Edgewood Mayor John Bassett reflected on his first 18 months in office, and where the town stands in terms of his priorities on the campaign trail: the town’s finances, its approach to development and its land use system.
The town recently got a letter from the state’s department of finance, which oversees municipal budgets, saying that it is no longer spending more than it brings in. That is important for a few reasons, Bassett said.
“There essentially was no savings, nothing in the bank,” Bassett said. “Hopefully we can get back to where we can put some away. With the Legislature being the mess it currently is you have to fend for yourself if you can.”
The town passed a bond issue in 2014, but left more than $400,000 of that unused because of the way the bond was worded, limiting work to a small area on Dinkle and Venus roads. The mayor and town staff have inquired with its bond attorneys on whether the money could be used on other projects, and discovered that it can’t. So the unused balance will be applied to the principal, paying that loan down faster, Bassett said.
The town’s reserve was depleted around 2012 or 2013, Bassett said, “when they did the Venus paving project.”
The town’s budget has expanded dramatically with development of its sewer system and police force, he said.
Edgewood didn’t have a spending problem, but a revenue problem, Bassett said, and has added an environmental gross receipts tax and property tax to help offset its expenses.
“[Those two taxes] are the two big things we’ve done to increase the income side of the ledger,” Bassett said. “The spending we’ve held it close, just as tight as we can—no big projects, no raises, anything like that.”
Bassett said another priority for him has been to lower the town’s legal bills. “They had a mandate that we have an attorney at every council meeting. We’ve done away with that. We’ve tried to use them sparingly.”
Asked why Edgewood chose to raise taxes, Bassett said all neighboring communities, “including little bitty Willard” has property taxes. Edgewood has until now relied almost entirely on gross receipts taxes, which fluctuate throughout the year and with good and bad financial times in the community. “I mean, I’m not proud of having to raise taxes or anything, but if you need to provide services in a way that is intelligent and you balance the books in the process.”
Another benefit there will be that Campbell Ranch, which was annexed shortly after the town incorporated in 1999, will now add to Edgewood’s coffers for the first time, he said.
Another priority for Bassett is roads, and the way Edgewood moves forward with infrastructure development.
Before he ran for mayor, Bassett was chairman of the town’s planning and zoning commission, which at that time developed a road paving priority list and was working on development standards.
The road list still exists and needs to be updated, he said. A set of development standards was abandoned under the prior administration, but Bassett wants it finished. That would allow Edgewood to have in place standards for things like roads and trails that would be in one place and easy for developers to access.
The town’s comprehensive plan hasn’t been updated since 2008, and Bassett hopes to update that soon, calling it the town’s “wish list.”
He would also like to see Edgewood pave the last mile of Church Road, something his family, which owns property alongside, has been trying to get done since before Edgewood was a town.
The mayor also wants the planning and zoning commission to get additional and ongoing training, “to get to something that works in a reasonably timely fashion,” and to become what the ordinance creating that board calls out: a development review committee that sets standards along with reviewing proposed zoning for properties.
“When you’re dealing with people and their property it’s a legal process—those findings and stuff are legal documents, they’re orders, just like from a court,” Bassett said. “You’ve got to get them done right, get them processed so people can get their stuff recorded and go on with their lives. It can be done good and it can be done quick if [the commission] know[s] what they’re doing.”
Bassett thinks development along the Interstate 40 corridor will let passers-by on the freeway know that there are things to do in Edgewood.
Still, the town has not abandoned its development of Section 16, and plans to move its administrative offices early next year to the old Edgewood Elementary School campus, which already houses the town library.
Meanwhile, the police department is poised to move into the old fire station next to the community center; after that the municipal court will move to the old police department building. Edgewood’s animal control office is on Section 16 also.
Asked what his vision for Edgewood is, Bassett said, “My vision is to keep on doing what I’ve been doing most of my life—growing in fits and spurts, bringing in more stuff, developing this core area here. We get the infrastructure in place, hopefully more business comes in here. People are looking for amenities—we’ll just kind of keep working on it.”