Monday, January 3, 2011

Reflecting on past accomplishments in the City of Fairfield

Reflecting on past accomplishments

By Sean P. Quinn | | December 30, 2010 19:20

The holidays are now behind us and it is a time to both reflect on the past year and look ahead.

I am proud of what we have accomplished and know that we have a strong foundation for the future. With that in mind, I have no illusions that 2011 will bring its share of challenges. The state budget has a huge deficit and our economy is still in flux. Fairfield will have a smaller government.

Managing the economic downturn and its aftermath will require finding new ways of working together and strengthening partnerships.

As an organization, Fairfield's government has experienced a tremendous amount of change. For the first time, city employees have learned to work under furloughs. This has had no small impact on working conditions. We have all had to learn how to refocus our priorities, while being attentive to community needs.

We have also seen many long-time employees retire from the organization. In 2010, there were 13 retirements representing more than 300 years of experience with the city. This loss has occurred in every department and at every level.

With this loss, however, there comes opportunity. There have been many promotions throughout the organization and we have welcomed 17 new members to our family.

After experiencing a rash of business closures in 2008 and 2009, this trend slowed in 2010. Fairfield benefitted from new development, store openings and increased investment. Some of the new development/new store openings included Buffalo Wild Wings, Driven Raceway, Fairfield Ford, Frank-Lin Distillers and Walmart.

In addition, Westfield Solano continues to invest in the mall to increase food and entertainment options.

Expect more good news in 2011. Lowe's will begin construction of its home improvement store at North Texas Street and Manuel Campos Parkway, and Mercedes Benz will complete its dealership at the Auto Mall. Also, residential development has started to pick up and new homes are once again selling in Fairfield.

Looking around town, there have been many much-needed public facilities and capital projects completed. While I have discussed many of these projects in past columns, they are worth reiterating. Early in 2010, we celebrated the opening of the Aquatics Complex at Allan Witt Park, a year-round swimming and recreation center. More recently we gathered for the grand openings of the North Texas Street Interchange project, North Connector, and McGary Road. All of these projects strengthen our neighborhoods and prospects for the future.

There will be more change in 2011. Fairfield has a $7 million deficit to close, four labor contracts expire June 30, 2011, and there is growing public sentiment and fiscal reality for government to reform pensions.

In addition, the effects of the economic downturn persist. The unemployment rate in Fairfield hovers around 13 percent, the median price for a home remains 50 percent below the high experienced back in 2006 and 2007, and commercial vacancy remains high.

How will we meet these challenges? Together. I hope all of us will be part of an effort to strengthen and build bridges to other public agencies, nonprofits, residents and businesses to find new ways of meeting our community's needs.

Sean P. Quinn is the Fairfield city manager.