GUEST COLUMN: City poised for progress in 2018

Logansport Mayor
Dave Kitchell

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

A year ago when I delivered my State of the City report, I said the state of the city was “optimistic.”

When I followed that up last month with the 2018 report, I was fortunate to be able to substantiate some reasons for the optimism we had a year ago.

Our unemployment rate finished the year at 3.4 percent – tied for the state average and below the national average – and at a 17-year low. Our city General Fund has grown 41.5 percent during the first half of our administration, and just shy of going up $4 million in the past two years. Our department heads managed the city last year on 95 percent of their projected budgets and our council has not had to approve additional appropriations for two years. Last year alone, the grand total of all our city funds with the exception of the Logansport Municipal Utilities grew by 7.8 percent – a return many would like to have on their investments.

While 2017 was a year in which we said good-bye to J.C. Penney and two Marsh stores, the positives far outweighed the negatives. Additions at Cal Comp and other local employers have created 440 jobs based in the city in the past two years. Overall, the fiscal investment of those employers has been $85 million, topped by Cal Comp’s $50 million investment. Property tax statements showed increases in property values, and one landlord told the Board of Public Works and Safety the value of his properties rose 10 percent on average.

It was a year when we finally secured a future plan for Logan Square and reloaded in our attempt to develop blight elimination lots. We secured automatic electronic defibrillation units for most all of our city-owned structures occupied throughout the year and we pursued funding for trail cameras. A park master plan was completed and Habitat for Humanity received a house from the city.

Our revamped Web site and Facebook page now has 3,100 friends and work has progressed on planning for a solar park on the city’s west side.

Christmas in the Park raised $13,000 for the parks and local charities and brightened some of our east end, and new LED street lighting was approved that will brighten the entire city.

We secured two key agreements. First, we signed a contract to put a retail recruiter on retainer and then retained a former state consultant to serve as our Pacific Rim liaison for our schools, economic development efforts and our sister city in the People’s Republic of China.

We were awarded more than $500,000 in funding for street paving and our city and county economic development officials are worked more closely together than at any time in the past five years.

Last year was capped off with a larger Light Up Logansport Parade on the day after Thanksgiving as well as train excursions between Logansport and Kokomo that attracted more than 14,000 riders.

Quietly, I think many of us can reflect on the fact our optimism was justified last year. One of the best examples of that optimism was borne out in our young people in Cass County. Pioneer won a state football championship. Lewis Cass won a state band championship. Logansport’s boys’ basketball team had the best record in school history and spent most of the season in the top 10.

As we build on that heading into 2018, I have challenged our city and county officials to work with a developer to open the Memorial Center by Veterans Day so that we can honor our veterans on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I – the purpose for our center. I’ve challenged the Indiana Transportation Museum to work with us to bring its 1918 steam engine back to Logansport for that occasion. I’ve challenged myself and all of us to make this a “thoroughbred year” in the same sense that the legendary horse Dan Patch was when he paced county fair tracks across the state a century ago before retiring with undefeated with a world record time.

There will be challenges, but our momentum gives me reason to declare the state of Logansport in 2018 as poised for progress.

It is a privilege to serve you. If you have a comment, a question or a concern, please reach out to me at dkitchell@cityoflogansport.org or at 574-753-2551.