West Richland has seen the light, and it’s not just because our community was the first one in the nation to implement an innovative, citywide retrofit of its street lights to LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, with adaptor controls. This project is saving 60 percent in electricity costs, and earned our Public Works Department national attention and state awards. Our future — and our streets — look bright as we move into 2016, with an exciting list of projects intended to bring tourists, families, business and fun to town.
We are speeding into the year with the beginning of construction of the SSC North America World Headquarters manufacturing facility. SSC produces the fastest cars in the world, and soon those vehicles will come from West Richland.
While not as fast as the SSC cars, the city’s fleet of vehicles will have a new home as West Richland breaks ground on a new municipal services facility. This facility will consolidate a number of city departments into one location, and will be the first tenant in the Belmont Business District, our newest, shovel-ready property available for economic development. Construction will also begin on a new middle school in that area, which is set to open for students in 2017.
When they’re not in class, those students and their families will soon be able to enjoy the Yakima River like never before. Construction will begin this year on the Yakima River Gateway project, featuring an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible nonmotorized boat launch and restrooms, places to fish, benches, interpretive exhibits and walking trails along the river at the eastern entrance to town.
To the west, a state-of-the-art Wine Effluent Treatment Facility will be built this spring. This facility has generated a lot of interest from winemakers as we look to serve the growing wine industry in our region and the Red Mountain American Viticulture Area, or AVA.
Also growing are plants, flowers and vegetables in West Richland’s new Community Garden at Yellowstone Trail Park. Funded by donations and built by volunteers, all of the garden beds were rented last year, and we’ve got a waiting list of people hoping to get involved.
To learn how to get involved with the Community Garden or anything else related to West Richland, you can check out the city’s redesigned website at www.westrichland.org. You’ll find information about events, city ordinances, and all departments.
One of those departments is Planning and Community Development, where staffers processed a record 370 building permits this past year and began the process of West Richland’s Comprehensive Plan update, an 18-month-long project
Another of those departments is the police, which, for the first time in the city’s history, has four sergeants supervising a fully staffed force of police officers. The voter-approved public safety tax is funding these extra officers in helping provide 24/7 supervised patrols in West Richland.
Keeping track of those and all city funds is the finance department, which received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association for the 2015-16 budget.
As mayor, I am lucky to be involved with these projects and people, and I am excited about what 2016 will bring. But, I am also proud of the foundation of cooperation and civic pride that has been a trademark of ours for many years. Residents and visitors have seen Hogs and Dogs, the Veterans Parade, Time of Remembrance, Harvest Festival, National Night Out and many other sports events and festivals in our city parks grow and become more popular year after year. The city is also fortunate to have so many community partners, like the West Richland Chamber of Commerce, Benton REA and the Port of Kennewick, which give so much toward providing the wonderful quality of life that we enjoy in our community.
As we get into 2016, I encourage you to come out and see what West Richland is all about. We may not be the biggest city in the area, but we believe that the best is in West!