By Kayla Anderson
On a beautiful sunny morning, the Sparks Legislative Building on 431 Prater Way was filled with local and state government entities including representatives from Senator Cortez Masto office, Congressman Mark Amodei’s office, the RSCVA, Washoe County, Sparks City Council, city staff, and other supporters of Sparks Mayor Ron Smith. After briefly acknowledging the audience, Sparks Community Relations Manager Julie Duewel then shared a video acknowledging the accomplishments of the City of Sparks over the last year.
The 2019 State of the City address began with the changes of when Smith took his position as Sparks mayor in December 2018 and Paul Anderson filled his city council seat to continue representing Ward 3. In the past year, Pete Krall became the city’s new police chief and Jim Reid took the post of running the fire department. The city is adding 32 new staff positions in practically all departments, showing that Sparks is thriving for the first time since the Great Recession.
Here are some other stats and numbers related to the State of the City in 2019:
- For its 38th consecutive year, the City of Sparks was awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association.
- In 2018, Golden Eagle Regional Park generated $24.4 million in revenue, hosting 53 tournaments and events on its 13 synthetic turf fields. Fields 7-8 were replaced in 2018, funded by cannabis business license fees.
- The City received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment of Arts, and currently has a survey out asking the community how those funds should be spent regarding public art.
- Sparks still hosts major events that draw national attention to Victorian Square including Star Spangled Sparks, Hot August Nights, the Best of the West Rib Cook-Off, Pumpkinpalooza, the Honey & Lavender Festival and monthly community favorite 3rd Thursdays.
- There are 700 free parking spaces downtown, which is more than many other neighboring cities.
- The Sparks Marina hosts its fair share of fun, too. Along with new hotels, residences, and the Water Bar going in, people can often be seen fishing, swimming, kayaking, or paddleboarding. The Sparks Marina is home to the annual Turkey Trot, GWN International Dragon Boat races, the Water Lantern Festival, and more.
- Safety is the number one priority for the City of Sparks, especially with the $5 million outdoor amphitheater in Victorian Square that Marnell Gaming built. Sparks Police works closely with Nevada Threat Analysis Center and other Nevada police departments to mitigate traffic, make sure the venue is secure, and ensure everyone has a good time at these events. Sparks Police has made more of a presence in social media, sharing safety tips, alerts, and events on Facebook and Twitter which has received a positive response.
Sparks city councilmembers also shared updates regarding their special projects:
“We want to create a place where citizens can come, feel safe, and bring their kids,” says Sparks Councilmember Kristopher Dahir about how Sparks is working with Washoe County to alleviate homelessness, especially along the Truckee River corridor.
Councilmember Ed Lawson spoke about the Washoe County Lands Bill and the possibility of building a new industrial center on the outskirts of Sparks on the 40,000 acres of land that it owns. The video addressed what the city has done to improve signals/pedestrian crossings on major roadways, sewage lines, curbs, sidewalks, and gutters in Sparks. Mayor Ron Smith also mentioned the strides that the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility has taken in the purity of the water effluence discharged into the Truckee River in how it has implemented GoPlant technology to improve efficiencies.
Mayor Smith shares that Sparks Fire added a new engine and that all the fire trucks in its fleet are 2015 or newer. The City of Sparks even launched its own TV show called Spotlight on Sparks.
After the 20-minute video, Mayor Ron Smith delivered his closing remarks and while the City is thriving, Smith shared his own personal struggle of leading the city in his first year as mayor. Tearfully, he acknowledges his wife, daughter, and parents at the event and candidly shares what he went through after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last December.
“I’ve been doing chemotherapy every week since January. It’s kicked my ass and it’s mean as hell, but the diagnosis is good. Luckily, we caught it early and I’m going to be around for a long time. I try to come to work every day with a good attitude and I’m fortunate for the support from the staff here and the community,” he says.
“We love you, Ron!” a member of the audience cries out before the 2019 State of the City address concluded.