During an interview with the Sparks Tribune, Sparks City Manager Steve Driscoll previewed the new year and what it may hold for the city. Not surprisingly, he identified growth as a hot topic for 2016.
What changes do you foresee for the city of Sparks in 2016?
You’re going to see multiple facets of growth. You’re going to see housing continue because of the workforce. You’re going see economic development in the forms of businesses expanding and new businesses coming in, and I think that’ s going to then drive the other components to where you’ll have effects on the schools and the effects on the traffic systems…It’s going to more than just housing. It’s going to really be economic-development driven this time. So I’m pretty excited about that.”
I think the thing that I’m most curious about in the current growth is downtown. For 35 years we’ve had concept after concept and nothing’s really happened. And now (with major residential projects under construction in Victorian Square) you’re going to have some people living downtown within the next 24 months. That, just by its nature, is going to change a little bit about what goes on down there… So we’ll have rooftops. What retail is s going to come in behind it? I think that’s going to make it interesting… What new businesses are going to be saying, ‘Hey there’s enough traffic now that I want my business down there for these hundreds of people a day?’
From the city’s perspective what do you think the challenges will be?
It’s always important for us to keep our transportation corridors up to date and our infrastructure as maintained as absolutely possible and refreshed whenever we can. So the capital improvement program for the city is going to be quite the focus. We’ll be doing as much as we can in those directions. Our partnership with RTC (Regional Transportation Commission) is going to be as important as ever as they develop the 4th Street/Prater Way corridor. That’s going to be a big deal…
I think the other thing is going to be just the growth that’s going to happen in the downtown area. There’s going to be some growing pains down there as we’re doing the construction on the housing projects that are (going up) down there. We’ll have some streets torn up, and well’ have to change the footprints of our special events. So I think there will be some challenges there, but I think they’ll all be good challenges.
Is the city geared up to handle the growth?
Based on (an economic development) study, the projected growth for Sparks is going to about 500 houses per year for the next five years. We’re already at that volume. Between the staff that we have on hand and the contract relationship we have with a couple of outside consulting firms we are in front of that growth curve. We also have within our budgets the ability to add a little bit of staff within our development area if we need to and or use additional consulting resources to do things like plan checks on the front end and inspections on the back end. We feel like we’re in pretty good shape.
What about the actual infrastructure that will be required to support this growth?
When we do the planned developments, they (developers) put all the new infrastructure in. As you have the increase in houses and businesses, that tax base then helps provide the money for the future (city) maintenance from the people point of view as well as the construction side of things. So if the mix is right, as it starts to age we’re already ready to take care of it. We can add it into our inventory.
What is the city revenue outlook for 2016?
Based on the current budget cycle we were fairly conservative with about a 4 percent growth factor. We are running better than that currently. Both sales tax and property tax have been received at a higher rate. They’re closer to 6.5 percent versus the 4 that we had. So that’s positive. One of the reasons it’s positive is in the sales tax area, for instance. No one sector is driving it. It’s being driven across all the sectors. That shows a fairly healthy economy.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and space considerations.