A look back, a look forward and a goodbye
by Robert “Bob” Jackson, Mayor, Casa Grande
Every March I provide a State of the City presentation to the community. This year, it will be my last. It has been an honor and privilege to serve Casa Grande for the past nine years. As I prepare to give my last State of the City, it has caused me to look back to the start in 2007 and think about all the changes that have occurred during that period.
Think back. In 2007, the mall was just opening, providing our citizens the ability to do virtually all of our shopping locally. The mall has also helped us keep our tax dollars local and allowed us to provide city services throughout the economic downturn. The addition of the Harkins Theatre has provided a first class venue to enjoy our leisure hours and has likely led to new area restaurants.
A couple of years ago, we also saw the construction of Sam’s Club. This addition provided Casa Grande with a much-needed shopping outlet and, more importantly, allowed many of our residents the ability to keep our sales tax revenue here.
Over the past nine years we have seen several new industries emerge – Ehrmann Arizona Dairy, Franklin Foods, and Tractor Supply, among others. We have also seen expansions of many of our long-tenured industries such as ACO Polymer and Hexel.
From the city’s perspective, we have managed our finances well, as shown by increasing the bond rating several times thereby saving taxpayer dollars through lower interest rates. We have constructed a new public safety building, a new fire station, widened Cottonwood Lane east of Trekell Road and expanded our wastewater treatment plant. These projects have positioned us to compete well for new growth both in housing and industrial uses.
Over the past year some of our economic news has not been good – for instance, the closure of Target. One of the sad things about the closure is, that much like the earlier closure of Best Buy, the store was profitable, but the decision to close was a corporate decision. The challenge moving forward is to find a reuse for the space. It is owned by Target and is not managed by the mall, making it much more difficult to market.
Among the issues that still need attention during my last term is a final resolution of the proposed community center. I believe the resolution will happen before summer and, whatever the outcome, we as a council must make a final decision and move on to other pressing issues. My opinion is we need the center not only for an amenity for our citizens, but to allow us to consolidate all of our recreation programs and improve our quality of life.
The other issue that needs resolution is Grande Sports World. We need to make some tough decisions about CGPI. Like many difficult issues, sometimes it helps to look back on the circumstances that led to the decision. At the time the city was looking to expand our soccer and football youth programs, we looked at several locations for the fields including Ed Hooper Park (not enough room to adequately put the fields there) and the Linden property, a newly acquired parcel on the far north side of town, (significant infrastructure needs and location made the property a challenge).
The owner of the Francisco Grande approached the city about a joint venture. In short, my decision was based on two things – the ability to meet the needs of the growing youth soccer and football programs and not having ongoing maintenance responsibility for the fields. The council is meeting to discuss how we want to move forward with the CGPI and what role it will play in our overall quality of life offerings.
I think one other accomplishment that I will be particularly proud of is the development of a trail system on Casa Grande Mountain. Through the efforts of many dedicated volunteers and the timely arrival of AmeriCorps workers, we have been able to build miles of trails in this very unique area at no cost to the taxpayers. It is a work in progress and we currently have a new team of AmeriCorps workers expanding the system.
As I close out my term in office, I realize every day how nice a place Casa Grande is to live, work and play. Thank you all for the opportunity to serve as the mayor for the past nine years.