Planning ahead: Growth and tourism are inevitable in a desirable community like ours, not something we need to fear. Visitors and new residents inject capital into our community, sharing the costs of maintaining and improving infrastructure, and providing a reliable paycheck for many business owners and employees. Growth can be embraced and managed on our terms through good planning.
Fortunately, Driggs is well-positioned to manage this growth. Following months of input from the community, and hard work by the city staff and volunteers, Driggs completed its Comprehensive Plan update in 2020. The Plan provides a framework and vision for our community for 10 years and beyond. Similarly, updates to our Transportation Plan, our Water & Sewer Facility Plans, and our Airport Master Plan have also been completed, providing guidance for managing the infrastructure this growth demands.
Executing our plans: Plans alone won't fix the challenges we face. We need money to execute them, and the discipline to stay true to them. Recognizing this, we have already begun seeking outside funding to leverage our ratepayers’ contribution. Using other funding sources in this way helps us keep our utility rates affordable. Strong relationships with our federal congressional delegation and US agencies, developed over time, help us gain access to these grants and low-interest loans. We are also monitoring the President’s Infrastructure Bill making its way through Congress now, which may help with these infrastructure costs.
Housing for the future: Housing is another area that has been affected by our recent red-hot growth. Rising housing insecurity has disproportionately hurt our workers and by extension our businesses with the conversion of long-term housing to short-term rentals. Recognizing these risks years ago, Driggs led in the reinstatement of the countywide Housing Authority, providing leadership and staff support. Additionally, the City has contributed to actual housing projects, the first of which will break ground shortly. Driggs continues to lead in working with developers and stakeholders in a variety of projects here in town, a summary of which can be found on the Driggs housing website. We will continue to partner with our Housing Authority, and encourage the private development of housing to meet the needs of local workers and employers.
Involvement at the state level: We cannot talk about growth or housing concerns without acknowledging the impact of state legislation on fast-growing communities like ours. Recent state laws restricting the ability of cities to properly regulate short-term rentals, and forcing the costs of new growth onto the backs of existing taxpayers illustrate the importance of staying informed and engaging with our state government. This is an area where everyone’s voice matters to combat foolish politics. How can you help? Sign up for our newsletter to receive periodic updates of issues we see at the state and local levels. We’ll help keep you informed so you can engage with your elected officials at all levels.
Strong and consistent leadership: Following through on our plans is essential. We cannot lose sight of the critical improvements, distracted by shiny objects. Patching potholes and replacing pipes may not be as exciting as park improvements or events, but it is equally important. City elected officials must maintain the course, planning and executing for the long-term.
As we fund the maintenance and growth of our city systems, it is important to remember that we must also sock away reserves for future work as well. Continued planning and responsible fiscal management are essential to ensure Driggs’ success for decades to come.
As painful as the hot economy may feel right now, we all benefit from this growth. Let’s use the heat to cook up something good, instead of letting it burn us. Your city staff works hard every day to manage these challenges for you. As Mayor, I have tremendous confidence that we can manage the growth we are experiencing now and into the future.