Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Smallest city in Solano, Rio Vista is reshaping management team

Article Launched: 10/23/2005 08:10:57 AM

Smallest city in Solano is reshaping

By Jason Massad/Staff Writer

Solano County's smallest city doesn't draw headlines very often.

Rio Vista's small-town charm and its easy living style down by the Sacramento River are attributes that have melded nicely with such lack of attention.

It may not be surprising, then, that perhaps not apparent to outsiders, the river city is quietly reshaping itself.

There's a new management team in charge that wasn't there three years ago.

It includes a new police chief and a new fire chief, both hired this summer, a new financial officer, and City Manager Brad Baxter, himself on the job for only about two years.

Baxter says that the new team has put the city on more solid ground.

In fiscal year 2003-04, the city's budget was in such bad shape that an independent audit found more than 200 reportable problems, Baxter said.

He said that during that time, when state cutbacks were pinching municipalities across the state, the City Council itself didn't have a good idea of its own finances.

The "triage" that has been performed on the city's situation is now complete, Baxter said.

This year's Solano County grand jury complimented the city in cleaning up its fiscal situation.

"You can run a government like a business," said Baxter, who has worked in Solano County administration and worked for the city of Citrus Heights before coming to Rio Vista. "We're now doing all the things that a city should provide."

The changes in Rio Vista's management come during a time of explosive growth.

Rio Vista is the seventh-fastest growing city in the state of California, with its senior housing development - Trilogy - expected to sit alongside numerous other housing developments in the next several years.

The growth is happening at such a high rate that the city's population of a little more than 7,000 is expected to be 24,000 by 2010.

Along with those growth projections come businesses.

City leaders are especially excited about a possible commercial development downtown - at Church and 12th streets - because it means that residents won't have to make daily trips to Fairfield or Antioch to do all of their shopping.

Rio Vista Vice Mayor Ron Jones said that the building of the new city management staff has been a gradual process that has eliminated the uncertainty created by the interim and vacant positions that the city's management team experienced several years ago.

"We've very carefully gone through a process that has netted excellent people," Jones said.

Baxter said he likes the direction the city is headed, given the fact that so many changes are on the horizon.

"We're taking a city that's been very small for a very long time and we're turning it into a destination and a place for job creation," he said.

Some of the growing pains for the city have been notable.

With the advent of a new fire chief and regular inspections in the city, the city uncovered problems at the wastewater treatment plant operated by an outside contractor.

Spills have discharged into the river from the plant, Baxter said, and improperly stored hazardous materials were also found on site.

The city terminated an agreement with Eco Resources, Inc. to operate the plant, and court battles over the termination have been ongoing.

Meanwhile, Baxter proudly notes that a new $33-million wastewater treatment plant that will serve the growing Trilogy development, as well as other new development, is on time and on budget.

Another bright spot for the city is a research station at an old military base along the Sacramento River that will be transformed into a research station for University of California, Davis, researchers and state scientists.

Jason Massad can be reached at county@thereporter.com.

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