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Successes abound as Renton heads into 2014 | GUEST COMMENTARY
As we usher in 2014, it is an opportunity for us to reflect on the accomplishments of the past year while setting our goals for the New Year.
2013 was a good year for our community. With the improving economy, we were able to devote more time at City Hall to serving our residents and less time struggling with budget issues. We saw a good deal of growth in the business sector and continue to see interest in new development — a very encouraging sign for our local economy. And many local businesses, including our auto dealers, reported gains in sales.
The city was successful last year in securing millions of federal and state dollars to improve our local roads. We completed a record $46 million in public-works projects, most notably the completion of the Rainier Avenue corridor, a major gateway to our city. We also completed upgrades to other major arterials within our city improving traffic flow and pedestrian safety.
The Renton Municipal Airport completed a major overlay of one of the runways, and the state committed more than $12 million to fund a new world-class aerospace training center that will be built at the former chamber office, overlooking the airport. This new facility will help meet the workforce needs for the aerospace industry for years to come.
The Boeing Co. continued to increase production of the 737 NG and is projecting to be building 42 planes per month at the Renton plant beginning this quarter. The city is continuing to work closely with Boeing to meet all of the plant alterations in preparation for adding a production line for the 737 MAX.
Despite constrained budgets, we were able to break ground on an exciting inclusive playground in conjunction with the new Meadow Crest Early Learning Center in the Highlands. This is our first major public project that includes a funding partnership between the city, Renton School District and numerous service clubs and local corporations.
Renton will now be the home for the Washington Auto Dealers Association with its new headquarters under construction near several auto dealerships on Southwest Grady Way. And the first CVS Pharmacy in this state is under construction in the Benson Hill community.
For the second year, we received the Governor’s 2013 Smart Communities Award for the Sunset Area Planned Action. This comprehensive program will result in the redevelopment efforts of the Sunset area utilizing both public and private investment. We tore down the dilapidated BIG 5 store on South Third and began the planning process to bring property owners, business owners, community leaders, downtown homeowners and developers together to address our commitment to move forward with downtown redevelopment efforts.
In terms of public safety, our police and city attorney’s office developed new tools that will be used to address nuisance business establishments that are creating a safety concern. And to address cuts in the federal budget that historically funded our school resource officers, we created the Adopt-a-School Project to provide police interaction at all of our schools within the city limits.
Our firefighters expanded the February Heart Month program and successfully tested nearly 8,500 citizens, including many residents from diverse communities. More than 1,600 individuals were found to have dangerous blood pressure and blood sugar levels and were referred to medical facilities for treatment. We will be kicking off our 2014 Heart Month campaign in just a few weeks.
In partnership with our local churches, the former jail space at City Hall was remodeled into a very welcoming day shelter for homeless women and children. The services provided have already resulted in helping families to get back on their feet. We also partnered with the Renton Youth Advocacy Center to open and operate the Tiffany Park Recreation Building providing recreation activities and mentor support for local youth.
As we look ahead for this year, we will continue our commitment to improve our service to our residents. We will focus on downtown revitalization, Sunset area redevelopment and are looking forward to breaking ground on two new libraries. Our Economic Development Department will continue to seek new development and attract companies that will bring quality jobs to our city.
We feel 2014 will be a great year!