Reserve will help ease Rocklin through economic slowdown

By: Susan Belknap, Placer Herald Editor
-A +A
These days it seems no matter where you go, the topic of the recession and troubles of the economy dominate the news and everyday conversation. But at the annual Rocklin Chamber of Commerce State of the City address and luncheon held last week at Strikes Family Entertainment Center, the message wasn’t all gloom and doom. Rocklin City Manager Carlos Urrutia told the attentive crowd that while Rocklin’s unemployment rate increased from 3.6 percent in 2007 to 5.6 percent for 2008, the city maintains one of the lowest rates in the state. In addition, Urrutia said that although city revenue was down $4 million, city officials had the foresight to begin to save for the “rainy day” several years ago. “While the recession caught us by surprise, we were prepared,” Urrutia said. Urrutia told of a time five years ago when the Rocklin City Council began discussing the transition the city would have to make between being a city of rapid growth to one that was built out. “In 2006 we stopped hiring,” Urrutia said. “The city council directed a task force to see how the city could be more efficient. When the recession hit, we were already of a mindset to be efficient. Our rainy day fund will help smooth out this economic downtown. But it would be foolish to take this reserve down to zero. We will make reductions and use some of those reserves in a effort to avoid any type of massive layoffs.” Urrutia said city officials have cut back on overtime pay, travel and “we’ve even taken out the water cooler at City Hall.” “We’ve cut the fat out,” he said. “We’re down to the muscle.” While Urrutia said he could not promise that future layoffs would not occur, he said if they are to become reality, the process will be done “carefully and sensitively.” On a positive note, Urrutia told Chamber members the city of Rocklin was recently named one of the best places to raise a family by Family Circle magazine. “This is because of our quality of life,” he said. “We have good schools, parks and public safety.” In addition, Urrutia spoke of awards earned for energy conservation, the city-sponsored Web site, its fire rating and safety record. As for upcoming projects, Urrutia said the city has $32 million in construction, provided by local funding that is ready to commence. “This is the perfect construction-bidding environment,” he said. “These projects will provide needed public facilities at bargain prices.” Urrutia told of the Sierra College Boulevard interchange that will celebrate its grand opening on April 16. Thanks to a combined effort between the city and Placer County, Rocklin residents will soon be able to take advantage of a new library, which will more than double the square footage of the current location. The new library will be located at Rocklin Road and Granite Drive. As for development, Urrutia said Rocklin Crossings, a retail center located near the Sierra College Boulevard interchange that will offer 500,000 square feet and include anchors Wal-Mart and Home Depot have been approved by the city council but its environmental documents are being challenged. Located across the freeway from Rocklin Crossings, with more than 300,000 square feet, the plans for Rocklin Commons with its tenants Kohl’s and Target are currently under review. In addition to these two retail developments, Urrutia said several office buildings, the Placer Center for Health, Staybridge Suites hotel and a few residential projects have recently been completed. Urrutia wasn’t the only speaker at last week’s luncheon. Congressman Tom McClintock told attendees of his unhappiness with the current economic stimulus plan recently approved in Washington D.C. “I’m concerned about the future of our country and the decisions being made,” McClintock said Friday. “The government can’t inject dollars into the economy without taking it out. While I do think we will come out of this crisis, it requires participation of every person in the United States.”