Incumbent Challis Mayor Mike Barrett is running for re-election so residents can see a “continuation of the philosophy of being efficient and providing value to the community.”
Barrett faces a challenge from Corey Rice in the Nov. 2 race for the four-year position.
If re-elected, Barrett said he won’t lose focus on efficiency, value and keeping up with maintenance and growth needs. The city has been playing catch-up on some deferred maintenance, Barrett said, and he wants to avoid that.
“We need to be efficient, forward-thinking and proactive and start managing the growth the best we can,” he said, “and keep costs down.”
Barrett would continue updating capital improvement plans which he says allow the city “to go out and secure funding.”
Capital improvement plans lay out the order for projects, but should be nimble enough to move projects when necessary, he said.
Challis is situated for growth, he said. When the community grew in the 1980s, infrastructure was put in to the edges of the city. A lack of infrastructure to accommodate growth isn’t the problem, according to Barrett, but determining “how we as a city make things sustainable and affordable,” is an issue. “We can’t just jack up fees, we have to stay within boundaries.”
Barrett favors the methodology the city now employs, which he describes as “a pay as you go mentality,” because he says it’s sustainable to add infrastructure when needed.
“We need to be sure we have enough water to serve 1,400 or so people,” he said. “Even though the census says we have 906, we see more (residents) at the city.” He acknowledged that “Challis does wither a bit in the winter,” but he believes there are more people here from March through October than official data suggests.
Keeping improvements affordable is important to Barrett.
“We can’t raise fees or taxes, but we get more money from more people living here,” he said. “We can put money into rainy day funds and leverage that money for the next project.”
He cited the airport improvements as an example of advance planning. Because the city had plans in place when grant funds became available, Challis applied and qualified, he said. Challis didn’t need to provide matching funds for the airport, but some grants require a match, which is why Barrett supports the idea of rainy day funds.
The city budget is tight, Barrett said, as he thinks it should be. It was $2.4 million in 2013 and the budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 is $1.2 million.
Part of the savings comes from the city owning the building where City Hall is now located, instead of paying the school district $22,000 a year for rent in the middle school building, Barrett said. In 4.5 years the new City Hall will have paid for itself, he said, and a permanent building fund has been created to pay for improvements and upgrades down the road. The city has increased efficiencies in other areas, Barrett said, including a computerized water system and cost-effective LED lighting.
“We can keep fees low because we cut the cost of doing business,” he said. “We take that money and plow it back to the community.”
“I’m a fiscal conservative,” Barrett said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised with changes we’ve made — government can operate efficiently if you prioritize and target your spending and be forward-thinking.”
If he returns to office, Barrett will keep the budget tight and put money away to help address bigger projects he believes are coming. In the last four years, the city has put $2 million into the water system, without raising user fees. Water and wastewater projects need to happen soon, he said, and more work is needed on streets. He’d like to continue the current plan of repairing about 1.5 miles of streets every year.
Barrett says he has “the vision to look ahead. We know where we’re going. You know what we’ve done so you can trust we’ll do what we say we will.”