GUEST COLUMN: Nearing 100-day mark, a new chapter has begun

Last Updated on April 3, 2016 by cassnetwork

We’ve invited Logansport Mayor Dave Kitchell to share updates from the city in a monthly column.

kitchellAs we begin April, it’s hard to believe we’re already at the first yardstick that measures goals for new public officials.

April 9 marks the 100th day of a new city administration, clerk-treasurer and city council. I can’t speak for everyone involved, but I can speak for my administration when I say that we’ve entered this arena with our head in the big picture of where residents would love Logansport to be and dedicated each day to sweating the details that will get us there. For the most part, every day has been a positive step forward.

I have been impressed from the start — and continue to be impressed — with the level of cooperation that has emerged from city and county officials working together. We are unwinding a complicated legal action involving hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on both sides over the utility rights in the Clymers area. We have reached an agreement on mutually restoring and operating the Cass County Memorial Center as the first joint city/county war memorial in Indiana. We have even cooperated on the distribution of trees in our community, and during Earth Week this month, more than 400 trees will be distributed locally.

But the first 100 days has produced some other fruits from our labors and one is the acceptance of six proposals for a new purchased power agreement for the Logansport Municipal Utilities. This month, an Indianapolis consultant will give its initial report on the proposals. We expect to have a power provider for several years secured by this summer, and rate restructuring will reduce our electric rates for residential, industrial and commercial consumers.

I continue to be encouraged by progress in finding a new owner for the Logansport Mall and redeveloping what many consider to be the signature retail footprint of our county. Before the year is out, I think we will have the most positive news for the mall property in the past 20 years.

We have completed our first State Board of Accounts audit and we plan to release the findings of that audit later this month when the state finalizes it. By then, that information may be available on our redesigned and renovated city Web site which will be more interactive for local residents and economic development prospects surveying us for the first time via the Internet.

Our police department recently had a one-month stretch in which 55 drug-related arrests involving the city/county drug task force were made. The resurrected task force has been dedicated to reducing drug trafficking in Logansport. These officers, many of whom have worked undercover, are a true testament to the profession that tragically sacrificed Howard County Deputy Carl Koontz last month in our neighboring county southeast of us. Our local police and firefighters are heroes in our midst, and they are among the hundreds of people who responded in the wake of Deputy Koontz’ death to support their comrades in public service.

We are working on grant applications to further improve housing in the community, replace sidewalks and build new ones. We continue to work with private firms involved in the development of Logan Square downtown.

We are pleased that five local corporations so far have signed up to participate in our new internship/co-op program. This hopefully will be a win-win for high school and college students and local employers that are more than willing to open their doors to high-achieving students and give them their initial opportunity to follow their career path.

We have many challenges before us. One is balancing the overwhelming needs of the city with a budget that an analyst has told Clerk-Treasurer Stacy Cox and myself will only supply about 74 percent of what is projected in the 2016 city budget. As the year progresses, we hope to move forward with a budget estimate for 2017 that is realistic and will not force us to borrow money or seek a tax anticipation as is often the case with local schools. We will live within our means, even when difficult budget choices have to be made.

Another challenge we are facing is with our infrastructure on West Market Street. We are attempting to coordinate the repair or replacement of the Market Street Bridge with the scheduled reconstruction of West Market from the bridge west to Heath Street. West Market is predominantly a retail and service sector area of our city that will be dramatically affected by closing down that stretch of street. We are investigating the possibility of maintaining local traffic on the bridge and on the street during construction to limit the financial impact on local businesses.

Finally, I want to point out that one of our long-time local employers which most of us know simply as Logan Machine is celebrating its 100th anniversary. It was one of our key suppliers during World War II and has been a stable contributor to the west side and our local economy for generations. Through our continued efforts and those of loyal business leaders and their employees, we want to make the celebration of legacy anniversaries like Logan Machine’s more common.

If you have an idea that can make our city better or you have a complaint about something you see happening, don’t hesitate to call our office at (574) 753-2551 or e-mail us. We want to serve you.