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City of Pocatello News

Posted on: January 5, 2024

State of the City 2023


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State of the City 2023

2023 has been great for the City of Pocatello and in this address, you will learn about some of the exciting projects happening across different departments.

The Mayor/Council Department is proud to announce the City of Pocatello flag was ranked #11 out of over 300 known flags, in a new survey by the North American Vexillological Association.

The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council saw a need when fentanyl overdoses went on the rise, so they put together a presentation. This presentation created by area high school students, was presented by the Pocatello Police Department at many meetings, recognized by the Association of Idaho Cities, and shared with Governor Otter’s Operation Esto Perpetua tackling fentanyl and methamphetamine. Chief Schei was so impressed he personally gave the MYAC members an award for their work. 

This year we had three Mayoral Scholarship recipients, congratulations to the three winners and best of luck following your dreams. 

2023 saw three new elected officials, Council members Corey Mangum, Brent Nichols, and Hayden Paulsen. We are excited to start 2024 with all six of our council members.

And the rebranding of the City of Pocatello, after having a logo that has served the City well for over 30 years, has started. We look forward to working with the company chosen to help the City during this process. 

Pocatello Police Department (Chief Roger Schei, Police Chief)

Four members of the Pocatello Police Department were awarded the Governor’s Medal of Honor.  These are the first members of the City of Pocatello to receive this award.  All four officers went above and beyond the call of duty to save lives and keep our community safe.

Our dispatch center is not completely upgraded.  We have been working with the 911 committee to upgrade our outdated equipment.  Some of the equipment was from the mid 1990’s.  Working with the 911 group we were able to get state-of-the-art equipment from Motorola.  This was done with 911 funds and with an IPSCC grant.  This equipment will help better serve the citizens of Pocatello and the efficiency of the dispatch center.  

Recently the Idaho crime report was released.  The report indicated crime in the City of Pocatello was reduced by %14.42.  We would like to thank all of the members of the Pocatello Police Department to helping keep our community safe. 

Water Department (Justin Armstrong, Water Superintendent)

The Water Department produced and treated 4.4 billion gallons of water delivered to consumers. 

Capital projects included the replacement of 1.3 miles of water mains throughout City neighborhoods, which included: North Hayes Street, North Buchanan Avenue, and East Chapel Street area. 

Additional projects included the drilling of two wells, replacement of our 5 Million Gallon Tank Transmission Line and construction of the Pocatello Creek Booster Station and Transmission Line.

Information Technology (Chris Sorensen, Chief Information Officer)

Migrated the majority of the City to a new cloud-based telephone system. Eliminated long-distance charges and added additional functionality.

Started migration of the City’s Planning and Development and Building Departments to a new Community Development software solution that will provide much needed capabilities and will help contractors interact better with the City of Pocatello.

Started migrating the City’s enterprise resource planning financial system to a more advanced CentralSquare solution that should enhance transparency and information availability to our citizenry.

Acquired new redundant data pipeline to the City to provide resiliency for our departments in case of a loss of connectivity to our primary data carrier.

Pocatello Regional Transit (Skyler Beebe, Director)

In fiscal year 2023, Pocatello Regional Transit (PRT) increased its ridership from 2022 and performed nearly 190,000 passenger trips.  

In June, the department received four brand new ADA-accessible cutaway buses. These buses have 16 passenger seats, three wheelchair stations, and are capable of transporting passengers regardless of their mobility. This project was funded 80 percent with 5339 grants from the Federal Transit Administration.  

In 2024, PRT is looking to receive up to eight more cutaway-style buses that will be ADA-compliant. These buses will be placed into the urban and rural programs and will replace buses that have over 300,000 miles. The project will be funded 80 percent by 5339 grants from the Federal Transit Administration.  

Pocatello Animal Services (Chris Abbott, Director)

The Animal Shelter had a year of maintenance and housekeeping for things the shelter needed to get caught up on; Privacy fence, shelter capacity standards, and a donated van to name a few. 

Our main highlight would be our stats. While being able to maintain our No Kill Status from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, we still were able to get more adoptions done than in the past years. 

  • 2020
    Adoptions, return to owner, transfers = 1,436
    Shelter euthanizations = 330
    Owner-intended euthanizations = 67
  • 2021
    Adoptions, return to owner, transfers = 1,478
    Shelter euthanizations = 192
    Owner-intended euthanizations = 76
  • 2022
    Adoptions, return to owner, transfers = 1,633
    Shelter euthanizations = 95
    Owner-intended euthanizations = 97

We will continue to work to keep our no-kill designation by working with other shelter agencies to transfer and home animals.  

Marshall Public Library (Eric Suess, Director)

  • New Exploration Center
    We received a large donation from the Yost and Ashcroft families that was used to create a new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Exploration Center here at the library. This is going to allow us to present a wider range of programming for the youth of Pocatello.
  • New programs
    This year we started two new programs for children. The first is a multicultural story time where every month a new culture is explored. The other is a STEAM night with a different theme and activity every month. These programs have been well attended and we look forward to continuing them.
  • Collection shift
    We completed a very large shift of our nonfiction collection. This allowed us to create a more welcoming standalone section for the children’s nonfiction.
  • Seed Give Away
    For the first time we hosted a seed give way in March. We received many donated seed packets and were able to give-away nearly 200 packets of seeds to local gardeners. This is another program we hope to make a yearly event.

Pocatello Regional Airport (Alan Evans, Manager)

Pocatello Regional Airport has had a busy year. We welcomed an additional flight to Salt Lake City on Delta Air Lines and an upgrade in aircraft to the 75 seat EMB-175 which features First Class and Comfort Plus seating. The addition adds an early afternoon arrival and departure to the existing morning departure and late night arrival. This is a welcome addition to the community who has requested additional service so they can more easily take advantage of all the perks of flying from Pocatello.

This year’s FAA Airport Improvement grant projects included remarking of the main runway and update of the airport’s master plan. The master plan provides a review of current airfield facilities, forecast of future projects, and alternatives for meeting those needs. The plan also provides alternatives to address some needed airfield layout changes to better comply with FAA design standards. Several new hangars are under construction to help address the growing demand for private aircraft storage. The master plan is also addressing the need by providing alternate locations for additional hangar space as currently available space is almost fully utilized. 

Airport staff had a very busy year completing repairs and improvements to existing warehouses and large hangars owned by the airport. Improvements included painting, rebuilding window frames and walls, new overhead doors, and repairing siding. The improvements will extend the useful life of these assets allowing them to continue to generate revenue for the Airport.

Pocatello Fire Department (Chief Ryan O’Hearn)

Community Risk Reduction/Prevention
Over the last year, the Pocatello Fire Department has resumed many of our community engagement and fire prevention activities that had been suspended for COVID-19. 

October is Fire Prevention Month, so crews and fire prevention personnel visited all third-grade students in the city of Pocatello and talked to them about fire safety. During the summer months, we were able to bring Cool Rain to Caldwell, Alameda, and Raymond Parks. PFD also partnered with ISU and held the Jr. Firefighter Camp for youth interested in seeing what a career in firefighting is like.  

In addition, we did numerous station tours, as well as installed smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms for individuals in need. We participated in the Environmental Fair, Easter Bash, KIND Community Day Event, Break for Breakfast, and the Lowes Fire Safety Day to name a few. 

The PFD was also the recipient of a $240,000 grant from the Idaho Department of Lands to do fuels reductions in the Johnny Creek Area. The goal is to reduce the fuel load in and around residents’ homes in the Johnny Creek Area by creating defensible space. 

Operations & Training
The Pocatello Fire Department’s mission is to help people. We are dedicated to preserving life and property through prevention and professional, compassionate response.

In 2023, the PFD and Bannock County Ambulance District had another busy year. Calls were up by 1% and we ended the year with 9185 calls, our busiest year on record. We have seen a steady increase in calls since 2019.

PFD firefighters were also called to assist on several Wildfire Deployments over the summer of 2023.  These included the Hayden Fire, and the Payette Fire both within Idaho, and the Susanville Fire in California.  These deployments serve as valuable experience and training opportunities for our local firefighters.  

In 2023 PFD employees attended the National Fire Academy for leadership development, Swift Water Rescue Training, Hazmat Training, and enrolled five new Paramedic students into a program offered locally through the Madison Fire Department.

Looking forward, we are expecting a New ambulance first part of November 2024.  The City of Pocatello is investing in a new Tone Alert system to replace an outdated system. 

Our vision continues to be reducing the loss of life and property through innovative approaches, technology, informed decisions, high standards, fiscal responsibility, and collaborative relationships.

Parks & Recreation Department (Anne Butler, Director)

Community Recreation Center Partnership
In a partnership agreement with the Portneuf Health Trust major changes began at the Community Recreation Center. The remodel will include enclosing approximately 3,200 square feet of indoor facility space to become a new fitness center. Additional improvements and updates will include a redesigned front entrance, new flooring, new ceiling tiles, lots of new paint, and some exterior façade, lighting, and landscape enhancements. This project is estimated to incur a cost of approximately $1.25 million. Thanks to the Portneuf Health Trust for their generosity in this monumental project. After completion of this work, we would love to invite the public to come check out what the Community Recreation Center has to offer!

Skate Park Refresh
Working together with the Southeast Idaho Skate Park Association and Gilgen’s Asphalt significant updates have been made to the Skate Park in Lower Ross Park. Gilgen’s Asphalt donated their time and materials to resurface the skate park. We appreciate their gracious donation, and what a huge difference it’s made for riders of all ages! Materials were purchased in partnership with the SEI Skate Park Association, Lookout Credit Union, Mayor Blad’s Walking grant, and the Parks Department to buy enough gatorskins to replace almost all the ramp surfaces. 

Zoo Idaho Welcomed Many New Critters & Has Many Completed Projects
Zoo Idaho welcomed 3 new coyote pups who have been acclimating to their new home. They went on exhibit late this summer. The Zoo also welcomed five (5) trumpeter swans, and they are expecting another thirteen (13) swans very soon.

Leadership Pocatello completed an amazing landscaping project on Zoo grounds, including new flower beds and benches. Volunteers from Farm Bureau also helped repaint the barn this year. Also, pathways behind the gift shop have been completed with the assistance of Liddil Paving. These were much-needed improvements and Zoo Idaho is thriving.

FY2024 Parks & Recreation – Projects

In the next fiscal year, we anticipate the completion of:

  • seven (7) new pickleball courts in Ross Park,
  • a new slide at Ross Park Aquatics Complex,
  • the Idaho Central Credit Union Splashpad at OK Ward Park,
  • resurfacing of Brooklyn’s Playground at OK Ward Park,
  • cemetery road paving thanks to the hard work of our Street Department, and
  • Halliwell Park will also continue to see improvements working in conjunction with School District #25, Grey’s Baseball, and Pocatello American Legion. This coming season you’ll see improvements to the dugouts, the widening of stairs in the grandstands, the addition of new hand railings, improvements to the score booth, and a new set of bleachers in left field.

Street Operations (Tom Kirkman, Deputy Public Works Director)

The Street Operations Department, in fiscal year 2023, improved over 41 miles of roadway in its annual Pavement Management Program, utilizing targeted treatments such as fog sealing, micro sealing, and paving.  In addition, pavement markings throughout the City were maintained or installed to provide traffic safety and mobility.

The department continues to move forward in the technology world and has begun utilizing a new AI technology that will enhance efforts by analyzing current pavement conditions on the City’s roadways.  Data is collected in real time and can be analyzed throughout the year allowing informed decisions for pavement maintenance and rehabilitation.  Additionally, the department is also using AI technology for real-time pavement weather data.  This allows us to know precise conditions in an area, which in turn helps us to develop winter maintenance plans during storm events.

In fiscal year 2023, the Sanitation Department saw a 7% increase in services. They collected over 2900 tons of recycling material through its curbside pickup, composting, and glass recycling programs.  These efforts have diverted over 15% of refuse that would have otherwise made its way to the local landfill.   This equates to almost 6 million pounds of material diverted from the landfill to a nearby recycling center. 

In addition, the City is proud to have a 74% participation rate in its curbside recycling program which far exceeds the EPA’s participation goal of 50% by 2030.  

Fleet Services
Fleet Services is an internal service department with a mission to evaluate methods to develop a more coordinated and consistent approach to managing the City's fleet assets, along with improving service levels and decreasing fleet-related costs.  

In fiscal year 2023, Fleet Services implemented a driver training program.  This is an all-inclusive program taking operators of all skill levels and making them better.  Our CDL program has increased the City's potential employee pool substantially as we can help operators obtain their licensing in-house.  Part of that training includes simulated driving time giving the City the freedom to train inexperienced operators without risking injury to property or personnel.

The City has also been working towards finalizing its new fuel station at the Public Works Annex Building on Garrett Way, which is estimated to be completed by the end of November.  The fuel station will replace the over 30-year-old current station, with four below-ground tanks for added redundancy.

Public Works (Jeff Mansfield, Public Works Director and City Engineer)

Environmental Division
East Bench Fuels Reduction Project
The City hired a contractor to reduce the wildfire potential on City-owned property in the East Bench of Pocatello with the assistance and grant funds the Pocatello Fire Department received. Thousands of junipers were masticated (mulched) and the small debris was applied to the ground as mulch. There are still many junipers in the area, but it is now better for fuel breaks and better habitat for deer and other wildlife. This spring the area was full of wildflowers! This builds on work done in City Creek the previous year, where more work remains to be done.

Portneuf River Cleanup
With the help of dozens of community members, the Portneuf River got a little bit cleaner this year. Thank you to everyone who lent a hand to get some plastic or other debris out of our waterways.  We love to float the river!

Grant Writing
The Environmental Division wrote three grants to fund the Centennial Park project (still waiting to find out if we got the grants) and one grant for river access parking lots and pathways north of I-86 at Batiste Bridge and Douglass Lane.  These river access points will be installed in FY2024.

Portneuf Valley Environmental Fair
The 2023 Portneuf Valley Environmental Fair was another great success.  Thousands of residents turned out to celebrate our City and learn about what they can do to make it an even better place to live now and into the future.

Carson St. Bridge
The Carson St. Bridge was constructed in 1950.  After years of service, the bridge was in need of replacement.  In 2019, the City, working in conjunction with the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council, was awarded funding from the Bridge Bundle grant.  The cost to construct the bridge was $1.4 million and the City was required to pay $140,329 in match money.  Construction began in December 2022, with an anticipated completion date of May 2023.  At this point, the Carson St. Bridge is substantially complete and open to the public.  Waterlines, irrigation, striping, safety, and signage have all been improved as well as landscaping around the bridge.

S. 5th and Jason Street Safety Project
In response to changing traffic conditions, the City of Pocatello obtained a $205,000 traffic safety grant to improve the intersection of S. 5th Avenue and Jason Street, with the City paying $15,047 in match money.  This project included extending the existing median, reconstructing portions of the sidewalks, establishing a crosswalk, installing a rectangular rapid flashing beacon system, and improving street lighting.  Construction began in July 2023 and in September 2023 was near completion with the repairing of the asphalt and striping.

Hawthorne Road and West Quinn Road Intersection
The Bannock Transportation Planning Organization Policy Board determined that traffic at this intersection had exceeded its design capacity and improvements were necessary.  The estimated cost for this project was $4,090,591.  The City of Pocatello has paid a 7.34% match and the City of Chubbuck is reimbursing the City of Pocatello 25% of that match.

The project includes new turn lanes, bike lanes, pedestrian crosswalks, and traffic signals, all intended to improve safety and congestion at the intersection.  Utility work for this project has included gas lines, irrigation lines, power lines, fiber lines as well as stormwater facilities, and retaining walls.  The final part of the project is the installation of traffic signals.  However, due to supply chain issues outside of the City’s control, the signal poles did not arrive before the end of the 2023 construction season.  When the last of the work resumes in Spring 2024, only partial closures will be required, allowing the public continued access to the intersection.

Water Pollution Control Department (Levi Adams, Water Superintendent)

Water Pollution Control (WPC) was very productive in 2023, working on a variety of projects to improve operations and infrastructure in support of our mission to protect the public health and the water quality of the Portneuf River and the aquifer underneath our City.

The treatment facility cleaned over 1.2 billion gallons of water, exceeding regulatory standards by removing over 99.5% of all contaminants

The Collection Crew cleaned over 250 miles of Sewer lines.

The major focus of the Department was the beginning of construction of a dewatering facility, a new mixing system in Digester #3, and a new Administration/Operations Building.

Finance Department (Gene Hill, Chief Financial Officer)

After several years of being inactive, the Audit and Investment Committee is now a functioning five-member board including two City Council Members, one professional money manager, and two City staff members. The committee meets quarterly and has completed an RFP for a City External Auditor and a new investment policy for the Police Retirement Fund.

The payables department has implemented a new P-Card process eliminating paper receipts and moving to a digital system. Over time this will save hours of processing, manage paper waste, and increase the ability to obtain better data for transparency and insight into the City’s purchases.

The finance team with the assistance of IT staff, department heads, and the city council completed the FY 24 budget. This process begins in February and ends in August all while continuing the day-to-day City operations.

Overall, the finance team has committed to addressing problems, taking action with solutions, and defining new or improved procedures. They are dedicated to improving processes, reporting, and relationships to better support City departments.

Planning and Development Services Department (Brent McLane, Director)

Planning Division
In 2023, the Planning Division finished the City’s new Our Valley, Our Vision Comprehensive Plan. This plan reflects the values and vision of the community generated through extensive public engagement. Additionally, the department worked with the community and developers to improve and increase the commercial and residential footprint within the City. 

The Historic Preservation Commission received a grant to update the City’s Downtown Development Guidelines and received a $15,000 grant to update the city-wide Historic Preservation Plan as part of the Certified Local Government program.

Grant Programs
The Planning and Development Services Department worked with several departments to apply for grants that help move forward the goals of the Comprehensive Plan and other City goals. PDS worked in conjunction with other city departments to apply for 8 grants totaling about $37.5M in FY2023.

To date, the City has received the following:

  • Safe Streets and Roads for All – This grant award was $225,900 and will create a US DOT safe system plan to improve bicycle, pedestrian, and vehicle infrastructure with the goal of identifying top priorities for walkability/bicycle improvements. The safe systems plan strives to achieve zero pedestrian-vehicle fatalities
  • North Portneuf Crossing – Through this $7.75M USDOT RAISE grant, the city will make necessary upgrades at the Kraft Rd. and N. Main St. intersection including signalization, roadway reconfiguration, a new PRT bus stop, bicycle/pedestrian improvements, and greenway trail updates and extension. 
  • USDA Urban Community Forestry Grant – This $1M grant will fund an update to the City’s tree inventory and asset management database as well as tree mitigation which includes trimming, removal, and replanting in the City’s parks, right of ways, and other areas. 

In FY23, Community Development Block Grant Housing, Infrastructure, Facilities, and Services programs were underway for the entitlement program’s 26th year. 

The City’s home rehabilitation grant and loan program continued to provide grants up to $5000 and 0% interest loans for low-moderate income residents for necessary home repairs. As of September 2023, 3 loans and 18 grants were awarded. In addition, NeighborWorks Pocatello received $37,500 for mobile home repair grants. Gateway Habitat for Humanity also received CDBG funding to offer a small home repair program and purchase land plots for low-income housing development.

FY23 marked the 4th of 5 payment installations for the Aid for Friends homeless shelter, which was opened in 2021. In addition, to this facilities project, the CDBG program provides direct public service grants to local agencies and nonprofits including:

  • Boys & Girls Club – $4500 for youth social service program
  • New Day Products – $3000 for transportation services for persons with disabilities 
  • Pocatello Free Clinic – $21,500 for dental services for low-income clients 
  • Senior Activities Center – $5000 for senior nutrition program 
  • St. Vincent de Paul – $11,000 for emergency financial assistance for LMI individuals 

CDBG funds also support the sidewalk public infrastructure program, which provides grants to low-income homeowners for sidewalk repairs. Four individual projects were completed or underway as of September 2023. The CDBG program also partnered with PRT to develop a neighborhood sidewalk program that will provide over $300K for sidewalk repairs in the Bonneville Neighborhood. 

Lead Safe and Healthy Homes (LSHH)
Throughout FY23, the LSHH program remediated lead hazards in 6 units, providing over $175,000 in lead hazard grants or an average grant of $29,300. All 6 of the properties also received Healthy Homes grants to provide needed health and safety repairs and supplies such as railings, code-compliant stairs, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and HEPA vacuums. The City’s LSHH program also became an EPA-certified training facility and will be able to conduct Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) as well as Lead Abatement Worker trainings for free to local contractors. The RRP certification is required for all contractors working on homes built before 1978.

Building (Richard Bigelow, Building Official)

Permits issued through the Building department totaled 3,388. Of that number, 307 were new residential building permits and 31 were new commercial building permits. 

In FY2023, the total number of inspections completed by the Building department was 4,839.

Additionally, the Building Department along with other departments have been working on implementing a new permitting and licensing software this year that will go live in 2024. This new software will provide contractors and homeowners with an online self-service portal to increase efficiency with permitting, licensing, and inspections.

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