From triumph to tragedy and back, Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman gave the 10th annual State of the City Address Monday, recapping the major events of 2017 and looking ahead to the rest of 2018.
Zimmerman’s 65-minute speech was hosted by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and was held at the Sugar Land Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. Zimmerman highlighted things like the opening of the Smart Financial Centre and adjacent plaza; the opening of the Brazos River Park and the newly named Crown Festival Park; the acquisition of the Central Unit prison site; the city’s recently reaffirmed “AAA” bond rating; the city’s participation in helping Houston host Super Bowl LI; and the annexation of the Greatwood and New Territory communities.
“Just a few weeks ago we opened the Sugar Land Heritage Museum and Visitors Center,” he said.
Zimmerman talked about the struggles to overcome the flooding from Hurricane Harvey and the sharp downturn in projected revenues that caused the city to do some emergency belt-tightening recently.
“I think you know there are still people in our community who are still hurting,” he said, referring to flood victims.
He said the city, outside consultants and the Levee Improvement districts are looking at the flooded areas to improve drainage and prevent future flooding.
He noted that the city’s land use plan was last updated in 2004 and said a four-year review is about to come before the city council.
“We are updating our land use plan. It’s a big piece in our comprehensive plan,” Zimmerman said.
While highlighting city services, the mayor said the city is improving mobility with the help of a state-of-the-art traffic control center. He also touted the response times of first responders and the improved services of the police department.
“In 2017, Sugar Land achieved our lowest crime rate in more than 20 years,” he said.
He said surveys and studies have shown that Sugar Land is one of the safest cities of municipalities its size.
“Overall, the City of Sugar Land out-performed the U.S. and Texas averages in all aspects related to city police services,” he said.
Zimmerman was also excited about the city’s 3-1-1 call center, which provides information to citizens 24/7.
While addressing the city’s revenues, he said the council approved a $228 million budget, which increased taxes by 1.5 percent. Shortly after the budget was adopted, the was a downturn in projected sales tax revenues and then property values, many of which were re-adjusted after Hurricane Harvey, fell below projections. He said the city is now implementing a system of more accurately projecting revenues.
Looking ahead, he mentioned that Newland Communities is moving forward with the Telfair development project; the Imperial Market redevelopment project continues to progress; and the revitalization of Town Square is being planned.