Tuesday, January 21, 2014

State of the City 2014

Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray

I sat down to reflect on the State of the City of Greencastle as we move into 2014 and realized that it didn’t take us more than 5 days to know what one of “the” stories of the year will be:  12 inches of snow and sub-zero temperatures that  virtually shut down the city.  It is my sincere hope that these days are not indicative of the next 360.

After the last twelve months, I am once again, pleased to report that the fiscal state of our community ended the year in a sound position.  All city departments finished the year within their projected budgets and revenues did indeed cover expenses.  We also saw the significant investment of $20.9 million in equipment and renovations at our local industries, increasing the overall assessed value in the city, which does affect the bottom line for each of us.  This good news is something we don’t take lightly.  We are all watching with angst a proposed legislative initiative that would reduce or eliminate business personal property tax. That kind of action could mean a 21% reduction in city tax revenues and an even larger percentage decrease for our schools.  Budget challenges for cities, towns and schools throughout Indiana are going to continue.  Greencastle,  in 2014, will be tested because of the filing error in our public notifications of our proposed budget, legislative changes aside.

We cannot reflect on 2013 without discussion of the horrific fire on May 17th that dramatically affected a south side block in our historic downtown.   We saw families displaced, businesses ruined and buildings gutted.  Without the quick response of the Greencastle Fire Department and the aide of 16  fire companies, the tragedy could have been worse.  At this time I am pleased to report that because of the courage and commitment of the property owners involved, reconstruction is underway and we will all watch with great excitement the re-opening of those businesses and buildings. 

Much of 2013 also was spent in anticipated construction also.  Significant road work was done on Indianapolis Road, Edgewood Lake Road, and numerous resurfacing projects.  Work was completed on the Albin Pond dam rehabilitation,  the new Zinc Mill lift station and some $100,000 in sidewalk initiatives.  Of course there are the Stellar projects:  façade work, Washington Street, Owner Occupied Rehabilitation and parking solutions. We will also be adding Indiana Street reconstruction, 2nd floor loft development, a second round of downtown façades and Owner Occupied Rehab to the list in 2014.

People often ask, “What is going to happen after the Stellar construction is over?”  I am pleased to report the community has been planning and individuals and organizations are helping to move us forward.  We had a very successful two day CommunityForward Summit that has helped to target direction and identify people interested in “rolling up their sleeves”.  A new group has reconstituted our Main Street organization, and they have exciting plans for the future.  Our Farmers’ Market continues to be the “place to be” on Saturday mornings. The Zinc Mill Terrace and Milestone Phase II apartments have added significantly to our housing options. The Civic League has successfully taken on the raising of resources to match a new Land and Water Conservation Grant that will build a splash park at Robe Ann Park.  New businesses have opened and what is not to love about Myers Market, Charlie’s, Dairy Queen and Wyn Way?   And we have just begun.

Our community has maintained a most wonderful music scene thanks to individual artists who generously share their talents, the Great Artists series and the work of Mark McCoy and the DePauw School of Music, Tuesday night Park-Fest series (thanks again to the Civic League), exceptional music on Wednesday’s at Gobin (organized for the last ten years by Eric Edberg) and the Crown Street Jazz festival. We can’t forget the Putnam County Playhouse productions, our local community school performances, as well as those at the Green Center throughout the year. 

I would be remiss not to also reflect on the dedication of the individuals in our community who spent the year determined to “make a dent” in poverty, house the homeless, and find a permanent solution that will allow for the re-opening of the Humane Society.  Your work help makes our community a better place. 

Finally, I want to thank the very dedicated people who work for the City of Greencastle.  You take great pride in what you do and you selflessly give of your time and talents to keep us safe, to keep us moving, to provide recreation, utilities, support and order, and a final resting place.  I couldn’t be more proud to have the privilege of working with this group of people.    As we enter 2014 I remain confident that we will be able to deal with the challenges ahead: things like unfunded mandates from the Department of Environmental Management; unexpected weather surprises; construction chaos; funding concerns and the increasing challenge of providing services to our 10,000 residents.  

As we begin 2014, Greencastle does remain: a great place for work, for growth and for life.