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Heber City Council begins 2023 with focus on staffing, housing, growth

Brower retreat.JPG.jpg
KPCW
At the 2023 Heber City Council retreat at the city's public safety building, City Manager Matt Brower touts infrastructure accomplishments of the past year.

Heber City elected leaders and staff set priorities for 2023 during a two-day retreat.

Fresh off a year packed with decisions involving population growth and land use, Heber City Council members resolved to find more help.

“We’ve approved a lot of developments and a lot of growth,” said Scott Phillips, city councilman. “This is going to burden our city employees looking into the future, and I want to make sure that we’re staffed up and ready for what’s coming. I know the past year was pretty brutal on our resources.”

During the retreat, several city department managers reported needing more staff. Phillips emphasized the planning, building and engineering departments’ needs.

Planning Director Tony Kohler said his department is “surviving, not thriving,” and noted the challenges handling the increased amount of land annexations and developments in 2022.

Heber City Police Deputy Chief Jeremy Nelson said he needs two more police officers. There are currently 24.

Heber City Manager Matt Brower called 2022 the city’s “year of infrastructure,” referencing the ongoing multi-million-dollar water and sewer line replacements.

He said people will see a lot more happening in 2023, including a groundbreaking for the eastern bypass connecting U.S. Highway 40 to Center Street. The city also plans four new roundabouts in town, two new parks, an upgrade of Muirfield Park, and a traffic signal at 1200 South.

The council and Mayor Heidi Franco also weighed in on their priorities for the new year.

Most council members agreed a top priority is to bolster an economic development program the city started in its downtown area. When the city created that community reinvestment area, also known as a "CRA," in 2021, it began reserving a portion of new tax revenues for future downtown projects. Over 20 years, it hopes to use the extra money to invest in projects like the recently approved Smith’s Marketplace.

City officials said this will accelerate growth and revenue over time, but they need the Wasatch County School District and Wasatch County government to contribute for it to be effective. Although the city has estimated those agencies would benefit from entering into such agreements over time, the school district and county have hesitated to change how they collect taxes.

School district and county officials both said they haven't decided whether they will participate in CRA program yet.

Other priorities include finding more space for city offices, an analysis on how much to charge for airport operations, affordable housing investments, and a revamped city website.

Just two residents showed up to listen in to the meeting, one of whom said she had recently moved to town and wanted to learn more about what's happening in the community.

Full recordings of the two retreat meetings are available at heberut.gov.

The city council meets for the first regular meeting of 2023 Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.