As Hercules comes out of a turbulent year, Hercules Patch asked some residents what they expect, hope and fear for 2012.
Here's what Hercules Councilman William Wilkins said. Share your own predictions in the comments or see the note at the end of this article if you'd like your thoughts published as a separate article.
Where you think Hercules will be by the end of 2012? Where do you hope it will be, and fear Hercules might be?
Hercules has been making lemonade out of lemons for the last six months and that will continue well into 2012 and beyond. The City Council will work to bring resolution to many of the issues that brought the City to the brink of bankruptcy, but rest assured, we have no intention to go the route of Vallejo. The answer to our financial troubles is not bankruptcy, but sound financial management based on informed decisions. In 2011, we reduced the General Fund Budget by $6 million dollars from the previous year, but we still a have structural deficit that we will continue working on to eliminate. The Redevelopment Agency and Hercules Municipal Utility have been a huge drain on the City, but with the Supreme Court decision just before the new year, the redevelopment agency will no longer siphon money from our general fund. The HMU money issues must be resolved this year, by a sale, lease, reduction of operating costs, or increased revenue through addition of more users.
I fully expect that by the end of 2012, we will have transferred ownership of Sycamore North to a reputable builder that will finish the project with upscale apartments that will attract new residents to our City. The sale of this property, when finished, will produce property taxes in the area of $500,000 per year, plus bond assessments for our schools and the Fire District.
2012 will bring the conclusion of negotiations for the ITC and Waterfront Development and the approved agreements will have been signed by all parties. The City and Hercules Bay Front LLC will be working to move both projects forward. The City should be working on the Bay Trail and infrastructure needed for both the ITC and Waterfront Projects to be successful.
Before the end of 2012 we will have sold real estate assets the City has to reputable developers who are ready to start building commercial developments to bring new jobs and revenue to Hercules. We are negotiating with several now and others are still to be presented.
The recent Scotts Valley court case decision wins for Hercules the right to demand from Contra Costa County more of our property tax dollars. Council will work to increase the amount we receive now (3.9%) up to as close to 7%, as mandated by the State of California of each property tax dollar. This decision could mean as much as $500,000 increase per year to the City General Fund.
Hercules needs to change the way it operates in relation to new business development. I hope that in the next year we can develop permitted uses that do not call for a $4,000 Conditional Use Permit for a new business to open its doors. I recently changed committee assignments to work on the Business Development /Transportation/ Sustainability Committee to make this happen.
City staff has been reduced to the bare minimum but those that are still here continue to put in the extra hours necessary to get the job done. I hope that we can recognize that our city employees are our most valuable asset. Hercules would be in worse shape if we did not have them. I hope we find an appropriate way to thank them for all that they have done and will continue to do in the future.
One task that will require attention is the addition of more officers to our Police Force. We have been fortunate this year that the crime rate in town has not grown out of control, but we need to be proactive and find the money necessary to bring our police force back to at the minimum of one officer per thousand population.
The non-profit organizations in Hercules have stepped up to the needs of the community and will continue to help with ongoing events here in town. In many ways, the involvement of the Hercules non-profit organizations has worked to bring the community together as they share responsibilities and coordination for community events. Their participation is greatly appreciated and hopefully will continue. If I have not said it enough, I will say it again. Thank you to all who have helped during the last year.
There will be many high profile issues that will need to be addressed by Council, as the year goes on, and it won't be easy. As we address one issue at the Council level, there always seem to be two more issues that come to light that require our immediate attention. The legacy of past indiscretions will continue to be a priority of Council during the coming year. It would be easy to become discouraged, but that will not solve our cities problems. 2012 is just another year, and the fact is that we, the citizens of Hercules, need to continue to work together with respect to differing opinions and ideas, but with the knowledge that we all are working towards a better Hercules.
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