Tooele City Mayor Debbie Winn delivered her annual state of the city address, highlighting pandemic problems and triumphs and thanking different agencies throughout the city on Wednesday evening during the City Council meeting.
Winn began her speech — directed at the city council, department heads, staff of Tooele City, and residents of the city — by addressing the pandemic that began in March 2020.
“The year 2020 has proven to be one of the most challenging that many of us have ever experienced,” she said. “Although we continue to see the negative impact of the COVID-19 virus that caused the worldwide pandemic, we are encouraged by the recent distribution of the vaccine in hopes of finally ending this worldwide pandemic.”
She continued, “I wish to express my deepest sympathies to all of the families who lost loved ones to this horrible virus.”
Winn thanked healthcare workers who helped provide care and comfort to those suffering from COVID-19 and to first responders who provided help to residents during the pandemic.
Winn told those listening to the speech that although city hall was closed for part of the year, city staff kept business running smoothly.
“Although city hall was closed to the public from March 24 through May 31, just over two months, we still offered all of our services online, by phone, or by mail,” she stated. “We provided ways for contactless transactions for those who still needed to do business in person. Since reopening city hall on June 1, we have continued to serve the public in a safe manner.”
In order to keep residents safe when city hall reopened, Winn said that glass partitions between staff and the public had been installed.
She also said that city staff continued to wear masks and adhere to the social distancing guidelines put forth by the health department.
“We have been a leader in the community by showing that we are able to provide excellent customer service while maintaining a safe environment for our staff and the public,” she said.
Despite the challenges of the past year, Winn said that there were many good things that had taken place in 2020.
“During the week after the earthquake, our police personnel were able to move into their new building,” she said. “Our dedicated officers are now able to work much more effectively. I am so very grateful for how our police officers met the challenges of sudden and dramatic cries for police reform. Our officers have a reputation of treating all people with dignity and respect and we can be proud of their professionalism.”
During 2020, the volunteer fire department responded to almost 500 calls — over 100 calls more than 2019.
“It is my hope that the residents recognize the great service these men provide and the millions of taxpayer dollars that are saved by providing this professional service as volunteers,” said Winn.
City Staff quickly adapted to pandemic changes, according to Winn.
“Tooele City quickly adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic without laying off one employee,” she stated. “Crossing guards, lifeguards, and aquatic staff worked in the parks and helped with facility cleaning and renovation. Very few employees worked from home.”
Winn continued, “Our finance department was also a key player in the distribution of the cares funding received through the state. $680,000 was distributed to small businesses through a grant program.”
$300,000 dollars was allotted to the Tooele County School Districts for students who were online learning as well.
Winn said that when the earthquake struck in March 2020, the community development program, who is in charge of the city’s emergency preparedness plan, proved that Tooele City was ready if an emergency like this would ever occur again.
“The pandemic has taught us that we can adapt to problems and find new ways to provide services,” Winn went on.
She said that the Tooele City Library found new ways to serve the public during the pandemic.
“Books and other items were delivered safely to other patrons through a vehicle pickup service and a new WIFI service was installed to enable patrons to connect to the internet outside the library building and several blocks away,” said Winn. “This allowed students to do their homework and some residents to work from home. The library staff was also instrumental in promoting the 2020 census count. Tooele City had a 75.6% self-response rate- the highest in our county.”
The Communities that Care department was able to provide QPR suicide and socially distanced training classes and online parenting workshops during the pandemic, according to Winn.
Winn said that the city was still able to celebrate the Fourth of July by setting off fireworks, hosting the Miss Tooele City Pageant, decorating the downtown area, the all-American diner round to support local businesses, a porch decorating contest, and a flag raising ceremony.
During 2020, a statue was placed in the Veteran’s Memorial Park of a Vietnam War soldier and his tracker dog.
“The Seek-On statue has been placed to be totally dedicated this year on Memorial Day,” she said. “We are looking forward to that day when we can recognize and honor the service of our veterans.”
During the pandemic, the Oquirrh Hills Golf Course and the Pratt Aquatic Center were able to provide recreation for residents, according to Winn.
“Necessary steps to keep areas clean and sanitized have made it possible to keep the doors open as we adapt to rules set forth by the state,” she stated.
Winn said that the Parks and Recreation department has been able to accomplish several projects during the past year, including the installation of automated sprinklers at the Tooele City Park, installing a fence around the cemetery, and completing the Elton Park walking path and installing lighting in the pickleball courts.
She also thanked the water department and streets department for their projects.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to work with other elected officials in our county,” Winn said. “We meet often to discuss the needs of our valley and how we can work together to solve difficult issues.”
Winn finished her speech, “2020 was a most challenging year but we proved to be resilient. I am honored to serve as your mayor. May God continue to bless our beautiful city and the people who call Tooele City their home.”