Head above water

Jobs, water and general plan keep Woodland’s plate full

Back Q&A Sep 30, 2013 By Torey Van Oot

Paul Navazio stepped into his role as Woodland city manager at a busy time for Yolo County. Since being appointed to the post in April 2012, Navazio has dived into the city budget, overseen the start of Woodland’s general plan update and continued to press ahead on an ambitious water project with the city of Davis, all with an eye on bringing more stable and high-paying jobs to the region. “It’s been the quickest 14 months I think I’ve had,” Navazio told Comstock’s recently. The 51-year-old city official spoke with us about the biggest issues facing Woodland in the year to come.

Comstock’s: You’re just a few months into your second year here as city manager. Give us a recap of the highs and lows of year one, and tell us what goals lie ahead.
I’ve been spending a fair amount of time working on trying to A) get a handle on and B) move the city forward in terms of improving our financial situation and our prospects. We have a lot of work to be done there, but I think we’ve put some initial things in place that put us in a good position. There are also some challenges we recognize that we need to overcome. We are really focusing again on the fiscal — economic development, jobs and the revitalization of downtown. We’re also taking stock of the needs that we have within our infrastructure as it relates to water, wastewater, streets and roads. We’re seeing that as not only a quality-of-life need but also critical to supporting economic development efforts. 

Comstock’s: Woodland’s unemployment rate remains higher than Yolo County’s as a whole. Where are the biggest opportunities for bringing jobs to the community?
Given our location and our ties to the agricultural community, past efforts have really been focused on some of the food, warehousing and transportation (industries), which is still a strong component of our local economy. We’re working locally and regionally with other communities to not only take advantage of our existing and historical strengths, but to move that whole model into the 21st century, if you will —
higher-tech, higher-paid work. We’re putting efforts in place to position Woodland to be able to retain and attract some of the opportunities that are out there, not just for Woodland, but for our region.

Comstock’s: What do those efforts look like? Are there specific initiatives or strategies for bringing those types of jobs to Woodland?
We are in the process of updating our general plan, which is, in some way, going to lay the foundation for all of our future development and growth priorities. A strong emphasis is being placed on the economic element. We’re really looking at how current policies that arose from past economic development strategies need to be revisited or need to be left alone or need to be tweaked. I can’t pretend that we have all the answers yet, but we recognize the need to be a little more business friendly and more receptive to working with businesses, not only to serve our needs but also to serve their needs going forward. One of the big issues that we have facing Woodland, specifically to maximize our economic development potential, is unfortunately the ongoing need to address flood issues. The city has been working on that for a number of years, and these projects take a lot of time, energy and focus. But we are endeavoring as best we can to advance both local and regional flood control projects, not only for the sake of flood control and the protection of property as it currently exists, but also as a key component of opening up opportunities on economic development.

Comstock’s: What’s the status of that general plan rewrite?
We began the process about six months ago and had a pretty ambitious plan to maybe complete it within 18 months, so our target date has been to complete it by June of 2014. We’ll have to see whether or not we can actually meet that. To date, we’ve done a lot in the way of background analysis and public outreach. We can potentially wrap it up by June 2014, but I think there’s also an interest in making sure we have a good, transparent, public engagement process to go along with it.

Comstock’s: Water continues to be a challenge for Woodland, which I know asked residents to voluntarily reduce water use this summer amid concerns about supply and quality. What’s the status of the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency project and other water initiatives currently under way? 
We’re partnering effectively on the project, which is going to transition both communities from our existing groundwater supply system to a conjunctive use, which is a combination of surface water from the Sacramento River and groundwater. The short and long of it is, while it’s been a long road and we’ve dealt with a number of issues to date, we’ve successfully crossed off several milestones recently. We’re hoping through our (joint powers authority agreement) to be under contract for the design, construction and actual operation of the surface water project sometime this fall with a target completion date of 2016. The surface water project continues to be the most expansive project both in terms of capital costs and scope we’ve undertaken as a community. One of the challenges that we have is to make sure that we get from here to 2016 in terms of being able to sustain water quality.

Comstock’s: Whether it’s the water agreement or other regional issues or partnerships, how has your background as a former assistant city manager in Davis and your relationships and experience there impacted progress on these issues?
I would start by saying that, by and large, I think there’s a general sense that, in comparison to other areas even within the region, Yolo County has a pretty long history of partnership and collaboration amongst local government, county government and other interests. In that sense, it’s almost in our DNA. What’s really helped me coming here with that background has more to do with the familiarity with the agencies and the players and this (water) project in particular. We didn’t really have a huge learning curve on it. If nothing else, having a little bit of perspective on how both communities view the project and the interests that they have in the project has been helpful in ensuring that we’re keeping the benefits of collaborations at the forefront.


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