By Raiza Giorgi

The crowd erupted in laughter as Buellton City Manager Marc Bierdzinski used his State of the City address to tease Solvang City Manager Brad Vidro about the extensive technical trouble that marred Vidro’s comparable presentation in January.

“I might be asking a lot of questions,” Vidro called out, which drew more laughter from the crowd Feb. 21 at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott.

Buellton officials and other local dignitaries, including 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann and Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson, joined a crowd of about 150 people to hear about Buellton issues and to have an entertaining lunch.

Holly Sierra, the city’s first mayor to be elected directly by voters, gave a brief history of the city, including the source of the nickname “Service Town USA. Before the paving of Highway 101, travelers on the dirt road would frequently pop tires and had to stop in Buellton to get their vehicles fixed, she said.

“Nowadays ‘service’ has a little different meaning, as we have become a destination with our amazing wineries and restaurants, but we welcome them all the same,” Sierra said.

Executive Director Kathy Vreeland of the Buellton Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau also announced Ron Anderson as the recipient of the Vincent B. Evans award, which he had received at a recent chamber mixer in recognition of his extensive volunteering.

“Ron has touched every corner of Buellton, and there is no one more deserving of this award,” Vreeland said as Anderson stood up and waved and the room exploded in applause.

An entertaining video presentation from the Recreation Department depicted people participating in its many programs and activities, ranging from day trips to the Los Angeles Zoo to longer excursions to Australia and New Zealand, as well as after-school programs and summer camps.

The city and the chamber host many festivals each year, creating opportunities for both residents and tourists to experience the growing city. Those include the upcoming Buellton Wine and Chili Festival on March 18, the Easter Eggstravaganza, a July picnic, a big haunted house in October in collaboration with Solvang, and the popular Winterfest weekend.

Bierdzinski told the audience that Buellton is growing and holding to its visioning process, including the addition of more trails and parks and moving forward with developing the Avenue of Flags into a prosperous downtown area.

“I am excited about working with property owners and developers with implementing the Avenue of Flags Specific Plan,” Bierdzinski said.

Revenue from property taxes and transient occupancy taxes are helping Buellton maintain a healthy budget, he added, saying that about half of the top sales tax and property tax generators are local businesses such as AJ Spurs, Flying Flags RV Resort, Platinum Performance, Farm Supply, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, Buellton Self Storage, Todd Pipe and Supply and others.

More than a dozen new businesses have opened or plan to open within the next year, such as People Helping People Thrift store, La Botte Bistro, Gypsy Studios and others.

The city recently updated its hazard mitigation plan and has a goal of updating its emergency management plan.

The city has a budget of $14.5 million for the 2017-18 fiscal year. General fund revenues are projected at $6.6 million and general fund expenditures of $6.3 million. The city has a $1.7 million reserve, which increased $927,220 from the prior fiscal year due to sales and property tax receipts.

The city’s water resources remain under conservation mandates. The city gets most of its water from upland wells, combined with river wells. It also receives state water shipments. Water rates have increased slightly, but the city continues to supplement a portion of the cost so they aren’t a burden ratepayers, Bierdzinksi added.

Public works projects in 2017 included storm drain cleaning, annual road maintenance, installing a fire alarm in the post office, decorative streetscapes along Highway 246, water treatment and wastewater treatment repairs and sewer line cleaning.

Projects in 2018 are to include installing streetlights on Industrial Way, painting the post office, library and sheriff’s buildings; designing a pedestrian crossing at Sycamore and Highway 246; and potential Avenue of Flags improvements listed in the street’s specific plan.

New commercial projects in Buellton include The Commons, a public market-type building, the ongoing Vineyard Village condominium complex and upcoming Live Oak Lanes bowling center near Antonio’s Pizza.