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Horst lays out ideas for city

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Incoming Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst isn’t taking the reins of the city’s top job until February, but he already has some ideas for Rocklin. “Common sense still has to have a role in government,” Horst said. Horst is looking for growth opportunities for the city. And wants to take a look at infill development opportunities in Rocklin as the new development boom of the last decade comes to a close. “You have to look at the community’s resources and take what it gives you and build upon it,” Horst said. Horst said reforms may be needed. “Sometimes government and its regulations make it easier for business to be built brand-new than to reinvest and reconstruct these older parts of town,” Horst said. During his two-year tenure as Ocala, Fla.’s city manager, Horst lowered water and sewer connection and impact fees, which he said makes a difference. “I think it is important that we look at that and be smart about it,” Horst said. “Why are we charging impact fees when we have utilities in front of these city blocks?” Making Rocklin more business friendly and reducing fees became an issue during the council’s last election campaign. Rocklin business owners have complained about excessive business fees. “Are we just charging fees to charge fees?” Horst said. “I don’t believe we need to build our base on fees, but on a sound tax base. The easiest way to do that is make it easier for businesses to grow.” Horst said there has to be a balance with environmental concerns and neighbors’ property rights as well. Horst said Pacific Gas and Electric rates are putting Rocklin business growth at a disadvantage. “PG&E rates are higher than Roseville and it’s making it an economic disadvantage because of it,” Horst said. “I understand at one time the rates were 30 percent higher.” Horst successfully negotiated better utility rates for Ocala, Fla. residents as their city manager. While Ocala operated its own utility service, like Roseville, Horst said he wants to approach PG&E to give Rocklin residents a break. “I know they are the big 100-pound gorilla, but maybe there is something I can do to work with them to get us on a more competitive level,” Horst said. Horst said Rocklin can learn from cities like Roseville. “We have to learn from our neighbors,” Horst said. “The things they do right, let’s try to emulate that. The things they do wrong, let’s try not to repeat it.” Horst is in favor of the Rocklin Area Chamber of Commerce’s plan to walk businesses in Folsom to try to learn why they’ve been more successful in their growth than Rocklin. “That’s a great idea,” Horst said. Rocklin Chamber Chairman Dave Butler said Horst’s commitment to three important principles will put Rocklin on a good track for business growth. “Economic development, downtown development and responsible responsive fiscally sound governance,” Butler said. “Horst has a proven track record of success in these areas.” Cost cutting in a down economy to maintain a balanced budget is something the city’s residents and its employees have endured the last few years. Horst said he’s not against restructuring the city to be more cost effective if it is necessary. He wants to sit down with city employees to get their buy-in. “We have every reason to believe people (at the city) are doing well,” Horst said. “If there is going to be change, everybody has to be a part of that change and not change for the sake of change.” Horst said he plans to talk to the unions and look at ways to reform the city’s pension plans for its workers. “We have to look at pension reform. It is a serious issue nationwide,” Horst said. He wants to reduce pensionable line items like allowances for services and equipment. “It can add up,” Horst said. “We have to be smart and practical.” Horst said even his own contract could have been structured better as the city gives him a monthly allowance to maintain a car and cell phone. He said he didn’t have an opportunity to negotiate it because, “It didn’t come up.” But he said that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t change it. “If the city has the right to determine if a cell phone allowance goes into pension or not, I’m all for taking it out, starting with me,” Horst said. Horst said it’s “doubtful” he’ll recruit former associates to take key positions on his Rocklin staff. “You never say, ‘No,’” Horst said. Horst said one of the key decisions he’ll make, finding a replacement for retiring Rocklin Police Chief Mark Siemens, will not come hastily. “I will look for input from senior department personnel. Hopefully there is somebody there who has an interest and might be a good candidate,” Horst said. “If not, we’ll look elsewhere.” Horst’s priorities include selling the community for job creation and honing a vision for a new downtown. “Rocklin has a lot of potential, but you can’t wait around for someone to knock on your door. You have to go out and knock on their doors,” Horst said. “That’s where we have to be.” While Horst said he’s focusing on finishing up some lose ends in Ocala, he’s looking forward to focusing on Rocklin full-time. “I’m excited about the opportunity and honored,” Horst said.