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June 28, 2011 7:37 am

EDITORIAL: City budget considers quality of life — today and tomorrow

Written by Ilene Olson

A balancing act: that’s what the Powell City Council and city department heads had to do while determining priorities for budgeting city money during tight economic times in the coming fiscal year.

One of those priorities was economic development. The Powell City Council approved $20,000 to help fund a fledgling economic development group being formed to attract businesses to Powell and help strengthen the local economy.

That effort, and the city’s funding to help support the Powell Economic Partnership, is good news for Powell. It will help fill the hole left when First National Bank was sold two years ago to a Montana corporation that shut down economic development efforts formerly led by Dave Reetz and funded by the bank. Since then, there has been little activity, and more than a little chaos, on Powell’s business and economic development front.

Most notably, Target Powell Valley disbanded in March after 40 years of serving the community by fostering economic growth through property sales. Weatherford International closed its manufacturing facility last year, leaving about 40 Powell employees out of work.

That’s a glaring change from previous forward-thinking attitudes and projects that often were successful, placing Powell at the forefront of small-town economic development efforts.

Less obvious from an economic development standpoint, but perhaps equally important, is the city’s support for the Powell Aquatic Center, the Powell Golf Course and the city’s park system.

Research has shown that amenities such as recreation facilities can play a key role when a person, family or business is considering a move to a new location.

While Powell’s location provides a geographic incentive for people who enjoy outdoor recreation, it’s also important to offer activities for families, business owners and seniors who want to remain active closer to home.

Discussing the budget last week, Powell councilmen and Mayor Scott Mangold reiterated their support for amenities that attract people to the community — and keep them here. Powell needs an airport, hospital and, yes, golf course to be a healthy and vibrant community, councilmen said.

But, back to that balancing act thing. It’s often hard to justify spending money on something that seems less necessary, perhaps even frivolous, when you’re struggling just to pay the bills. That was one of the concerns expressed by city residents in a recent survey, many of whom put the golf course and aquatic center at the bottom of their priority lists for city spending.

It’s ever so important to pay the bills. But it’s also vital to position the city for future growth, economic health and quality of life. Let’s hope the council found the right balance between the two. If not, there’s sure to be a shifting of the scales in the future.

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