Sparks Mayor Geno Martini is happy with things that are happening in the city, and excited about the future.
Martini was upbeat in his annual State of the City address Monday at City Hall, speaking to about 50 people with a similar number watching via Facebook Live.
“I am more hopeful than I have been for the past several years, and excited for each of us,’’ Martini said. “The future of our beloved City and the region in which we live is very bright indeed.’’
Martini cited progress in making the city’s neighborhoods looking better, increased public interest in city operations and the fact more kids than ever are graduating from Sparks’ schools in laying out an optimistic outlook for the railroad city.
“Each spring I look forward to this day,’’ he said. “It is the time I can openly brag about our accomplishments, bestow thanks to the people who make this city work for our citizens, talk about our progress, and address our challenges.’’
Martini said it is the hometown feel that makes the city great, especially with its established neighborhoods and parks. He said things are looking up all over the city, including the Victorian Square area he hopes will become a gathering point for residents.
“We are anchored by Sparks’ comfy living room, Victorian Square, where people gather to enjoy a meal, meet their neighbors, participate in one of our great events, and now they can even call Victorian Square ‘home’,” he said.
Martini said there are some challenges faced by the city, including property tax abatements that continue to hamstring the budget. He said he and other city officials are talking with state legislators about adjusting the $4.6 million the city loses in tax abatements every year that could go to government or local schools.
“As we partner with our legislators this session, I continue to urge them to look at how the property tax distribution hinders local government and school districts throughout the state,” he said.
Martini talked about some of the projects in the works include the Veteran’s Memorial Parkway being constructed to connect Sparks to South Reno, the “painful” Pyramid/McCarran intersection that will hopefully be amended in the next year, and the challenges of the City Hall building.
In 2016, the City also began converting all 108 of the City’s traffic signal controllers to a new system that offers more safety options for traffic and pedestrians. “You wouldn’t know it based on the number of calls we receive…I told John that we should make all lights all green all the time and battle it out with who gets there first,” jokes Martini.
The mayor also acknowledged the community effort it took to reduce flooding challenges in Sparks. “I am deeply grateful to Sparks’ residents and businesses who paid for this project. Our response time is getting better and better,” he says.
Mayor Martini then called out the Public Works crew, calling them the “unsung heroes” who maintain the city’s infrastructure. “Public Works filled 25,000 sandbags and plowed the roads, going from a snow event to a sand event then back to flooding and then freezing temps,” he said.
“At times, we take for granted these team members who work behind the scenes, brave the weather, the wind and cold, snow and mud. They work at night, sometimes on weekends and holidays, to ensure our residents can get to where they need to go safely and enjoy their lives in our City on more than 700 miles of streets in Sparks,” he says.
Other City employees worthy of recognition also included the Sparks’ customer service team and Clerk’s office. “[Customer Service] fielded questions that don’t even have anything to do with the City like ‘Who can I contact for a mail-order bride?’ or even recommendations for a doctor,” says Martini. In 2016, the City issued over 2800 passports- a 40 percent increase over the number of passports issued in 2015- and completed over 300 public information requests.
“They scanned – and filed! – nearly 7,500 business licenses and documents. They also utilized nearly 600 hours of volunteer time, saving the city thousands in labor costs,” says the mayor.
Martini noted the industry giants like Tesla, Switch, Zulily, and Walmart that have contributed to the local economy, relayed the rise in construction and how the number of permits issued for multi-family homes increased 189 percent. A number of these apartments are being built in Victorian Square, which ‘offers metro living in the heart of the city’,” he adds. Martini expressed a heartfelt gratitude to the new and expanding enterprises that are revitalizing the buildings with no financial help from the city.
He also shared his excitement for the new Galaxy Theater going into Victorian Square, emphasizing that the money being contributed to revitalize the theater is coming from the TOT tax received from hotel stays and not pulled from the resident taxpayers.
The mayor was very inclusive in speaking on behalf of enhancements to the city via its capital improvement projects, safety system, and emergency response.
Melissa Dahir, City Councilman Kristopher Dahir’s wife, opened the mayor’s speech by singing the national anthem to the audience.