January 31, 2018
Writer: Brandon Isle
The mayors of Rexburg and Sugar City and one of the Madison County commissioners say the state of the cities and the county are great. Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill, Sugar City Mayor David Ogden and Madison County Commissioner Jon Weber each spoke during a breakfast event at the Atrium at Hemming Village in Rexburg.
While their speeches took the majority of the time during the event, the biggest news came from Richie Webb, Hemming Properties president. He announced the new businesses coming to Hemming Village in the new shops currently under construction across the street from the Atrium. He said there will be a Five Guys burger restaurant, a Righteous Slice artisan pizza restaurant, a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store, an Idaho Central Credit Union branch and Grifols plasma donation center.
"I think it's a good mix," he said. "A variety of different tenants, some of which are very new to Rexburg, so I think people will be excited, to see what's coming and be able to come and shop and enjoy that along with what we've already got here."
Webb says the shops, and the community housing above them, should open later this summer.
State of the Cities and County
One theme that stood out during the event was one of unity. This is the first time the cities of Rexburg and Sugar City and Madison County have held this event. Typically, mayors and commissioners will give these types of speeches during city council or commissioner meetings. Mayor Ogden said he and Mayor Merrill have been friends for years and that relationship has grown as they've both been mayors. He said they're working together to make sure they don't duplicate efforts and the decisions they make are the "best for the area." That sentiment is showing up as both cities and the county are working on a plan to create a trail system linking the area for walkers and bicyclists.
Mayor Merrill talked about some of the projects completed in Rexburg in 2017 along with plans for the future of Rexburg. In 2017 the city finished an $8 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade which enables the city to produce a biodegradable compost product instead of shipping waste to the Jefferson County landfill. The city also finished the Center St. project at the end of 2017. It gives the city an area to hold events throughout the year. He said the city is also looking to make the downtown area more pedestrian friendly and to invite businesses to build new buildings to help create new jobs downtown. Another project finished was adding lighting to the soccer fields at Riverside Park. Merrill says he has received "rave reviews" about the fields since the lighting was added. There were also multiple apartment complex projects finished in time for 2018.
Looking to the future, the city is hoping to create a new family park. Merrill said city councilman Brad Wolfe has an idea of what it might look like, "(he) described a very nice vision of a big park with rolling hills and picnic shelters."
The city is looking to build a new baseball quad, upgrade play equipment at the local parks and to make it easier for businesses to expand and make it easier to do business in Rexburg. The fire department is also looking to add a training tower that could also be utilized by other area departments.
Mayor Ogden talked about some of the projects happening in Sugar City. He said the city provided the infrastructure for the $5.5 million ProPeat Fertilizer plant that is up and running in Sugar City and has created 20 new jobs. Voters approved a bond of $3.7 million to upgrade the city's water system which includes building a new well and a new water tank. Water rates will go up to help pay for the project. He also said the city has sold a couple of lots in the business area with construction starting in the spring. He mentioned there will be 110 apartment units coming into the area on eight acres of land.
A large project the city is hoping to secure in the future is a new YMCA. Ogden said a community survey was 99 percent positive in wanting a YMCA. The non-profit organization is now doing a feasibility study to see if a new YMCA would work in the area.
Commissioner Weber says the county is looking for ways to deal with the growth happening in the area. The county is looking at ways to make driving in the county more efficient. This includes looking at the Highway 20 interchanges, frontage roads and a new connector road to take people from Rexburg to Sugar City.
The county is also making some upgrades to the courthouse. The roof will receive upgrades to handle the weight needed to upgrade the heating and air conditioning in the building.
Weber shared some statistics about the county: nine elected officials, 165 employees, 65 volunteers and a $27 million budget. The county granted 451 marriage licenses, issued 1,770 passports and mothers delivered 1,470 babies in Madison Memorial Hospital in 2017.