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City officials reflect on a year of growth and improvements

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - City Manager Kim Yamashita wore multiple hats at last week's state of the city luncheon, standing in for Mayor Bill King while also making her debut as city manager and commending her law enforcement family for their achievements. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a group of about 30 Sandy movers and shakers took their lunch break to talk shop at the 2017 State of the City Chamber luncheon.

As Mayor Bill King was out sick, interim City Manager Kim Yamashita had the podium for most of the hour, showing the community members in attendance just how much she's learned in her first 30 days at City Hall and how far the city has come in the last year.

She and Sandy Fire Chief Phil Schneider both spoke of the many partnerships that help the city function and thrive and claimed bragging rights for their respective departments' accomplishments, Yamashita's old law enforcement stomping grounds included.

Schneider's main presentation highlighted the process and progress of the new fire station renovations, announcing the department's hopes for an October or November completion date.

"Three years later, we're getting into this pretty heavy," Schneider says, explaining which areas of the existing structure got to stay and see updates and how these updates will make the building more seismically sound. "When we got this opportunity we jumped on it. We feel very blessed that we got that … We've made a great partnership with the city of Sandy."

The partnership he spoke of is not all too common. Schneider explains that as its own taxing district, the fire district is not city funded. That said, in most cases, urban renewal-dedicated city funds are not given to fire district projects. With an agreement struck back in 2008, however, the district gained a voice in the Urban Renewal Agency, and in turn, some financial help from the city for the project in the form of a 10 percent reimbursement for the money the district looses.

"The partnership between the city of Sandy and the Oregon Trail School District, if it wasn't for them — they graciously gave us space on an acre for a year and a half to set up shop and run rigs out of," Schneider says. "Partnership is huge ... usually (in other places) the school districts and the city and the fire districts and the police simply do not talk, and we try to have monthly meetings. It's been a good partnership. I do appreciate that."

He went on to talk about ways the fire department is trying to be efficient with its funds while also making renovations and replacing old equipment at the same time. While waiting on the construction of the station, the department has ordered a new fire engine to replace the 24-year-old unit out on calls today. Schneider hopes the engine will be delivered and have its first home at the newly renovated station in October.

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Fire Chief Phil Schneider is optimistic that with the departments recent budgeting accomplishments, the district is on to new and better things.
Of his efforts to be more financially savvy, he says he is pleased by the improvements and achievements the department has made since last year's luncheon, but also recognizes that they have room for improvement.

"We've worked really hard the last three years," he explains. "I've got to say that we carry over $1.6 million this year. ... We've really put our heads together and really tried to make it efficient and really cut spending. ... Over the last three or four years we have made some incredible financial advancements."

He adds that one service from the department that really suffered as a cost-cutting measure was fire prevention, which is an educational outreach program for schoolchildren.

"We're really trying to get back into prevention and safety," he says. "We believe in that very strongly. … This year alone we went to all of the grade schools in the Oregon Trail School District … and spoke to about 1,100 kids. … We want to get back on track with where we were going."

During her turn at the podium, Yamashita covered anything and everything Sandy, from the new big blue SAM recently purchased by Sandy Transit to the attendance of the Sandy Public Library's programs. The city has seen much forward momentum in large projects over the last year, such as the aforementioned renovations of the fire station, construction of the new Goodwill, the townhouses planned for behind Sandy Cinema, grant accomplishments by the transit department, the acquisition and future renovation of the Cedar Ridge property and many more.

Yamashita spoke on them all, highlighting especially the distinguished members of the community who helped it all happen.

She also made an announcement about a new project, which spurred from her recent experience with "Principal for a Day." The budding city manager hopes to start a pilot program for pre-K children, in order to prepare them for school. She has already met with staff from the library and discussed details of how and when to best implement their plans.

Following her presentation, a community member asked: "What can we do as citizens in appreciation to convince the council — should it be your wish, Kim — that you should be our full-time city manager?"

Yamashita referred that question to Councilor Carl Exner, who was in attendance as a representative for the council.

"We're going to go on and do a recruitment, looking at other names," he says. "But Kim is definitely one of the folks that's going to be on that list. I have to tell you, personally, I'm very impressed by Kim's last 30 days … I'm really impressed by what she's done so far."

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