Mayor gives State of the City address
Baldwin City Kansas
State of the City Speech
Jan. 20, 2004
By Mayor Ken Hayes
The previous year saw many changes in the city of Baldwin, all of which were positive in nature. On a national level we saw our nation engaged in another conflict which called away many current and past residents to serve in our armed forces as our country invaded Iraq. Our concern and sympathy extends to those whose relatives and loved ones are serving to protect our country. On a state level we saw our legislature and governor struggle with ballooning deficits which resulted in monies being withheld from municipalities and, even more critical, our schools. In contrast to all of these troubling events that swirled around our nation and state, our community accomplished the goals that were set for itself in late 2002 and took large strides in the improvement of our community.
The previous year was marked by two large factors. The first being completion of long overdue infrastructure projects. And second the changing of personnel in key positions. In the past 12 months our city completed the waste water treatment plant, the construction of two new water towers and began construction on our new power plant. The new waste water treatment plant doubled our capacity to process waste water, and brought our city into compliance with KDHE for the treatment and release of waste water. The new capacity should last our city with current levels of growth for a minimum of the next 20 years. Also the plant itself will last the community until the second half of the 21st century. The water tower project had many immediate effects on the community. The level of water pressure was raised significantly for every residence in the community. We now can store 1.5 million gallons of water in facilities with a projected life span of a minimum of 30 years. By June of 2004 the new power plant will be completed. The addition of 6.5 megawatts of producing electricity means that our city no matter the time of year will have the ability to produce all of our own power. This will be the first time in two decades that our community has had the ability to stand alone if our exterior sources are cut off. The new power facilities will also have a lifespan of over 30 years. In short, the improvements we have made now will last well into our future. Our staff and personnel are to be congratulated in completing the arduous tasks while doing the day to day operations of this city.
The addition of a new city administrator has led to an infusion of new ideas and a new innovative style of leadership to our community. Jeff Dingman has just begun to make an impact over the past six months he has been with us, but his plans for 2004 are very exciting for our community. In addition, the impact that our new chief of police has had over the past 12 months has been nothing short of phenomenal. He inherited a department that had very little if no established procedures, background checks, policies or direction. Has been turned into an effective instrument to enforce our laws and protect our community. All categories of arrests have increased over the past year. And the recent capture of a gang of professional thieves that had been pursued by numerous larger law enforcement forces by our people speaks well of the level of morale and training our people now have. Further in another realm of enforcement is our new zoning and codes inspector. Tina Rakes comes to us from Dodge City and has many accreditations. She has only started here at the beginning of 2004, but the reaction of Dodge City being very disappointed in losing her speaks well for her level of competence and ability.
Our city also made progress in a variety of other areas. The securing of ground for a business park on the highway, and close to the edge of the city holds promise to bring jobs and tax dollars to Baldwin. The beginning of downtown beautification also is designed to increase our view of our community and those visiting. You will see great enhancement of both of these initial endeavors in 2004. The creation of a tree board and its cataloging of species and types of trees has also aided in making our community more attractive. Other exceptional accomplishments in 2003 was the revival of our city court system and its use to process local offenders. This captured a revenue stream that previously went solely to the county, and was a net loss for our city. On the front of public health and safety, the addition of a second fire engine that meets federal compliance for apparatus increases our ability to fight fires and should have a direct impact on lessening the insurance burden for potential loss on all homeowners.
The following items are goal areas for 2004.
The revitalization of our downtown is of primary importance. Under the leadership of our economic development committee, city administrator, and utility department, a plan for the rebuilding of our sidewalks and overall beautification has been drafted. This plan runs in conjunction with the volunteer effort to establish a community arts center downtown. This plan is tentatively set up to be a three year project, with the establishment of a benefit district that will include the owners of structures in downtown Baldwin. Our initial conversations with property owners has been very supportive and we hope to begin this project soon to show off the first phase during the Maple Leaf Festival of 2004. The goal will be to make downtown a destination and to blend its improvement into other projects in this area.
Current planning for the park has reached a point of selecting an engineering firm to complete conceptual drawings for our presentation to the county, and to potential tenants of the site. Our goal is to take advantage of Douglas County's push to increase this type of space for development by garnering its participation. The potential benefits for the city are huge in the areas of employment and tax revenues. This initial park of 43 acres, which could be expanded to over 200 acres, will hopefully supply the economic engine for our community for decades to come.
Our city has dealt with sidewalks and curb areas that are in disrepair for many years. This massive area of deteriorating infrastructure has to be addressed. Community participation is the only vehicle which will aid in this area to achieve results in quick order. We are calling for the creation of improvement districts in the city of Baldwin to fund through special assessments on landowners taxes the rebuilding or establishment of sidewalks and in some areas curb and gutter items in our city. This program would see the funds taxed in an area, used specifically in that area. Participation by our citizens will help facilitate the construction of sidewalks and modes of travel for our youth and other pedestrians throughout the city.
The deterioration of our bridges in this city has reached a danger point. Both bridges on High Street and the smaller bridge on Elm are in bad shape. We are in the process of seeking county, state and federal assistance in the repair of these bridges. Of note is the historic value of the bridge that was constructed by an all women city council before the turn of the previous century. The placement of this bridge on a national historic register, and the resulting federal monies available for its preservation should be investigated.
The library board has embarked on a plan to expand our library facilities in the city. This project will tie into several other projects for rebuilding downtown. We will assist the library board in any way we can to help with this process.
Relocation of city facilities to the Orange Street complex
The existing city facilities around the power plant are in deterioration and do not provide our personnel or equipment with adequate housing. Over the course of 2004 we will plan to begin implementation of the scheduled relocation of public works and the electrical department to new structures surrounding the new sewer and power plant. The housing of equipment, repair facilities, containment yards, offices and centralization of these functions in one area will increase productivity and extend the longevity of our equipment.
The Parks and Recreation department, the city of Baldwin and Baker University have begun work on the concept of a skate board park. This idea will be investigated further this year and will hopefully result in a joint project for its development. The city will continue with the current effort to update and provide more playground equipment. Also, the development of the Firetree Park area will be planned and the possibility of other recreational projects is on the horizon.
Revision of the comprehensive plan
Our current comprehensive plan was last officially updated in 1986. This plan needs to be revisited to chart the development of our city. Our planning commission has voiced interest in tackling this project and this effort will be supported and begin as soon as possible.
Public Health and Safety
Many areas of concern have come about with public health and safety. Foremost due to recent events is the revival of the school resource officer. Our city administrator and police chief are hereby directed to meet with the school administrator to construct a system based around the COPS federal program to place a full time police officer in our schools. This program showed its value and should be re-established. The creation and equipping of volunteers to serve as crossing guards at the numerous intersections and highway crossing for our youth has also become an area of need. This program with city volunteer help should be planned for the next school year to avert what could be a tragic event in our community.
Personnel and Administration
The establishment of policies and procedures for city employees and departments will be a priority for 2004. The completion of the city inventory of equipment and properties will also be completed in 2004. And we have hopes of a stream lined budget document for the upcoming fiscal year that will be user friendly and alleviate confusion on where city monies are spent.
Development of Council Chambers
The use of city facilities and the construction of a proper council meeting area will also be explored in the coming year. The initial plan is to revitalize the city owned building area currently being used by the American Legion to provide a multi-purpose facility. The area would be used by the current tenant, for council meetings and other public meetings that require a facility that is adapted to this specific type of function.
In conclusion I would like to congratulate everyone that made 2003 a year of great accomplishments. And we have set ourselves some challenging goals for 2004. We have proven to ourselves over the last three years that we can accomplish great works if we plan correctly and attack the problem with a will. This year I challenge our city to follow up on what has been accomplished and make the strides to improve the face and habitability of our community.