Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli’s Speech to Chamber of Commerce, January 17, 2019

Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli was invited to deliver a State of The City Address To Prescott Chamber of Commerce on January 17, 2019 at the organizations’ annual meeting.

Here is the transcript from the speech, and a video of the presentation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Prescott Chamber CEO Sheri Heiney, Members of the Chamber Board, fellow council members elected officials and hard working business owners and community members.

Thank you for inviting me back to the Chamber to speak again this year.

Always good to be with you, you are the hardest working people I know, you are the reason I have hope in our local economy and I am grateful for all you do for our community and local charities.

Before preparing today’s comments, I had the opportunity to go back and review my speech from last year. I would like to take a moment and repeat my opening statement from a year ago:

‘Throughout my campaign, I emphasized that we live in a unique and vibrant community. The air is clean, the sky is blue, our surroundings are serene, and those that live here are filled with energy, optimism, and kindness. There is no mystery as to why our community is on everyone’s ‘best places to live’ list. It is why all of us chose to live in Prescott. My goal as Mayor is to preserve this reality of Prescott while at the same time enhancing its appeal.”

I went on to say that to accomplish that vision and have long-term success as a community, we, had to do three things:

# 1 – Provide a government mindset that promotes free enterprise

# 2 – Control our future through strategic partnerships

#3 – And most importantly, we need to start thinking about the next generation.

In what seems to be the blink of an eye, a year has now passed since I made those statements. And I find the New Year provides an opportunity for us to reflect on what has transpired and look forward to what our future holds.

By all measures, our community had a very good year. Let me outline a few of the successes our team at city hall had working with various partners in the community; successes that improve our community and create a better place to live for the next generation.

In August of 2017, the voters approved Prop 443, providing for an additional sales tax to be directed to pay down our PSPRS debt. The first year of the collection of that tax was 2018—and all of the 443 sales tax collected went to pay down the debt. The recent report from the state has shown that our debt was paid down from $86 million to $69 million. We are on track to pay this debt off in the original time table set by the proposition. Prop 443 passed because community leaders ran an effective information campaign and the business community provided financial support for that campaign. This was a courageous and bold move by our community to address this problem up front and not kick the debt down the road to burden future generations. Our generation created that debt and we have taken on the responsibility of paying that debt off.

#2 Regional Jet Service:
For decades, our community has struggled with establishing reliable, affordable, and modern air service at the airport. Despite repeated attempts, all efforts failed. But everything changed on August 28, 2018 when a United Express 50-passenger-regional jet landed at Prescott Regional Airport. Some of you were on that inaugural flight, and I can tell you it was exhilarating to fly into Prescott on that jet.

Who has flown on United Express out of Prescott?? How did all this progress happen so quickly, when we had failed so many times before? I can tell you—it was because of great staff leadership, strategic partnerships with you in the business community, regional partnerships with local municipalities and the county and finally with Embry Riddle University. Our team at City Hall had a plan, but it required our partners in the community and region to be successful. SkyWest has informed us that the startup service in Prescott has been the most successful in the company’s history. Exceeding 10,000 passengers in its first four months has given the airport access to critical funding from the FAA. In the summer of 2020, we will open a brand-new terminal at Prescott Regional Airport. Planning is currently ongoing to add more flights and more destinations to our air service. This regional jet service will provide new opportunities for our local businesses and universities while providing future generations a gateway to the world.

#3 Downtown Development:
Re-vitalization of the Granite Creek Corridor has been one of the city’s top priorities. This area of downtown has been neglected for years because the city’s land holdings in the area have various flood plain issues. The city does not have the funds nor the expertise to develop this area. As you are well aware, a private hotel group has been in the planning stages of how best to develop a hotel on city property at the intersection of Sheldon & Montezuma. This private partner recognizes the importance of history, parks, and pedestrian walkways to Prescott and have presented a great plan that will accomplish all of these goals at this site. If the project goes
forward as planned, it will result in one of the largest private investments in downtown Prescott in the past 20 years. But more importantly, the new Hilton Garden Inn will be the anchor for a wonderful park setting along Granite Creek, the use of the Sam Hill Warehouse for conferences and the historic train trestle will be the centerpiece of it all. This project is an example of innovative cooperation between city government and the private sector, and generations to come will benefit from its amenities.

#4 Open Space Preservation:
Our breathtaking landscapes are one of the hallmarks of the Prescott lifestyle, particularly the Point of Rocks and other prominent rock features in the Granite Dells. Ironically, some consider these landmarks as ours, when in fact, the city owns a portion of these iconic rock features. One year ago, the city purchased 160 acres of the Granite Dells, coupled with 418 acres that the city already owned brought the total Dells holdings to 578 acres which doesn’t include Watson or Willow Lakes.

But this is only the beginning. In the last few months, an opportunity has presented itself for the City to own another large section of the Granite Dells that would include the Point of Rocks. I am talking about the proposed annexation of property currently owned by Arizona Eco Development. As controversial as this issue seems to many in our community, we cannot lose sight of the fact that this is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity for the City to acquire this privately-owned property. It is our job to find a workable development agreement that maximizes preservation of this open space, while still providing the developer with the proper incentive to proceed with the annexation. If a suitable agreement can be reached with Arizona Eco Development, this acquisition will be a landmark deal and become a tremendous legacy gift for future generations to enjoy!

#5 Water Conservation & Management:
You know the old saying…whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting. One has only to mention the word “water” and you can start an argument. There is enough water! There is not enough water! Where will the water come from? How much will it cost to develop water resources?

First let me say that the water issues that the State is dealing with do not impact Prescott. Prescott draws water from the Little Chino Aquifer. We do not depend on the Central Arizona Project. Therefore we would not be subject to a drought contingency plan as proposed by the State.

I think we can all agree that water conservation is in our best long-term interest and that we have improved our efforts on this front. As a matter of fact, in 2017 we returned more water to our aquifer than we used. In 2017 the City of Prescott used 6,770 AF of water and we returned to the aquifer 7,005 AF from our lakes and effluent treatment facilities. In addition, since 2014 our water usage has decreased 2% on average annually. As gratifying as that is, we have much more to accomplish with conservation.

However, even with great conservation efforts, we need a plan for the future; we cannot leave this issue for future generations to solve. The first step in a plan is to determine exactly how much water is ‘unspoken’ for in our water portfolio. I know that seems like an easy question to answer—but no one actually knows. Our water portfolio is like the ledger account at a bank; there are withdrawals and deposits. And guess what: there has not been an accurate audit of our water portfolio in decades.

As a first step toward understanding our water issue, we need an accurate audit of the ‘water portfolio.’ And that is currently being done by a recognized expert in the field. We expect the results of that water audit this month and will share it with the community when it becomes available. Once we know where we stand on our current water balance, we can project growth and needs for the future…Only then can we develop solutions. We must ensure that we have plenty of water for generations to come.

I would like to end my comments today with a quote and a challenge. There is an old Greek proverb that says: “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

As a matter of fact, you will find a similar sentiment in ancient Hebrew teachings and in other ancient civilizations. No matter the origin, the meaning is clear: the best Legacy is to sacrifice today to ensure the prosperity of tomorrow.

This sentiment has become more meaningful to me because this past September, Sheila and I became first-time grandparents. Our grandson’s name is Dawson August Mengarelli and his birth gave me pause to wonder: what legacy will I leave behind for Dawson? What legacy will I leave behind for the community in which he will one day become a grandfather himself?

So that is the question I ask each one of you…what legacy will you leave behind, what trees are you planting today? What sacrifices are you making today that will benefit those who come behind you?

My faith teaches me to put God first, others second and myself third.
When we put others ahead of ourselves we will accomplish GREAT THINGS.

I ask and challenge each of you to help make Prescott a better place today and more importantly a better place for my grandson and your grandchildren.

God Bless you all and God bless Prescott.