City met with Kohler officials

<i>Photo by Christyl Buckles</i>
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<i>Photo by Christyl Buckles</i> <b></b>

At the beginning of his report to the Winslow City Council during its Oct. 25 meeting, City Administrator Jim Ferguson said he had three items to discuss that were all closely related.

"The first is, I want to talk a little bit about a visit that we had last week," he said. "That visit was from a Fortune 500 company." He added that Winslow had been put on the company's short list after a meeting about a month and a half ago.

"They came back and said we would like to take another look," Ferguson said. "They narrowed it down to four communities within the state of Arizona. They are only looking in Arizona. The company has a very strong name. They are well known in the bathroom products, and that company is Kohler."

Kohler makes bathroom products, such as faucets.

Ferguson said the company's human resources department visited with city officials and human resource departments from the big employers in the area.

"The first thing we talked about was if they can get enough people to take care of the plant," he said, noting that the company said the plant would start with about 200 jobs, and could be up to 500 jobs in seven to eight years.

"This would be a nice operation for any community our size," he said. "I Feel like we still have chance, but during the meeting something came up."

One of the issues was if the company would hire that many people, where would they live. Ferguson said he showed the company officials the new housing subdivisions underway, but that they company was talking about 200 not 50.

Another topic addressed was what is there to do. "Winslow is an isolated, small community, but we were able to show them some things," he said.

The major issue, which Ferguson said was disappointing, was the appearance of the town.

"They said it is not quite what they like when bringing people here to convince them this is where they are going to spend some time in their life, in their career for awhile," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said that things like lots with weeds, and abandoned cars were what the company had listed.

"They're right, there are some," he said. "That hurt a little bit, because I know Winslow, and there are so many good things, positive things. But it was a real turn off for them."

Ferguson said that as community, residents know there are some things that need to be done.

"I hope what we showed them will keep us in the running, but it could be a detriment," he said. "It could be what keeps them from us."

The second topic Ferguson addressed was creating neighborhood programs, which, he said, would begin helping to address the appearance problem.

"This is not something the city can do all by itself," he said. "This will take the whole community to make things happen."

Ferguson said that in the next few months he would be putting the structure of the program together so it could happen.

"This will allow citizens to have more of a say on what's going on," he said.

The city administrator noted that as issues vary in neighborhoods, each would need its own program.

"There are a lot of good programs out there, but we need to find the one that fits us," he said, noting that he would be looking for a couple of volunteers to serve as program coordinators.

The third topic was expanding the city's code enforcement.

"We as a city have got to be more concerned, more careful with code enforcement," Ferguson said. "We haven't done everything we could be doing. We need to do more."

Ferguson said that he thought about what could be done, including hiring a part-time enforcement officer, but that wouldn't work.

"The staff that has been doing it can't handle it," he said. "A part-time person can't do the job properly. Most cities have a number of people in that department."

He said he started to look at the city, and to visit with city employees. "I realized we already have an enforcement division, we just need to expand upon their responsibility."

He said that division was the animal control.

"They have personnel out and about every day, and more than one, there are several, making contact with the community," he said. "They are already trained, will just need more training on the code issues we're talking about, like weeds and abandoned vehicles."

Ferguson said that when it comes to building issues, the building inspector would still be in charge, and that with zoning violations, the planning and zoning person would handle those.

Ferguson said that as the program develops, he would be working with the chief of police on what the division will be doing, and working with the city attorney to make sure the process is correct.

"We need to cooperate with public so they in turn will cooperate with us," he said.

He added that there were possibilities with using citizens that have community service to take care of some of the issues, along with service programs.

"We need to do what we can," Ferguson said. "We want the next company that comes to town in a year from now, to see Winslow for what it really is. To see the good people that are here, the good hard working people. We don't want something else cluttering up. If the city can do their part, and the citizens do their part, then we will be able to land them."

Following Ferguson's report, Mayor Jim Boles said he would like to see Ferguson bring back a proposal at the appropriate time, so that the council could adopt whatever ordinances are needed.

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