By Blake Herzog
Prescott’s water supply, budget and economic development are among City Manager Katie Gregory’s top focuses as she gets into her new role.
An almost 30-year municipal government veteran, Gregory said she has the background to guide the community into the future: “I came here with a good mix of experience to help with the priorities Prescott has.”
She’s been hearing a lot of concern about the city’s groundwater-based water supply and reassures residents there’s enough to meet the needs of its current footprint and all future development approved by the city.
“We are in a position where we have enough, but not enough to waste, but as the community grows we have to take into account how we want to apply our future resources,” she said.
That work will continue through the City’s water subcommittee and other avenues, she said. Officials also need to come up with an infrastructure plan for the Big Chino Wash, which the City has the right to draw just over 8,000 acre-feet per year from but no way to do it.
Gregory said the city is on firm financial ground with solid policies and longtime employees on staff to help keep things on track, but it will take a hit from the recent statewide repeal of the rental sales tax that’s been collected by many cities and towns.
“That generates about $1 million per year for our general fund and another $1 million for our street fund — that’s a reduction of revenue we’re going to be experiencing beginning in January 2025, so we’ll have to plan for that and have some ability to move things around and maybe look at ways we can be more efficient and raise some revenue to offset that,” she said.
The course of development, both residential and economic, will need to be set through discussions at the council level and throughout the community, she said.
City officials are getting ready to create an economic development strategic plan that will set policies to attract firms in targeted industries. Prescott’s overall strategic plan for 2023 identifies tourism, health care, aviation, defense and high-tech businesses as priorities.
Gregory said Prescott Regional Airport and its airpark and the Centerpointe area could attract many types of companies, but they may not all bring the same benefits.
“Those could be good job creators, but what kind of industrial do we want to bring out there, whether it’s advanced manufacturing or regular manufacturing, or warehousing, those types of things?” she said. “There’s a lot of opportunities there, but some are great job creators and others are not-so-great job creators.”
Having enough workers in the pipeline for new employers is another issue Prescott will need to grapple with, she added: “Like it or not, our demographics don’t support the kind of workforce that these companies are looking for. If we don’t have ways to get workers here, then those industries aren’t going to come. These are major things we need to think about as a community, and that’s what I’ve done a lot of over my career.”
Gregory worked 23 years for the City of Peoria, the last five of them as deputy city manager. She and her family have been frequent Prescott visitors, coming up for special events and soccer and baseball games. Her husband Mike is a retired City of Glendale employee, their oldest child is in college and the younger two are in high school. She’s renting a home here while they wrap up some projects on their Peoria home.
Her starting annual salary is $225,000 and her contract will automatically renew every year, barring any decision from her or the City Council to end the agreement.