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Official: It Was A Good Year For Yuma

Looking back over Yuma’s accomplishments for 2013, City Administrator Greg Wilkinson concluded it was a good year with some notable and long-awaited projects.

No doubt at the top of the list for many citizens was the city’s rollout last summer of a community-wide residential curbside recycling program.

“People have waited years for the program,” Wilkinson said. “It was launched with no issues and is on track almost flawlessly. The community has been extremely supportive, and Allied Waste has done a good job.”

Furthermore, he said, the cost savings and revenue from the recycling program “have been exactly what was projected. We have one of the lowest-cost trash services in the state.”

Another accomplishment didn’t receive nearly the attention of the recycling program, but it will mean a significant savings for the city and its taxpayers.

The city received a discharge permit for Figueroa Wastewater Treatment Plant that is good for five years, Wilkinson said. “So we didn’t have to build a new $80 million to $100 million wastewater plant.”

A second significant milestone was the upgrade of Yuma’s fire suppression delivery system by the ISO (Insurance Services Organization), Wilkinson said. Yuma Fire Department – and the departments that support it – was rated Class 2, putting the city among the top communities in the nation for its quality and timeliness of fire suppression services.

Improvements have been made to the Yuma Police Department as well, he noted. Through the Department of Justice COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) hiring grant program, 21 new police officers have been added to YPD’s staff over the last four years. This year, eight new officers graduated from the academy on Dec. 20.

Also, thanks to donations from the community, a fifth dog was added to YPD’s K9 Division. In just his second day on the job, Raico alerted to the presence of drugs during a traffic stop. When officers searched the vehicle, they found a large amount of methamphetamine and several weapons.

A new police substation was built on the east side of the city and the new Fire Station 1 became operational to help make the community safer.

In a monumental effort, the city updated its building codes and added a new energy efficiency code, Wilkinson said. “This will make buildings safer and save energy.”

There’s also been some progress in the development arena.

Construction of new homes recovered to the level of activity before the real estate bubble.

And new businesses have been attracted to the area, bringing new jobs. The biggest one is Convey Health Solutions with close to 600 jobs, but some smaller companies have opened here as well, Wilkinson said.

In a “huge step forward in redeveloping the downtown,” the federal courthouse was completed and moved into in December,” he said.

Other good things also are happening downtown, he observed. “Law offices are opening, there’s the Pint House, the Kress is reopened and The Standard went into a building that had been vacant for years. And all 224 Main Shops are full.”

On the south side of town, a new owner purchased Southgate Mall and is proceeding with plans to redevelop it.

While the city continues to struggle with the loss of statewide funding for roadway maintenance and construction, a couple of major street projects were completed, Wilkinson observed.

A big project was the widening of the Avenue 3E bridge over the Union Pacific tracks from two lanes to six lanes to carry all the military, agriculture and other vehicles that travel that busy route. In addition, 4th Avenue, the busy north-side corridor for the city, was repaved, and 8th Avenue from 24th to 32nd street was rebuilt.

Work also got underway on Yuma Valley Park, to provide a park on the west side of Yuma and bring additional soccer fields to the community. It is expected to be completed in March.

“It’s been a good year,” Wilkinson concluded. “We’ve seen a lot of good signs in the community.”

Looking ahead, he noted that the new year will bring new leadership to the council and mayor’s office.

“And we’re looking forward to the centennial,” he said of the city’s 100th birthday that will be celebrated with a week-long party April 7-14.