State of the City: 'On a Positive Path to a Sustainable Future'

screenYelm, WA — Yelm Mayor JW Foster delivered his State of the City address at the Yelm Chamber Forum on Tuesday, highlighting the progress of recent years due to an award winning budget and a long-term revenue forecast.

One of the first projects Foster took on as mayor was to invest in personnel and training within the City’s Finance Department to ensure sustainable funding for current and future employees, including additional police officers.

“We don’t hire people for a trial run, we hire them for careers and we have to make sure the money is going to be there next year, in 10 years, and 20 years down the road,” Foster said. “We took our time and put money where it needed to go and that was in the foundation of our City government.”

With the new budgeting process in place, the City was able to make all funds self-sustaining and included an equipment replacement repair fund to ensure the City doesn’t have to scramble every time a police car needs to be replaced. The new budget allows the City to look at past trends and future growth and the last two cycles have shown exceptional growth, with a sustained revenue increase of about 5 percent each year.

“We are confident now for two reasons, we’ve got a sustainable income stream, we’ve got a handle on our expenditures and our audit shows us that we are on a positive path to a sustainable future and that’s huge.”

Over the course of to years, Yelm has hired three additional police officers, now having more officers than anytime in Yelm’s history and filled several other positions. Foster said it has been a priority to invest in our officers and provide training so they can be better equipped to deal with victims of domestic violence, mentally ill patients, and those struggling with addiction.

Foster said providing officers with narcan, giving officers the ability to save a life of someone who has overdosed on opioids, is one of the programs he is most proud of implementing. Within one week of the program’s existence, a Yelm police officer saved a patient’s life by deploying narcan up their nose.

“No matter how you feel about that — and I feel very strongly about that from my career (as a paramedic for the Tumwater Fire District) — You save the life and then you treat the addiction,” Foster said. “That’s exactly what our officers are stepping up to do.”

Along with investing in personnel and training, Foster noted the City’s effort to keep money within the community by shopping local and the ability to bring federal tax dollars back to Yelm to help pay for local projects. He referenced the expansion of the local business sector and complimented the community for their desire to support local business and new events. Foster also thanked our state representatives for supporting Yelm, referencing the recent groundbreaking of the mostly federally funded splash pad, Fort Stevens sidewalk project, and funding for the Yelm Loop.

“This is our own money that we pay in taxes that comes back to Yelm in the form of projects like these,” Foster said.

Foster reminded the audience that although the population within the City limits is around 9,500 people, Yelm acts as an economic hub for upwards of 45,000 people and emphasised the importance of public programs and services.

“Yelm is regionally important,” Foster said. Everyone with the 98597 zip code says that they are from Yelm. If you live out at Lawrence Lake, you live in Yelm. If you live in Clearwood, you live in Yelm. Your kids go to Yelm Schools because you live in Yelm.”

The City has also been busy on other projects including the launch of a Boys & Girls Club, and Veterans Resource Center at the former City Hall building, securing funding for a satellite branch of South Puget Sound Community College and a business incubator space in partnership with Thurston Economic Development Council, developing a City habitat conservation plan for the endangered Mazama Pocket Gopher, and a strategy to reacquire water rights.

“My goal all along is to make Yelm a safe, healthy, happy home for all,” Foster said. “And thank you for your continued investment in Yelm.”