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State of the City given

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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The city of Lincoln faces a multitude of challenges in its 150th year, according to Mayor Spencer Short. The annual State of the City Address was given at the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast Wednesday morning, with representatives from the city’s departments giving presentations on how they are faring. With cuts to services across the board, Short said residents can expect to see “a lot of doing more with less.” Despite the cutbacks – notably the layoffs in February of 31 city employees – Short said, “We’re providing those core services that set us apart.” Lt. Dave Ibarra of the Lincoln Police Department gave an overview of last year’s crime statistics, which saw what he characterized as “significant increases” in several categories, including assaults, robberies and rape. Rapes were up to seven from five the previous year, and robberies were up to 12 from 10. Burglaries did go down by a small percentage. In all, police cut about $1.25 million in costs last year, including eliminating eight positions. Despite that, Ibarra said, “You won’t see that much of a change in our service to the community,” adding that police will continue to do whatever they can to keep Lincoln one of the safest communities in Placer County. Director of Community Development Rodney Campbell discussed some of the declines in revenue that have resulted in the city’s current tough financial situation. According to Campbell, permits issued dropped from 1,700 in 2006/2007 to 900 for the current year. That translates to a $23.8 million decline in revenue. On the bright side of the picture, 2008 saw the adoption of the city’s 50-year master plan. “Developers are still moving forward with long-range projects,” Campbell said. Darla Wegener, director of the city’s libraries, urged everyone to get a library card to gain access to the library’s approximately 93,000 items – of which 75,000 are books. The city’s two libraries – the Carnegie Library downtown and the Twelve Bridges Library just off Highway 65 at the Twelve Bridges Boulevard exit – have also felt the tightening of the city’s belt, as the combined hours of operation currently number 43 per week, whereas a year ago, the Twelve Bridges Library alone was open 38 hours per week. In contrast to the cuts, library circulation is up an estimated 500 percent – with 660,000 items expected to be circulated this year. Terry Rodrigue, interim director of Public Works, said his department is feeling the crunch as available funding has fallen from about $64 million last year to $24 million this year. “There’s no question we will be struggling to keep up with the natural deterioration of streets,” Rodrigue said, highlighting the city’s fears that the state of California will seize gas tax revenues – which go to maintain the city’s 210 miles of streets. Some of Public Works’ accomplishments in 2008 include the completion of the Auburn Ravine Dog Park and Machado Park, the completion of the landscaping project on the Joiner Parkway overpass and the completion of 32 hangars at the airport that are leased to pilots in a revenue-generating enterprise. Rodrigue also urged residents to attend the Lincoln Airport Day and Air Show, scheduled for Oct. 3. Airport Manager Dave Daly said that if the weather is good, he hopes to have more than 8,000 attendees, and he has secured the participation of the A-10 demonstration team, complete with pyrotechnics. The Lincoln Fire Department managed to hire three experienced captains and one firefighter in the past year, but two of those captains returned to their former agencies because of concerns over the city’s budget, said Fire Chief Dave Whitt. While the fire department has, for the past couple years, minimized budget expenditures, Whitt said the department is in the early stages of assessing whether regionalizing the department with Rocklin and Roseville is a viable option. Whitt said it is critical to staff all three fire stations – including station 35, which is currently undergoing mold abatement – in order to bring response times down from the current six and a half minutes. Director of Administrative Services Steve Ambrose and City Manager Jim Estep spoke about the budget, detailed in the story about Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Ambrose complimented the Citizens Advisory Financial Task Force, calling it a “very intelligent group that worked very hard.” Estep said putting this year’s budget together was a challenge, but that it was a greater challenge to get through last year. To help bring tax revenue, Estep assured the chamber of commerce members that the city is doing everything possible to bring business in, including the recent creation of a pamphlet to help new businesses navigate the city’s fee structure. In closing, Short said the city “can get through this” tough financial time. He also highlighted the efforts of the Police Activities League and praised the opening of the Lincoln Youth Center last year. President of the Executive Committee of the Lincoln Area Chamber of Comemrce Tina McCauslin thanked the city representatives for their honesty and candor, as well as their commitment to business and keeping Lincoln the safest city in Placer County. “I thought (the presentation) was very positive,” said Holly Auwinger, who runs the American National Insurance Company in Lincoln. “I’m excited to see they’ve been able to create a balanced budget.” Chad Larsen, who works with small businesses out of the Wells Fargo Bank in Lincoln, said he thought the city’s presentation was great. “Things right now are really tough,” Larsen said. “It’s nice to see them working to keep their heads above water.” Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.