2009: A year of challenges, creativity and cooperation

Friday, January 8, 2010

2009 provided the City of Greencastle, the State of Indiana, the United States and the world with the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression. We have had to work more creatively and identify new partnerships to try and keep up with uncertainties and decreased revenue, while still providing much-needed services. As we end 2009, in the black, I am most proud of our employees and our department heads, who have looked to further streamline budgets while maintaining their commitments to the community they serve.

Before looking into this new decade, I would like to recap some of what did happen, outside of "normal operations", much of which was a challenge in and of itself.

* The new Ivy Tech campus has opened and our community rose to new levels of financial giving to help make it a reality.

* We took possession of a new fire truck, built a Frisbee golf course, butterfly garden and a crematorium. Construction of the North Jackson lift station was completed, as was a burial section for infants at Forest Hill. More parking spaces at Big Walnut Sports Park are now paved.

* Twelve blocks of streets were milled and resurfaced/surfaced. We were able to invest over $100,000 in sidewalks and in making more of our street corners compliant with the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

* The Sustainability Core Committee finished its recommendations and the Council has established an ongoing Sustainability Commission to carry on its work, as part of city government.

* Our Farmer's Market was revitalized. We will continue working on a community garden for 2010 planting, as well as an energy challenge in the Greencastle Community Schools. We've coordinated efforts with the Chamber for an aggressive Buy Local campaign, and have been able to bring protein (ground venison) to the tables of hundreds of families through the efforts of Local Food for Neighbors in Need.

* We received the Green City of the year designation from the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns for the second year in a row.

* We met in each one of the wards to discuss public infrastructure in their neighborhoods in our city, a Community Forward initiative.

* Rural Transit's usage went up from just over 900 in its first month of service to over 4,000 transports per month.

* We have finished the survey component for our Youth Engagement Summit (YES), another Community Forward initiative.

* Investment in our downtown has continued with new street furniture, plantings and weed control. New decorative banners are now being enjoyed by all, thanks to the generous donation of the Sunkel family.

* All of the land was purchased and preliminary agreements are signed for the long awaited Albin Pond and Safe Route to Schools pathways.

* Preliminary engineering work was authorized to begin on the South Street extension and refurbishment of Percy Julian Drive.

In 2010, our continuing challenge will be to provide the many services and level of quality the community has come to expect. This is our goal but how well we are able to achieve it remains uncertain. Presently the state is predicting a deficit of some $1.8 billion. The effects that will have on municipalities we can only begin to imagine. What I do know is that we cannot continue to postpone indefinitely the purchase of needed capital equipment and system upgrades. We will have to be more resourceful.

One of the lessons we have learned about Greencastle over the last 12 months is what amazing things can happen through the creative efforts and work of our citizens. The Sustainability Core Committee, and now permanent Commission, are constant reminders of what our collective efforts can accomplish.

During 2010 we will work to invigorate and engage the young people in our community to help direct our destiny. We will partner with our educational institutions to try to maximize the resources and opportunities we have to create a brighter, more responsive and enhanced quality of life for all of our citizens. And we will look for every available funding source to help us in our efforts to attend to our infrastructure, eliminate abandoned and unsafe buildings, expand our park and recreation options and keep our equipment and most especially our employees cared for, to the best of our ability.

At this time last year, I promised that 2009 would provide us with a most unique opportunity to demonstrate our strengths and resiliency as a community. My friends, the opportunity is no longer unique, it continues. We are a strong and vital community that has looked for ways to continue to enhance our quality of life and opportunities for our future and we will persevere.

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