State of the City Address
January 28, 2014
Mayor Adam M. Brannon
The State of the City is continually improving. The City of Bellefontaine is in a better position today, than at any other time in the last six years. We have seen local businesses expanding, new businesses coming into Bellefontaine and as a result more of our citizens are employed and providing a good life for their families. But, we still have many challenges ahead of us. There is a significant need for new housing to be developed, to house new employees of the businesses that have relocated and expanded in our area. There is a need to improve our downtown parking facilities as well as to better direct, by way of improved parking and wayfinding signage, our downtown patrons. There is a need to make strategic infrastructure expansion plans to get ahead of possible growth and to alleviate some issues associated with how our systems are currently configured. We acknowledge the challenges that face us, but also enjoy the growth and positive changes that have occurred.
Our City’s budget is growing, yet doing so responsibly. We had reduced the General Fund budget as low as we effectively could in years’ past, and in 2013 and now in 2014 have seen the General Fund expand because we are making strategic growth decisions in how we fund needed items. Incorporated in the General Fund the last two years is a five percent transfer of the previous year’s carryover balance, to the Capital Improvements/Projects Fund which in 2013 allowed us to do an expanded paving program. We also include in this year’s budget money to construct a new road off of County Road 32 that will be the new home of M3, a division of IEG Plastics. There is also allocated in this year’s budget the financing for the new position of Code Enforcement Officer. The City has never had a position similar to this, other than the Service-Safety Director taking time out of a very busy schedule to try and track down some of the delinquent property owners. We now will have someone on staff that will be able to dedicate themselves to the task of identifying derelict houses and properties, contacting the owner and following up on the remediation of those sites. I believe that position will be very valuable to our community. In this year’s budget we also include money to improve and expand our utility infrastructure so that we can make the system more efficient while also relieving some concerns that have previously been brought to our attention.
In 2014 we anticipate completing several projects that have been ongoing as well as starting a number of projects that will improve our City operations and the quality of life of our citizens. We have a sanitary sewer line extension project planned for 2014 that will extend our current line that ends at White Pines Drive south to County Road 10. That extension will provide that area with a chance to grow more than it has in past years. Also, in connecting two existing sewer mains, one running through the Whispering Pines neighborhood and the other running along C.R. 10, it reduces the amount of wastewater that at any one time has used those mains and therefore reduces the stress that is put on the system. We are finally looking forward to the extension of the Simon Kenton Trail from Urbana. This project has provided more than one lesson to me on how difficult public projects can be, however, we have the end in sight and the trail will be completed this year. It is my belief that this trail will provide an economic boost to our community, not just in the way of tourism, though that will have a lot to do with it. But also because it helps justify the need for associated small businesses to come in to Bellefontaine and provide service that has previously not been available. In 2014 the City will wrap up several projects that started in 2013 or earlier. Included in those projects is the new Corporate Hangar at Bellefontaine Regional Airport. I’m very excited about the expanded presence this gives our airport and look forward to seeing it put to good use. Also, we will be finishing the sanitary and storm sewer project that started last year. That project which dealt with many different areas of the City, included in this project are properties on Plumvalley Street in the Lake Addition, on east Columbus and finally in Mary Rutan Park, will help with some issues we have had in our sanitary and storm water sewer systems. Finally, we should see the end of our Energy Conservation Projects that we have been completing throughout the City’s different departments. This year will see us improve the current front entry doors of this building to handicap-accessible entries. It will also see us do some very good improvements to the Wastewater Treatment Facility, making our treatment process more efficient in both energy and maintenance costs.
It is my hope that 2014 will continue the economic development success that we had in 2013. In 2013 we saw many of our local manufacturers continue to expand. Because of those expansions as well as some new retail facilities that located in Bellefontaine we saw our Income Tax Collections improve by 14 percent over 2012’s numbers. We look forward to continuing to work with the Logan County Area Chamber of Commerce to develop new areas of growth in our community. That includes industries outside of automotive manufacturing, as well as working to attract one of our local construction companies to construct not only more housing but also some new “spec buildings” in our community. Spec buildings have been shown as a need in our community on more than one occasion. As is evident with M3’s decision to located at Link Construction’s spec building, businesses are more interested in moving into an already constructed facility and growing and expanding that location rather than going through the process of constructing a new facility. In conjunction with the need for new industrial facilities, we also have a serious need for new housing to be developed to accommodate the continued growth of our local companies. We want to see our companies grow and flourish and to help do that we need somewhere for the employees of that company to live. Our community is growing in many ways and we need too make preparations for that growth.
Associated with our community growing, we also have seen a large amount of turnover in our City workforce. With several of our employees getting to retirement, we have been fortunate to be able to fill those positions as they arise. We are soon going to be in the position to hire a new firefighter to fill the hole in the department that Chief (John) Schulz left when he retired. We also are going to be looking to fill an officer’s position and a dispatcher’s position in the Police Department due to retirements happening in 2014. To all of the employees that have retired in 2012, ’13 and ’14, I want to again say thank you for all of your hard work and faithful years of service that you provided to the City of Bellefontaine. You helped set the standard by which current and new employees are held to and without the cooperation of all of our employees we would not be in the positive financial situation we are currently.
I believe 2014 will be a successful year for the City of Bellefontaine. We have a lot of good things happening in and for the City. Among those good things happening is the transfer of Camp Myeerah. That camp has so many things that will become available to the public that we in the City currently do not have the ability to offer. We look forward to completing the projects that I mentioned previously, but in the process of completing those, obviously other projects will become apparent and we will start planning those projects, like the sewer main extension that I discussed previously. I continue to believe that our economic status will improve as it has the last couple of years. I think that with Honda’s continued investment in the area as well as AcuSport’s expansion and M3’s new location within the City limits we will see our unemployment rate improve. I believe that we will also see new people move into the community and as I mentioned before to help accommodate those new citizens in our community, there is a need for new housing in our community. A successful, growing community of our size will see on average 35-50 new housing starts a year. In 2013, we had 11 new housing starts, so obviously we have some work to do in that area and I look forward to pushing this subject in 2014.
2013 was a good year for the City of Bellefontaine. We saw our revenue increase significantly over 2012. We continued to make strategic decisions when it came to improving our operations in several departments. We also saw new businesses locate in Bellefontaine and we saw existing businesses grow and expand in Bellefontaine. That is considerably better than the position this City was five or six years ago. I expect that in 2014 we will continue to see the City make smart, strategic decisions when it comes to how we spend our funds. I expect that we will continue to address whatever issue comes before us and try to make the decision that is in the best interest of the entire community. Finally, I expect that we will continue to see growth in our community and we will do what is needed to accommodate that growth.