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Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles looking at city priorities in 2020.

Planning for new development is the city of Ferndale’s biggest opportunity, the city’s mayor said Monday.

Sweeney

The city already approved a new housing element during the past summer, said Ferndale Mayor Michael Sweeney. Now it’s working on aligning the land use element of the general plan with the housing element in hopes of creating more affordable housing.

“Our schools are very important to us,” Sweeney said. “Schools need children. Children usually come from younger families. Housing affordability is a growing issue in town in Ferndale.”

In order to keep teachers, firefighters, police officers and other members of the community in Ferndale, Sweeney said the city’s going to have to implement policies for higher densities that would allow for duplexes and townhouses that are more affordable for younger families.

Younger families with school-aged children will keep the local schools viable, he said.

“We’re also beginning the process of upgrading our master drainage plan,” Sweeney said. “Water runs downhill and Ferndale’s relatively flat, so it doesn’t take much of a rainstorm to cause localized flooding.”

The city wants to move forward with its drainage infrastructure in a way “that would accommodate build out,” Sweeney said. Rather than putting in an 8-inch culvert that would accommodate current development and still allow for flooding a few yards away, the city would put in a 12-inch culvert that accounts for development over the next 20 years, he said.

As far as challenges go, increasing payments to CalPERS, the state’s public employee retirement system, aren’t a problem for Ferndale like other communities because the city has an old fashioned 401K retirement plan, Sweeney said.

“We’re dodging the bullet on that one,” he said.

But recruiting and retaining police officers is tough because Ferndale is “kind of at the lowest rung on the ladder for rookies coming out of (College of the Redwoods),” Sweeney said.

Rookies come to the city to get experience and then start moving up the ladder, he said.

“So that’s a constant struggle and we’re not really in a position to compete with the county salary-wise,” Sweeney said.

While the budget is able to sustain the city’s 12-person staff, Sweeney said Ferndale could provide more services with more funding.

“We’re constantly looking for grant funding to improve our roads,” Sweeney said. “But that’s a countywide issue.”

Looking at ways to fund the wastewater treatment plant and wastewater collection system are also ever-present issues, Sweeney said.

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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