Monday, January 23, 2006

New Year, New Hope in Suisun

New Year, New Hope in Suisun
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - A downtown on the cusp of more commercial development, a police department adding more officers and a council hopeful of seeing a balanced budget this year, if not the next.

The new year is expected to be a big one for Suisun City, according to its leaders.

"This year presents the most potential for a healthy Suisun City," Mayor Jim Spering said. "We are starting to see all that investment in the Old Town and the Sunset area pay off."

"We are the type of city that does move forward, but this year we are really going to be rushing forward," City Councilwoman Jane Day said, adding the progress she sees pleases her.

Spering particularly points to the city's Old Town, where the city is in negotiations with a master developer to jump-start that area's economy.

"You are going to see dramatic changes on the west side of Main Street," Spering said. "The whole face will change dramatically within two years, for sure, with stuff starting to come out of the ground this year."

Main Street West

The success of the city's Main Street West campaign will be "a financial vehicle that accelerates everything else," Spering said.

That includes bringing in several small enterprises such as live-work businesses and a hoped for anchor tenant.

Main Street West is a second phase in the redevelopment of the downtown that started in the early 1990s where development concentrated on the east side of Main Street.

City leaders had hoped private property owners would follow the city's lead and develop their own land on the street's west side, but that failed to happen.

The city already vowed to have its lighthouse up and running by this year's Fourth of July celebration as a symbol of the efforts.

City Councilman Sam Derting described Suisun City in 2006 as having a bright future with several projects in the pipeline to bring more people and businesses into town.

"This is more movement than we have seen in the last 10 years," Derting said.

Part of that reason is that businesses are seeing Suisun City as an opportunity and are meeting a city staff that is more willing to work with them than in the past, Derting said.

Gentry land, housing

Derting specifically pointed out the continued redevelopment of the downtown, the coming annexation of the Gentry land located south of Highway 12 and west of Old Town and plans to put more development along Highway 12 and in and around the Marina Center.

Wal-Mart has expressed interest in establishing itself on the land as an anchor tenant while the city is busy courting other possible businesses.

"We have several housing projects coming, including a couple of affordable housing projects that will allow us to meet our state requirements," Derting said.

"There is quite a bit of work going on," Day added, including the Main Street West project and realignment of Railroad Avenue, which is moving forward quickly.

"We are working with the Bridge Corporation to put in more low- to moderate-income housing. We are in contact with many people, trying to bring businesses into town and we are also working with the old Crystal school site," Day said.

The city's next target for a large commercial development, the Gentry property, could be annexed into the city this year.

"Every possibility for bringing in commercial development is being looked at closely because we are too close to buildout not to," Day said. "We are working toward build-out. We are hitting our stride at this point. Things are going along quite nicely."

The recent agreement to move Travis Air Force Base's Aero Club will free up more land to finally complete the Peterson Ranch subdivision, which means adding up to 140 more homes in that area.

Hiring three new police officers and plans to hire three more is expected to put the Suisun City Police Department up to full strength, spurring the hope to have the department resume around-the-clock coverage of city streets, Spering said.

Balancing the budget

Selling the city's property on Twin Sisters and commercial development along Highway 12 has put more money in city coffers to make this possible.

The recent sale of the Twin Sisters property was the right move, Day said. She considered it a liability to the city which has now been converted into cash that will allow the city to make it over the current fiscal rough spots.

Last year, the city's general fund spent $7.1 million, $125,000 more that it brought in.

The city's budget deficit will decrease but it will be a year before the city's income will equal its spending without transfers from other city funds to bolster the general fund, Spering said.

"The sales tax (revenues) jumped upward last year and I expect the sales tax will see a considerable jump this year," Spering said.

Derting is more optimistic than Spering.

"Financially, we are going to have our budget balanced this year," Derting said, adding the city is conducting a cost and compensation study to see how Suisun City's employees stack up against similar cities.

"They have been lagging for some time and we would like to repay them," Derting said.

The increasing development will bring in badly needed funds to city coffers, some of which will have to be put to streets.

"It will give us the money to deal with badly needed repairs to roads and other infrastructure in the city," Day said.

"The tough parts of the job will be local streets and roads, the infrastructure. We need to start figuring out what we will do," Spering said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

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