurants” that have entered into the city. The CHBA and the Economic Development Department “have helped publish a marketing magazine, and they have been active in getting the business community involved with the city,” Bracken said. 

For the last few years, the Old Mill has been home to some of the public works equipment. In 2015, Cottonwood Heights was able to acquire a new location for this large equipment. 

“The acquisition of the new public works yard will help to better sustain public works,” Cullimore said. 

Parks and Recreation also had many things happening in 2015, including a groundbreaking on a new Butler playground, which will include new pickleball courts. 

The Historic Committee erected signs around the city indicating important historical events and locations. Peterson hopes to “maintain green space” within the city. 

Mountview Park will receive a “shade structure” in 2016 – ideas and bids are still being discussed. In addition, the “county improved Crestwood Park,” Shelton said. 

Bracken is pleased because the city “installed a pedestrian activated crosswalk signal on 2700 East Toni Cir. This alerts drivers with flashing lights when a pedestrian is using the crosswalk.”

City leaders of Cottonwood Heights are always concerned with the city budget. The city has been “debt free for 10 years,” Cullimore said. 

Fiscal year 2015 was the first year to break that record because the city took out a bond to pay for city hall. However, they have not been forced to “raise property tax” yet, according to Peterson. 

Tyler is pleasantly pleased with “no property tax increase,” considering the challenge of maintaining a city with inflating expenses. The consensus from the council members is that the mayor is especially concerned with not increasing property tax for residents of Cottonwood Heights. 

Butlerville Days is held every year on July 24 in celebration of Pioneer Day. The tradition comes complete with a parade, watermelon drop, pie-eating contest, car show, outdoor entertainment and fireworks. 

In 2015, Butlerville Days was new and improved with the addition of carnival rides, more entertainment and additional food vendors. 

“This year’s city sponsored activities such as Butlerville Days were the best they have ever been,” Shelton said. 

City planners have been composing a draft to remold Fort Union Blvd. within the next few years.  The “visioning of Fort Union” has been a major development, John Park said. “It’s the most important thing we will all leave behind.”

There have been many studies for this project in order to understand the future of the corridor according to Shelton. Cullimore is hopeful for the rejuvenation’s “long term implications.”

The Canyon Centre development, which is located at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon and is roughly 11 acres, is expected to see future advancement. In addition, city leaders have been looking to develop the gravel pit along Wasatch Boulevard for future use. 

“The future is here. The north end is ripe for development,” Park said.

Tyler said the Canyon Centre could be developed into “anything and everything; residential, business, recreation.” 

Transportation is one of the proposed improvements for 2016. The council hopes for internal buses for the canyons, Park said. New park-and-rides are desired after the success of one developed in 2015 at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. 

This will help so there is “less impact on the roads,” Tyler said. 

Cottonwood Heights is working on a new city hall. Drafting, planning, demolition, groundbreaking and construction have all occurred in 2015. Completion is planned for August 2016, and as of December 2015, construction is on track for that date. 

The design of the building has an “enlarged space for a community gathering place,” it won’t “just be an office building, but a meeting place,” Shelton said. 

The city could have “stayed here [at the current city hall location] and paid rent bumps” but they decided to “go out on a limb” by “retiring a bond” so “the city doesn’t have to pay mortgage or rent,” Tyler said. 

Bracken is excited to have “a home for our city administration and police.” Shelton said there is “lots of energy and time” going into this project.

The city council is proud of its strong collaborative working relationships with the Canyons School District, Cottonwood Heights Parks and Recreation Service Area and Salt Lake County. According to Councilman Peterson, they hope to maintain these relationships in the future so they can accomplish more in upcoming years. He also hopes to maintain a strong safety presence through the support of the local police and fire departments. 

The council cherishes the participation and communication of their residents. It really creates the “personality of the city” and a “sense of community,” according to Shelton and Peterson. 

Peterson hopes to stay “open and available for resident communication.” One way to achieve such communication is through the city website, which has undergone changes in 2015. It still needs to be tightened and finished for completion in 2016, which will include a citizen dashboard that residents can visit to voice concerns. 

“Communication through the website [will be] an effective tool,” Cullimore said. 

Scott Bracken and Mike Shelton were re-elected to city council in 2015. 

I’m glad the voters in my district saw fit to allow me to continue to serve. I look forward to another term on the council and hope to maintain the service levels we’ve come to expect while keeping costs down,” Bracken said. 

“It’s a pleasure to serve” and receive “opportunities to stand up for the people who elected me. Being elected again is an honor and more of a privilege than people would know,” Shelton said.  

Shelton also commented on the council functioning as a whole. Any accomplishment, no matter what district it occurs in, is an accomplishment for the whole council he explained. 

This “keeps us from being territorial” Shelton said. “It’s about the whole city,” so decisions will never be unevenly pulled in favor of any district. 

Cottonwood Heights has been partnering with Terracare since 2013. Terracare handles snowplowing during the winter months, as well as pothole repairs, storm drain maintenance and other miscellaneous works in the summer months. 

They “work all summer on weeds, signage and vandalism,” Shelton said. 

“Public safety is a top priority of the council and the citizens. Terracare’s role in that for road maintenance and snow plowing is crucial to understand.” Bracken explained.

Cullimore said the services “have improved dramatically” since those first few storms two years ago. 

“One thing for sure is that they are very responsive to the council’s direction when it comes to service.” Bracken said. 

“The relationship is transforming and evolving,” Cullimore said. 

The city has “a great deal of trust” with Terracare. They have been a “tremendous partner” and they are “still learning,” Park explained. 

Terracare has been providing additional services and training to their employees for better results. The city council and Terracare have even evaluated streets for priority arteries, which include school bus routes.

There have been many discussions about the new priority system during the city council meetings. Council members encourage residents to remember that their street may not be a high priority, so it may not be plowed for a few hours after a storm. 

“No snowplowing can be perfect,” Cullimore said, but he would like to see an average grade of B+ or A- this year.

Volunteers have done much work to help make Cottonwood Heights the city between the canyons. There is “no end to volunteer opportunities,” according to Cullimore. 

Available opportunities include emergency preparedness, arts council, historic committee, city events such as Monster Mash and Butlerville Days, planning commission, coaching, youth city council and Adopt-A-Park. Also, the neighborhood watch is a great way to get involved.

“Butlerville Days alone utilizes almost 200 volunteers,” Bracken said. 

If the city didn’t have volunteers, “you could eliminate half of the things that get done,” Shelton said.

There is a great deal of volunteer work that paid people do as well. According to Shelton, the staff is always “quietly doing simple things.” 

“If you look at all the work and hours done in the city, half of it is volunteers,” Tyler said.

Residents who are interested in volunteering are encouraged to call the city’s events coordinator, and match their interests to the city’s needs.

Peterson is thankful for the passion of the Cottonwood Heights volunteers.

“Nothing builds a community more,” Park said.