Friday, February 09, 2007

Dixon Smiles Beyond its Political Turbulence

Dixon Smiles Beyond its Political Turbulence
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

Pushing aside political turbulence, Dixon leaders gathered for breakfast Thursday, focusing on the city's good - and even great - aspects during 2006, and how to push toward an even better 2007.

The occasion was Dixon's State of the City Address, shared by several speakers.

Although Dixon's economy slowed, as did most of the state, the city's Economic Development Director Mark Heckey was pleased to say that 'glom and doom' does not prevail in Dixon.

"Overall we are still in good shape economically," Heckey said. "Dixon is still holding its own."

Heckey attributes the city's success to the top 25 producers in town, which include Cardinal Healthcare, Safeway, and several restaurants.

"We are very fortunate to have these types of businesses," he said. "There is a steady growth and we have a long-term positive employment rate."

And while the housing market is predicted to remain at a steady pace for 2007, Heckey said, "We are hopeful we'll be back on track in 2008."

Several developers, including Brookfield Homes, plan to start building at the beginning of next year.

Other than residential developments, there are several projects on the horizon.

A Flying J truck stop and travel plaza has a final Environmental Impact Report and is drafting a development agreement for the City Council's consideration. Gymboree is also expanding its building to accommodate it sales of online growth.

The fate of the proposed Dixon Downs horse racetrack complex will be determined by voters on April 17 in a special election.

Looking at 28 commercial or industrial projects and 11 residential developments, Community Development Director Dave Dowswell said at Thursday's address that Dixon will face two questions, "Where do we want the city to grow?," and "Will Measure B remain the way it is or will voters want it to change?"

Measure B limits new home construction to 3 percent of the city's inventory.

Dowswell ex-plained that it's a matter of balance, "the city will have to balance commercial, industrial and residential."

The Dixon Unified School district is doing well. Anderson Elementary School exited from the state improvement program and Gretchen Higgins Elementary received its second Buck Grant, which supports organizations that advance education.

Meanwhile, a brand new high school is to be completed by August 15, the first day of school, according to the school district's superintendent Roberto Salinas.

Dixon's Public Library is growing. It has expanded its number of volumes and is busting at the seams of the 96-year-old building at 230 North First St.

The only thing holding the library back is lack of space according to District Librarian Gregg Atkins.

"We know how to be the library Dixon wants, but with a new building we can be a library that Dixon deserves," Atkins said. "We're looking ahead to be a better library. We've come a long way, but our plan is to move a lot further."

The city's spending plan for the future is better than anticipated.

City Manager Warren Salmons said the city budgeted to spend about $1.2 million out of its reserve fund, but it looks like the city will only spend about half of that.

"We're going to end this year on a better fiscal footing than anticipated," Salmons said.

In the wake of Measure L, passed by voters to repeal a sewer rate increase which would have paid for state-mandated improvements, the council, city staff and residents are meeting to come up with a solution that's satisfactory.

"We're going to positively restart the thinking process," Salmons said. "We will succeed; we have to."

As the breakfast wrapped up, Mayor Mary Ann Courville pointed out the accomplishments in Dixon that were soon forgotten because of political matters. Milestone events that occurred in Dixon in 2006 included the completion of a train station, aquatic center renovations, Highway 113 revamp completion - including two parties held to honor the businesses affected by the temporary road closures - Dixon Rotary visiting Slidel, La., after hurricane Katrina, the establishment of the Davis/Dixon greenbelt and overall crime in the city being at its lowest in five years.

"What makes Dixon great is the citizens of the community," Courville said. "Expect more great things to come."

Melissa Murphy can be reached at

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