‘We came from nothing’ Mayor reflects in first State of the City since re-elction
Jan 29, 2020 01:20PM
● By Kirk Bradford
Mayor Jeff Silvestrini gives Millcreek’s third annual State of the City Address. (Kirk Bradford/City Journals)
By Kirk Bradford | [email protected]
“I do solemnly swear that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Utah, and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.”
During last month’s city council meeting, Millcreek celebrated its third trip around the sun performing the annual Oath of Office ceremony. The newly elected members Mayor Jeff Silvestrini, District 1 Councilwoman Silvia Catten and District 3 Councilwoman Cheri Jackson all recited the oath above.
Following the ceremony, Silvestrini started the year’s first meeting thanking many people who have played a role in the recent election. He expressed his gratitude to his wife, Leslie, for the love and support she has provided and her willingness to make room in their lives for his position as mayor. “She’s my confidante, strategist and even sometimes my financial manager."
Following that short acknowledgment, Silvestrini began the State of the City address. "I love this place so much, it's hard to talk about without getting choked up," he said. He talked about the beginning stages of Millcreek’s foundation and incorporation, from starting out in a room that was half the size of the current City Council Chambers. Silvestrini smiled at the memory three years prior of purchasing the city’s first copy machine with his wife and the work she provided as an unpaid volunteer as Millcreek’s only city recorder the first six months.
"We started from nothing, with no money, but it was a heck of a lot of fun," said Silvestrini. “The state requires you establish a budget immediately after incorporation and I will say that it was a little more than just throwing darts. We had a feasibility study and the numbers from similar or surrounding areas. So piece by piece, things slowly came together.”
Detailing their small budget and its progress over three years to its current budget of $25.5 million, Silvestrini said, “Our budget is balanced. We have a fund balance and we are on a solid foundational footing. To save money, the city left the municipals district and police districts. The Millcreek police force went from six officers to 57 officers without any increased taxes to the citizens.”
Silvestrini also discussed the various projects completed and others in the works, like the coming city center. "The city now has a AA+ bond rating — we are just shy of a triple A rating," he said, emphasizing the city’s growth. The Millcreek Promise program, fuel-efficient vehicles and the move a few months prior to adopt HB 411 are a few examples Silvestrini cited of the city’s progress.
Silvestrini often stopped to talk to citizens while he was out exercising or campaigning. Those conversations brought to his awareness a few different "rumors" he wanted to address.
The first was about the city center. "The city center project was really to build a new city hall," he said. The city has seven years left on their lease with the current City Hall landlord. The landlord said the city has the right to be there for another guaranteed four years before the option of terminating the lease is available.
"The city center that we were planning, it’s all about economic rejuvenation of our city and addressing housing in our city,” Silvestrini said. “It may become time to discuss having a new city hall but we would have to have a conversation about that with full public engagement."
The second rumor was regarding the city having too much debt. Silvestrini said this isn’t true at all. "The debt we have is from a loan we took out when we were still part of the police taxing district. You may not know this but they borrowed money too. We just took over what was there before." Expanding on the debt, Silvestrini explained the process and how the debt fluctuates. Two times each year, the city borrows money to pay for police. The money is borrowed and then paid off and is simply a revolving line of credit, a tool that Silvestrini called "a cash flow mechanism."
Silvestrini believes the additional tax income coming in the future from the commercial growth will be the vehicle to moving toward eliminating all debt.
The last rumor addressed was regarding if Millcreek City had condemned property to make way for construction. Silvestrini explained the city does in fact have the power of eminent domain when purchasing park space, but said the city has never exercised that power and has always engaged in significant efforts to buy property at a fair value to be respectful of its citizens.
Silvestrini delved deeper into his plans as mayor throughout his next term and what the citizens can expect. “The council will be even more collaborative, transparent and we will ask you and listen to you."
The entire 30-minute State of the City Address can be viewed on the Millcreek government webpage.