The city administrator for Branson, Stan Dobbins, released a letter to the public on December 28th recapping the year. The letter is shown below unedited.
As I have had the opportunity to reflect on this past year, the thing that stands out most to me is the resilience and caring of this community. We here at City Hall tend to focus on the financial bottom line to make sure our community and residents are taken care of. While that is important, to me, what is just as important to focus on is our biggest asset – the people in our community.
As everyone knows we lost seventeen precious lives in an accident involving a Duck Boat. While we wish it would have never occurred what I saw was a caring community respond to embrace the loved ones that survived and the families of those lost. We really did make them our family and continue to do so. To me, that caring is the real strength of our community.
We have two large projects occurring in our community; the renovation of the Highway 76 corridor and the renovation of the Downtown Business District. Both projects were brought to a halt in 2017 due to financial issues. We have worked hard this year to establish funding mechanisms to pay for these projects and to ensure the City is reimbursed for the funds expended in certain areas of the projects. The 76 project funding mechanism involved the passage and signing of a Cooperative Agreement between the City and the 76 Community Improvement District (CID). That document was secured this year and the annexations of property into the CID are going well. We have also taken possession of Highway 76 from the State of Missouri so we can both continue to change the face of the roadway and reduce the bureaucracy involved in the renovation.
We have also initiated a program to provide clean and safe living locations for everyone who lives in Branson, regardless of economic conditions. We have several facilities in town that were hotels that now house individuals on an extended-stay basis. This program is directly tied to business licensing and mandates all inspections from the Health Department, Fire Department and Codes Enforcement are passed while complying with the Police Department in the Tier Program. Each facility must have paid all taxes and fees along with passing their inspections to do business in the City. It has been rewarding to be part of this process that is improving the quality of life of our residents and to witness the teamwork involved to put all businesses on the same level of accountability.
In 2018, the City was able to keep several promises to the community that we made when the Public Safety Sales Tax was passed by the residents in 2017, to keep our residents safe. We have purchased radio equipment to better protect our community, land for a new fire station and Police Department and new vehicles for both fire and police. We have also begun hiring additional personnel and started updating our storm sirens.
The City of Branson has seen incredible growth this past year and has attracted several new businesses including the new Mercy Clinic, Andy B’s, H&M, Paula Dean’s Restaurant, Schlotzsky’s and Wonder Works. We have also seen significant upgrades at Cox Branson. We have received a designation of an Opportunity Zone in our City to further spur economic development. There are several big projects slated for 2019 and I am excited to see this growth continue. I have also noted an uptick in the housing construction on the north side of the community.
We have also seen big developments in the expansion of our trails and parks system for our residents and guests to enjoy. Most recently we have extended the trail at Sunset Park that now connects through to the end of the Roark Creek. We also have relocated playground equipment from Stockstill Park to the RecPlex to reduce our flood losses and to provide a sensory interactive playground for children who have autism. The equipment was funded through a grant and private donations and will no longer be in a floodplain. We are also looking for opportunities to relocate the ball fields so we can expand tournament play for youth and adults. This year also saw the start of “Project LifeSaver” for our guests and community members that utilizes the Police Department to provide an extra sense of security for those responsible for autistic children and adults suffering from Alzheimer’s who have a tendency to wander away.
We have initiated new programs in the Utilities Department that will upgrade our sewer system and develop an appropriate water grid for our community. These new programs will provide fire protection, consumption and economic growth using the funds from our fees as intended. This will allow us to replace old mains that were not designed for our current volumes and put appropriate services in areas that currently do not have them.
And lastly, the City has worked hard this past year to build trust with our citizens and to improve our communication and transparency with them. We have seen exponential growth on our existing social media channels as well as on our website. Please see all our new changes and services we offer on our website, www.bransonmo.gov. We also continue to expand on platforms like “Nextdoor” to connect with and inform as many residents as possible about what’s happening at City Hall. We are constantly thinking of ways to save tax dollars and use Priority Based Budgeting to make those tax dollars stretch further. Looking ahead to 2019, we will continue to seek out grants and other funding sources to improve our roadways, water system, public safety and park facilities. All while doing our best to be the most customer friendly staff possible.
While we can’t always say yes to every idea or project, we take the time to examine each request and give an explanation as to either how an alternative solution might work, why the request is not possible or work to provide the needed answer. I personally hate it when someone “passes the buck” so to speak. We are all in government to serve the public. If anyone ever feels they were not treated appropriately or did not receive a response to a question, feel free to email me at email@example.com or call my office at (417) 334-3345.
We here at the City of Branson want to reflect the same level of caring and compassion that our residents have shown in spades this past year. We are a caring community and a great place to live, visit and play.