Despite challenges that the community has faced over the past year, the future continues to look bright for the town of Danville, Mayor Renee Morgan said while delivering the annual State of the Town address earlier this month.
Presented by the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the town government, the virtual State of the Town and Community Service Awards saw the mayor largely focus her speech on the coronavirus pandemic, which she says affected nearly every aspect of life over the past year. She also touched on the town's financial situation, local cultural events and looming housing issues facing the community.
"Today we meet to review the past, present and moving into the future; the state of our town. There is a clear shared understanding of what makes Danville unique, the distinctly Danville elements that make our town special and continue to make it a destination in the East Bay," Morgan said during her roughly 25-minute address held on April 1.
"We need to acknowledge and appreciate how well we have been weathering the storm and how as a community we have worked together," she added in reference to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Stating that the pandemic is the "most serious health threat" in modern history, Morgan praised the community for its commitment to following state and county health orders, which she explains have helped slow the spread of the virus.
"The virus has affected and taken so many lives, to date we have lost 24 residents to this devastating disease. Most people know someone who has or has had COVID-19. It is affecting a great many in our community and my heart goes out to everyone," she said.
She also highlighted a belief that there is light at the end of the tunnel, especially given that Danville has one of the highest vaccine rates in Contra Costa County. As of April 1, Morgan said that about 50% of Danville's adult residents have received at least their first shot of the vaccine, putting the community well on its way toward herd immunity.
Like most communities, Danville was not immune to the negative financial impacts associated with the virus, which Morgan said resulted in the town assuming a net total revenue loss of $5 million for the fiscal year.
"The onset of the global coronavirus pandemic and the result of the shelter-in-place orders that began in March 2020 created significant financial uncertainty for local governments. As a result, the process leading up to the adoption of the 2021 operating budget and CIP (capital improvement program) was unique and unlike any prior year … presenting immediate and long term planning challenges," she said. "The bottom line is, we will make do with less and we will not go into debt."
The town was still able to maintain generally positive financial footing despite this hit, however, and thanks to reductions in town services and future capital projects was still able to maintain a balanced budget.
"Fortunately, unlike most Californian cities, the town has no unfunded future liabilities related to employee pension or medical costs to compound the fiscal impact of the pandemic," she added. "Our overall fiscal condition remains strong, and the town is well-positioned to finish the fiscal year on a positive note."
The revenue side was met with some areas of increase for the town, according to Morgan, who said that sales taxes from local online sales rose to 30% over the past year -- that's compared to 15% at pre-COVID levels.
While the pandemic limited the town's abilities to start new capital improvement projects, Danville was able to continue with investments into its current infrastructure and was even able to complete the construction of 3.6 lane miles of street bicycle facilities from Diablo Road to Green Valley Road and downtown.
Danville was also able to recently complete the San Ramon Creek Pedestrian Bridge and Hap Magee Ranch Park in addition to funding maintenance for roads, parks and other public spaces.
Morgan further praised the town's ability to safely adapt to the pandemic for local cultural events such as the traditional Fourth of July parade, which was held virtually this year.
Housing is one topic that has much uncertainty around it for smaller municipalities throughout the Bay Area, as the state works to provide housing for a continuously booming population.
While Danville itself hasn't seen a significant amount of growth over the past decade, the town has created a "granny flat ordinance" designed to help residents develop garden cottages -- or accessory dwelling units (ADUs) -- in their backyards. The move will help provide affordable and family-friendly housing for residents, Morgan said.
"As with any crisis, heavy is the person who takes on the challenge or handles the stress placed on them to get through the event. I am facing this challenge head-on. As your mayor, I will continue to advocate for you in the county and the state and work with staff to provide assistance, support and listen to the concerns of our community," Morgan said toward the end of her address. "It is nice knowing that we are all working toward a common goal."
Morgan's State of the Town address was followed by the chamber's annual Community Awards, a celebration of community members and businesses who call Danville home.
This year's winners included:
Business of the Year - AR Workshop.
Businessperson of the Year - Kira Feick, Ignite HR Solutions.
Ambassadors of the Year - Lara George and Bob Landy.
Charitable Organization of the Year - I Can Do That! Performing Arts Center.
Citizen of the Year - Marcia Harmon, Cottage Jewel.
Employee of the Year - Diane Friedmann, town of Danville.
Interested residents can watch the full State of the Town and Community Awards online via the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce's YouTube channel.