The city of Williams is currently a hub of activity in the midst of a building boom. There are new buildings, houses, and businesses all over the city. In little under two years, the city has opened an Arco gas station, Dollar General store, Starbucks, senior housing apartments and over fifty new homes. And the coming months will see the opening of Love’s Truck Stop, industrial expansions, an auto parts store, Grocery Outlet market and more homes.
These new businesses and development have brought a corresponding significant increase in city revenues. No longer is “lack of funds” a reason for the City to ignore its problems including its long standing one – its public facilities. Starting with the city’s infamous roads which, from any direction in or out of Williams, beg for repair, there are the deteriorating parks, the worn Sacramento Valley Museum, broken public restrooms, and the frail Old Gym.
This author served recent City Councils as both staff and member for several years and brought initiatives to Council to fix infrastructure. Past Councils did not act on infrastructure basically because of “lack of funds.” Though not completely accurate, that was Council’s response at that time. That is not the case anymore.
This large influx of public funds should inspire the city to begin to fix these long standing problems afresh. Surprisingly, even with this new revenue, the city has taken no action toward addressing these issues, especially the most obvious – the roads.
This indifference was apparent at the last City Council meeting. On February’s Council agenda were just two action items – an item giving the Council members a 40 percent pay raise and a new ordinance to hamper construction.
Asking for such a large pay increase is a surprise. As caretakers of our public facilities and given the state and history of the infrastructure, this large raise is questionable.
The city also enacted a law to establish fines for removal of stop work notices – known as “red tags” (red tags indicate there is danger to the public).
But consider of some of recent red tags issued by the city: empty pipe laying on private property, a solo shipping container among the multiples in the city, the wrong color of paint – none of these are dangers to the public. Then consider the recent building department grade the City received this past October by Insurance Services Office (Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule Survey for Williams, October 2018 by Insurance Services Office of Mount Laurel, New Jersey). The City’s building department received a reduction in grade in all categories – administration of codes, plan review, and field inspection. This department is performing worse in all categories which can lead to higher insurance rates for residents and contractors.
With the strained ability of the city to issue red tags and it’s falling building department grades, creating rules to burden contractors leads one to ponder, why this new law?
Serving on City Council calls for a commitment to the serve the people of Williams, not personal aggrandizement and passing innocuous laws. The city’s facilities, our crumbling facilities, are Council’s responsibility. Now that the Council has the wherewithal to undertake large infrastructure projects, the City Council agendas ahead of them are obvious. Yet there is nothing … except more Council pay and more government red tape.