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Mayor, city manager, police chief deliver State of City Address

MARTINEZ, Calif. – The State of the City Address was a collaborative effort, with City Manager Brad Kilger and Chief of Police Manjit Sappal joining the mayor to address those gathered at Creekside Church Auditorium Tuesday morning.

The event was hosted by the City of Martinez and the Chamber of Commerce, and included a gourmet breakfast buffet and a talk by guest speaker Dan Borenstein, columnist for the East Bay Times newspaper.

Mayor Rob Schroder’s address focused on finances and completed and pending projects.

The financial picture for the city is a healthy one, the mayor said, with Fiscal Year 2016 ending with a surplus of $2.7 million and a General Fund Balance of $22.9 million (unrestricted fund balance of $7,435,890).

“The draft General Fund projections show that we will continue to stay in the black, but will have to use small amounts of the unassigned balance without any enhancements to revenue,” the mayor said.

Completed capital projects included seismic upgrades to the water treatment plant, completion of Parking Lot 4 (at the corner of Ferry Street and Marina Vista Avenue), building of the Alhambra Bridge, the new Hidden Lakes Soccer Field, the installation of 150 credit card parking meters, water system upgrades, a bathroom renovation at Amtrak, and pavement rehabilitation throughout several areas of the city.

Pending capital improvement projects the mayor highlighted include road improvements and maintenance, particularly at Center Avenue, Pine Street and Howe Road, and the intersection area of Center and Morello avenues at Highway 4. More road improvements and maintenance have been made possible by the passage of Measure D, the mayor said. The one-half percent transaction and use tax will generate approximately $2.1 million, doubling the current paving budget. The tax will go into effect April 1, with funds available in early July, the mayor said.

Schroder then addressed open space preservation within the city,  comparing the former Pine Meadow Golf Course land to the natural open space of the Alhambra Highlands. “It’s time to move on from Pine Meadow and for each and every one of us to put our energy and resources into saving some real prime open space, Alhambra Highlands,” he said.

The new County Administration Building was the next topic. The mayor said a new building will replace current facilities at 651 Pine St., with a two-story parking structure also planned for the site. In the meantime, the historic jail has received a two-year “stay of execution.”

The mayor then introduced new City Manager Brad Kilger, who gave a presentation on “Investing in Today and the Future.”

Kilger’s address focused on the three pillars of quality of life within the city – economy, society and the environment.

He said Martinez’s economic strengths have to do with its proximity to Amtrak and the Interstate; being the home of County government; having reasonable home prices within the Bay Area; maintaining strong relationships with the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street organizations; having top-tier park systems; and the fact Martinez is a relatively safe community.

Economic development strategies he said the City is working on include exploiting Martinez’s location advantages for industry, government and health services, enhancing and promoting the waterfront area and marina, and offering support to accelerate public and private investment in the downtown.

Kilger added the median household income for those living in the downtown increased 51 percent from 1990 to 2013; that downtown residents with Bachelor degrees are on the rise; and that younger people seeking starter homes, as well as empty-nesters looking to downsize, are interested in downtown Martinez.

He also noted the positive impact of the City’s earthquake retrofit ordinance, and that many new businesses are opening that cater to young professionals and families.

Downtown economic development initiatives for 2017 include encouraging in-fill market rate housing, improving public parking infrastructure, marketing and expanding transit options such as BART shuttles, and expanding waterfront recreation opportunities.

After Kilger’s address, the mayor introduced Martinez Police Chief Manjit Sappal, who gave an update on his department, a crime overview, and information about the new homelessness initiative.

Sappal said his patrol handled 34,115 calls in 2016 for police services. Out of those, 3,739 resulted in criminal investigations. There were 1,205 arrests, 682 citations issued, and 369 DUI/drug cases. The regional traffic team made 744 stops and 629 regional citations.

Sappal said that 2016 saw a reorganization of the department, a crime prevention link added to the City website, a full-time traffic enforcement and special projects officer assigned to help with homelessness issues, two additional canines added to the force through community donations, and two joint Active Shooter regional training sessions completed.

He also gave an overview of traffic accidents within the city, which showed DUI accidents were down to 19 from 24, fatal accidents down to one, injury accidents down to 42 from 48, and non-injury accidents up from 128 to 130  compared to last year’s data.

Comparing violent crime in 2016 to 2015, misdemeanor assaults were up to 108 from 100, felony assaults down to 25 from 27, rape doubled to six, robery up slightly to 22 from 21, and zero homicides during both years.

Non-violent crimes increased in some areas, while dropping in other areas. DUI/drug cases were up in 2016  from 369 compared to 366 in 2015; theft less than $50 was down from 329 to 276, auto burglary was down from 190 to 312, and auto theft was up to 324 from 220. There were 66 residential burglaries reported in 2016 compared to 75 in 2015.

Sappal also offered data regarding homelessness. He said there are approximately 227 contacts each month connected to homelessness. He said Martinez Police Department is in the beginning stages of a collaboration between Pleasant Hill and the County, and that these agencies together can offer Coordinated Outreach, Referral and Engagement (CORE) teams to combat homelessness. Through Contra Costa’s 211 phone number, those in need of services can be assessed and provided outreach that can lead to interim, and eventually permanent, housing. The Core Team will operate five days and evenings per week, with hours changing to suit the city’s needs. They’ll provide the homeless with access to shelter and warming centers, in-the-field healthcare, benefits eligibility screening and enrollment, permanent housing prioritization assessments, and links to behavioral health.

In 2017, Sappal said the department will focus on homelessness and reducing property crimes. He said MPD offers a high caliber of personnel that can adjust to changes in their profession and to the community’s needs.

The mayor then took the floor to briefly state the City’s objectives for 2017, which include: strategic planning for fiscal health; open space; Measure D implementation; ensuring a safe community; a Waterfront Masterplan, and economic development. That concluded this year’s State of the City Address.

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