South Lake Tahoe mayor delivers 2014 State of the City address |

South Lake Tahoe mayor delivers 2014 State of the City address

Griffin Rogers

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — South Lake Tahoe Mayor Hal Cole, in an annual state of the city address Tuesday, said the community is “poised for success” as it stands in the wake of a number of improvements made to the city’s budget and infrastructure in recent years.

Standing in front of a packed room at Lake Tahoe Airport, Cole talked about the addition of several recently finished and ongoing projects throughout the area, as well as the city’s success in reducing a large multimillion-dollar unfunded liability brought on by rising healthcare costs.

“We are poised now for a renewed effort to reinvest in our town,” he said. “Our books are balanced, and through the efforts of budgeting and refinancing our loans, our debt is getting reduced.”

In his presentation, Cole took the audience on a visual “tour” of South Lake Tahoe’s latest developments, including the BevMo being built at the “Y”, the recently completed first phase of the Chateau project near the state line and the unofficial passage of a Lake Tahoe Community College bond measure.

He even crossed over the increasingly “blurred” state line in his speech to talk about the upgrades being made at Edgewood Tahoe, Mont Bleu Resort Casino & Spa and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe.

“The investment plan in the Stateline area is unprecedented — estimated to be over $200 million between now and 2016,” Cole said. “And that investment does create jobs, and it does draw more people to this town, and that does benefit every one of us.”

But while it is expected that these new business improvements will help generate more money for the area, Cole said recreation is still the main economic driver. New bike paths, recreation plans and space has been created as a result.

However, the most transformational change this year was made to the city’s financial future, he said.

In 2012, the city’s unfunded liability for healthcare expenses would have been $47 million if action wasn’t taken. But thanks in part to new employee contracts and debt restructuring, the city now estimates it has reduced that liability by about $36 million.

“In all my years as a councilmember,” he said, “the restructuring of our finances over the past three years has been the most transformative change I have ever witnessed or been a part of. It may not be as visible as the projects I have discussed, but the transformation of the city’s finances will have just as big of an impact on our town as the projects that are visible as you drive by.”

Nevertheless, South Lake Tahoe still faces many challenges, Cole added.

Too many residents are still living in poverty, too many are living in old hotels not built for long-term tenants and transportation could use some improvement, he said.

“And although the city is not equipped to offer many social services, we are cognizant of this problem and incorporate many features into those projects with residents in mind,” he said.

Ultimately, though, Cole’s message to the public was a positive one. He ended the 2014 state of the city address with a collage of photos showing South Lake Tahoe’s transformation over several years.

“Let’s build a welcome sign,” Cole said. “This one won’t be on the side of the highway — this will be our city. Let’s light up the lake on Dec. 6, and if we work together the possibilities are endless.”

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