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State of Marysville: City at financial crossroads
Administrator: Historic town must find its vision to survive
• Target boutique retail shops for the downtown D Street corridor. n Cater to the drive-through traffic of E Street/Highway 70.
• Work to attract medical and related business and residential development near Rideout Medical Center.
• Develop attractive amenities at the river's edge in Beckwourth Riverfront Park.
• Market property with a view of Ellis Lake as premium real estate.
As far as Marysville's new city manager is concerned, the historic town is at a crossroads.
With an $118,000 deficit, ongoing revenue shortages, and lack of eligibility for community Block Grant funding, the short-term outlook is all about vision and planning, he said.
"Obviously we're in a prolonged dip in the business cycle," said Walter Munchheimer, a veteran public administrator whose last job was in Palm Beach County, Fla. "But those have been going on since Adam first bartered with someone."
What city leaders and residents do in order to prepare for an inevitable shift in the investment climate is key, he said.
"Will the community position itself to take advantage of pent-up demand for investment opportunities?" Munchheimer said. "Or will we be left at the starting gate once again?"
Munchheimer presented a proposal last month that would begin the planning process by carving out five distinct investment districts.
The city's General Plan has not been updated in more than 35 years, and zoning changes have been made piecemeal in the interim.
"A General Plan and zoning code have to make sense together," Munchheimer said. "And we have to figure out what vision we are going to embed in the General Plan."
Munchheimer points to some key factors that can either deter or attract development investment in a city.
One is the affluence of its residents.
"Marysville's demographics don't automatically make it a very attractive place," he said of the area's high unemployment rate and low income statistics.
More than 20 percent of Yuba County residents fall below the poverty line, compared with the state's 14.4 percent poverty rate.
"The demographics are a disadvantage right now and we can't do anything about that in the short term," Munchheimer said.
But another key component in attracting development is simply a matter of will.
"Regulatory impediments can turn off investment," he said.
Making sure the city is primed to market itself and capitalize on what Munchheimer said is an abundance of "raw materials" will be crucial to setting itself up for long-term success.
"That's a community undertaking — not a city government undertaking," he said.
"You don't have to hit a home run," to be a successful city over time, Munchheimer said. "You just have to make progress."
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Samayoa: Golden opportunity
Recently elected as mayor after only two years on the City Council, Ricky Samayoa said that in spite of the city's persistent financial woes, a project that is already under way provides a golden opportunity.
"There's more than $200 million being invested in the city right now," he said of Rideout Medical Center's ongoing $225 million expansion.
"We have to make sure the surrounding area has an opportunity to grow with the hospital."
Samayoa, who hails from the Bay Area, used an example from San Francisco to make a point about momentum that could be harnessed to the hospital project.
"Look at the area around AT&T Park," he said of the sports complex and surrounding properties. "Prior to that being built, there was a lot of crime and blight and under-used buildings in the area.
"They planned that investment accordingly. Now, you see 10 years later, there are condos and lots of businesses. Land values have gone up there," Samayoa said.
The careful zoning and targeting of commercial districts for specific uses within any city, he said, are critical.
Close to home, such preparation for investment already is paying off.
A medical glove manufacturing facility coming into Olivehurst will employ up to 175 people near the Yuba County Airport.
"Without the county having a set of plans, and things already in place, that venture would not have happened," Samayoa said. "They would have gone elsewhere.
"Our role is to set the conditions so the private sector will look at Marysville and say, 'That's where I want to invest my capital dollars.'"
But planning for a successful future will require a willingness to invest some public dollars in infrastructure, he said.
"It will take public dollars to do some of these things that the county has done. We can't nickel and dime our plans — we have to invest some actual resources, plan well, and be aggressive."
Kitchen: Future may be regional
With extremely limited resources, Marysville is indeed struggling to keep its head above water, according to Jim Kitchen, and that means difficult decisions lie ahead.
"We may have to reduce our police force, and that is a very painful thing ... we always face the option of contracting with the Sheriff's Department."
But making such a decision would be extremely difficult, he said. "Our police force has been here nearly 160 years. ... How do we trade public safety against public development?
"Not everyone will agree with any of the decisions we do make," he said.
Kitchen said he believes Marysville's future lies in developing a more regional approach to government.
"We need an more regional city — an urban government that includes Olivehurst and Linda — not just the good tax revenue areas, but all of it," he said.
Kitchen said the B Street property, which was purchased by the city just before the collapse of the economy, must be a key focus for city leaders in the near future.
That property, at the time, was seen as the last viable commercial land with a view of Ellis Lake, and essential for retail development income for the city.
"We need to feature Ellis Lake as a real attraction, and really maximize that," Kitchen said.
Selvidge skeptical of city manager’s plans
"I kind of see an uptick in the economy. The downtown area is a little busier. The people I know who have businesses downtown see an increase, business-wise," said Michael Selvidge of the state of things in Marysville.
"People are spending some money and I hope that continues," he said.
Selvidge expressed some skepticism about City Manager Walter Munchheimer's Bounce Back plan for the city, which includes a proposal for property inventories within five designated commercial districts.
"I don't know where that's going," Selvidge said. "Walter said we're going to have to look at consultants, and I want to hear about the cost."
The focus for his own four-year term on the council, he said, will be to "get staffing levels at the city back up to where they were. We need to bring our public safety staff back up to full levels again, and bring public works back up too. We need to do lawns and parks on a regular basis and not let them look so ragged."
Selvidge said he believes the city should do a better job of targeting federal grant funds for infrastructure projects, and that he would like to see a grant writer contracted by the city for that purpose.
"My suggestion is we need to look for a firm that specializes in grant funding and that's all they do," he said. "Time for the writing of the grant will be paid for through the grant."
"I don't want a search for state monies. I would rather see a search for federal monies," Selvidge said.
"I'm excited for the community," said Dale Whitmore when asked about the current state of things in Marysville.
"We got a new hospital being built and have finished a new cancer center," he said of the recent and ongoing expansions by the Fremont Rideout Health Group. "Both are huge additions to the community."
Whitmore fired off a long, upbeat list of things to look forward to in the city.
"We've got some new businesses on D Street, We're looking forward again to Music in the Park and the Friday Night Market. ...There is a rib cook-off coming and more activities in the downtown area."
"Things are occurring in Marysville," Whitmore said.
Yuba County's median income per household, according to the most recent Census Bureau numbers is $46,600, compared with the state median of $61,600.