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The City Journals

Murray Retrospective 2018

Jan 08, 2019 02:40PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray City broke ground for one of downtown’s biggest developments, the new No. 81 Murray Fire Station. (Photo/Rae Delliskave)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” 

                                                                                                                                  ― Greek proverb

If the old Greek adage holds true, then 2018 was clearly a year of planting in Murray. Perhaps the most fertile field is the former brownfields in downtown Murray now slated for redevelopment. Perhaps it is the fertile fields that may grow with investing more into the fire and police corps. Regardless, Murray was tilling ground after a long figurative winter.

“The most important issue in Murray is the growth in this region and its impact on the city’s infrastructure, transportation, housing and neighborhoods. The challenge I see in the upcoming year is maintaining Murray’s unique hometown feel while managing the pressures of growth and development,” said Mayor Blair Camp.

Undeniably, the last large tracts of open farmland are disappearing in Murray. This year real estate developers Ivory Homes, Hamlet Homes and other builders converted open land on Murray’s southwest side into new residential neighborhoods. Large, multilevel residential units are opening in the Murray City Center District along 4800 South and Vine Street. The increase in residents throughout Murray will surely place more burden on city services. 

As part of downtown’s restoration and as a solution to deal with this extra burden being placed on city services, Murray broke ground for a new fire station. 

“I am looking forward to the redevelopment of the Murray City Center District, where we already have a new fire station under construction. Other plans for the area include a civic center and private development,” said Camp. 

“This new station will provide us additional space for personnel and apparatus to better serve our community,” said Fire Chief Jon Harris.  In 2019, Murray FD will take delivery of a new fire engine to replace the aged 2005 engine they currently have in the fleet. Also, Murray FD will get a new ambulance next year. 

“The added engines and ambulances are crucial in order to accommodate our increasing call volume,” noted Harris. This new ambulance will have a crew cab, allowing Murray FD to staff the ambulance with one or two additional personnel.  

The next big fix coming to downtown will be a new City Hall. “I worry for the safety of City employees who are housed in our current City Hall and the cost of continually fixing the deteriorating structure. I am also looking forward to the redevelopment of a downtown which will make our citizens proud,” stated Murray City Councilwoman Diane Turner.

City Hall welcomed some new faces this year and said goodbye to some old friends. Dale Cox was sworn in as a new city councilman, while Mayor Blair Camp was sworn into a full-term as Mayor. G.L. Critchfield was appointed city attorney after Frank Nakamura retired. Murray Fire Chief Gil Rodriguez retired as well.

The city also said goodbye to Tim Tingey, who was a major driving force behind the city’s redevelopment efforts. Doug Hill left his post as director of public services, but he didn’t go far, since Camp appointed him as the city’s chief administrative officer.

With Hill’s departure, the city reorganized Public Services into two departments, creating the Public Works Department and the Parks and Recreation Department. Taking the helm of these organizations are two long-term Murray managers: Kim Sorenson in Parks and Danny Astill in Public Works.

Sorenson’s first order of business for 2019 is updating the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. “Our current master plan is over 20 years old. We have completed the majority of recommendations from the old plan. The new master plan will give us direction in future planning of parks and facilities from Murray residents, facility users, and elected officials. The plan will include an assessment of needed improvements, additional facilities, and parks to best serve Murray citizens.”     

Public Works has had many projects underway throughout Murray. According to Astill, “2018 has been a very busy year and will be to the very last day. The Public Works Department has been able to complete numerous water, sewer, stormwater, sidewalk and roadway projects throughout the City. We have had numerous commercial and residential projects submitted for review and approvals and many other projects that were continued from 2017.”

Other new faces seen in Murray have at times become problematic to the city. “Operation Rio Grande had an impact on Murray; we have seen an increase in the homeless population in areas of Murray. It creates a problem for our police because being homeless is not a crime. So how do we deal compassionately with them? However, we have also seen an increase in crime in the area of 4500 South and the Jordan River. This has become a significant problem for businesses in the area,” stated City Councilman Jim Brass.

Operation Rio Grande has created problems for communities throughout the valley—from the University of Utah to Herriman. The City of Cottonwood Heights used the term “Operation Leaf Blower” in their February 2018 monthly update to describe how the 2017 crackdown on the Rio Grande neighborhood’s homeless population scattered vagrancy across the valley.

Police Chief Craig Burnett will be seeking to get the community more involved with the homeless. “We are…working closely with citizens and businesses in developing plans and programs to help deal with our growing homeless population. There are resources and programs that we will be working with to provide the necessary services to help the homeless as well as the residents and businesses that feel the impact.”

The City did agree to provide Chiefs Burnett and Harris with more funding. “The Mayor and City Council worked at setting up a pay scale that compares with other cities in the valley and then finding the funding. This is making an impact on our ability to retain and attract qualified employees,” said Burnett.

Murray City Councilman Dale Cox echoed Burnett’s assessment. “I believe the biggest impact was an implementation of a step-system for Murray employees that increases their compensation to market value and gives them a secure path for their future that they deserve.”

Retaining quality officers, however, came at a cost. “Raising taxes was very hard for us. However, we had five meetings that were very well attended by respectful, concerned and caring citizens. The citizens were the ones who had to bear the financial burden in order to make sure that services, especially for a public safety, were maintained at the high level they have become accustomed to,” remarked Councilwoman Turner.

Public Works Director Astill agreed, “All of these things cannot happen without a knowledgeable and well-trained staff who take pride in their work and enjoy making Murray City a better place live.”

Astill continued, “Murray City has a very long list of needed infrastructure projects which are prioritized each year to stay within the available funding. However, because of recent tax increases, we are looking forward to receiving additional funding that will help us complete additional infrastructure projects in 2019 and beyond.”

“I feel the biggest challenge for Murray next year will be to continue to maintain and update our infrastructure,” noted Councilman Cox.

Councilman Brass added, “One of the challenges moving forward is how to find affordable housing for our children. As the state’s population grows, and as Murray’s population grows, the shortage in housing stock grows. The Wasatch Front Regional Council, as well as other organizations, call out for increased density as a way to alleviate the problem. Density brings its own set of problems though, and how we deal with that will be the challenge.”

A huge road project on Murray’s eastside will commence full-gear in 2019 on Vine Street, starting at Van Winkle and ending at 900 East, adding curb, gutter, bike lanes and a turn lane. The City Council also agreed to fund Murray Power’s plans to tap into the nation’s first small nuclear modular reactor. The city committed $15,000 towards NuScale Power’s reactor, which is in development at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls. The technology is still considered experimental.

Murray Library also received approval for a tax increase. Library Director Kim Fong explained, “Murray Library is looking forward to being able to provide even better service to our community with the increase in funds that we received. The extra funds are primarily being spent to improve our collections, providing access to even more materials that our patrons value. We are also looking forward to the coming opportunity to build a new library that will allow us to provide better programs, more community space, and state-of-the-art technology to our patrons.”

This past year, the library received two accolades: Quality Library certification by the Utah State Library (one of five libraries in the state to receive this certification) and Library Journal’s Star Library, in which Murray Library increased to five stars this year (one of three libraries in Utah to receive a star designation.) 

Fong said, “I believe that our effort to provide quality service to Murray citizens is being recognized and that we are providing a great return-on-investment to our community.”

A new program was initiated this year by Murray FD’s fire prevention division. “We reached out to all elementary schools in Murray and were able to teach every second- grader fire-prevention concepts. By teaching programs such as ‘Stop, Drop, and Roll’ and ‘EDITH – Escape Drill in the Home,’ students learn the dangers of fire and fire safety techniques,” exclaimed Chief Harris.

Murray’s economic future was bright in 2018. Stephanie Wright from the Murray Chamber of Commerce remarked, “We are seeing new buildings being built and older buildings getting a facelift or being torn down for office or retail spaces. The Murray Chamber celebrated over 27 ribbon cuttings during 2018, and this is a direct indicator of the business pulse of Murray and how Murray City is a great place to open or increase your business.”

One building(s) that didn’t get torn down was the historic Vine Street complex that was the former home of Mount Vernon Academy. Private citizen Kathleen Stanford blocked the city and developers from tearing down the structures through a successful lawsuit.

One building that has been going up and is scheduled to be dedicated in 2019 is Intermountain Medical’s Gardner Transformation Center (5000 S. State St.). It will be the home for institutes that train healthcare leaders seeking to transform the way healthcare is provided in the United States and around the world, achieving the highest clinical quality at the lowest sustainable cost.

Wright stated, “The Center is designed to be the heart of Intermountain’ s focus on transforming healthcare in ways that are patient-focused and that consistently provide the best clinical outcomes at sustainable costs. This center will continue to reflect how Murray City is setting the standard for healthcare in Utah and the world.”

There were many who contributed to Murray this past year. Dale Cox pointed to Trish Cook, the director of the Murray Senior Center. “Trish goes way above her job in helping the seniors of Murray.  She is so full of energy and ideas.  She has great programs at the center and she makes everyone feel welcome and included.”

Cox also called attention to Bob Dunn, former director of the Murray Boys & Girls Club. “Even though he has retired, he continues to volunteer his time and talent whenever asked.”

Councilman Brass feels Murray owes a debt to Linda Brown. “I think Linda Brown with KidsEat! has contributed to Murray in a big way. Her program to help feed school children on the weekend, when they might not otherwise have enough to eat, has been very successful.”

Mayor Camp noted the many who volunteer in Murray City government. “I think that recognition should go to the many Murray citizens who have taken time to become involved in the city, especially those who serve on boards and commissions.”

Council Chair Diane Turner concurred, “I believe the citizens of Murray should be recognized for their honesty, participation and support of their city.”