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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The state of the city is more than stellar

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray addressed the state of the city and the Stellar Community Grant during this week's Greencastle Rotary Club meeting on Wednesday.
Any discussion on the current state of affairs in Greencastle has to acknowledge the impact the Stellar Communities Grant is having on the community.

However, in her state of the city address to the Greencastle Rotary Club Wednesday, Mayor Sue Murray gave a nod to the $19 million grant program before beginning the substance of her talk elsewhere.

"First, I would like to share some of the significant accomplishments and events of 2011," Murray said.

First among these achievements was the completion of the Percy Julian Drive project in front of Greencastle Middle School and Greencastle High School. Although the heavily deteriorated road had provided some natural speed bumps in front of the schools, the mayor highlighted what a challenge the road's condition had been to school officials, parents and students.

The current state -- a new, smooth, concrete road -- is a big improvement.

"It wasn't quite as quick as we thought," Murray said, acknowledging the construction delays that kept the road out of service for several weeks of the school year. "It's a wonderful road that should last 50 years at this point."

She also used the road as an example of projects the city has been able to complete in the last several years in the midst of a bad economy and shrinking budgets. Murray tipped her cap to city employees and commission members for their ability to do more with less.

The street work was not just at Percy Julian, though, as the city put an additional $150,000 into other street projects.

"When we look at the dollars we have to spend, Public Works Commissioner Brad Phillips works very hard to balance it among the four wards," Murray said.

Preliminary work also continues on the South Street project, which will give the dilapidated street drainage and sidewalks, as well as extending it to U.S. 231 and establishing a southern link to the Ivy Tech campus.

The mayor also cited industrial developments of the city, such as the expansion of Crown Equipment and Phoenix Closures completely remodeling and expanding the old Oxford Automotive plant.

"It's still amazing to see what has happened to that old building," Murray said of the Phoenix building.

Other city accomplishments included a fourth consecutive Green Community of the Year, a 12th Tree City USA designation and recognition of three different city neighborhoods for their historic value.

Of course the big honor of the year was the city's distinction as one of two inaugural recipients of the state's Stellar Communities Grant. Murray said the process has been a bit of hassle at times, but the influx of investment into the city is worth it.

She said this fact hit home when she and fellow "Stellar" Mayor Harold Campbell of North Vernon were invited to speak at an event for this year's Stellar candidates.

"I realized with some of the challenges we've faced, there wasn't a person in that room who would not have traded places with us," Murray said.

Projects slated for the first phase of the improvements this summer include fašade improvements to Courthouse Square and upgrades to Anderson Street, which will serve as an official entrance to the DePauw campus from Bloomington Street.

"That will be a major improvement," Murray said. "Now people will actually be able to find their way to DePauw."

One Stellar program still in the preliminary stages is a campus and community bookstore proposed to provide an anchor for the downtown area and campus community.

Other projects include work on downtown loft spaces, a grant for owner-occupied homes in the courthouse area, a possible parking structure for downtown workers and signage for the entire area to make it easier for visitors to get around.

Even with all the assistance the Stellar Grants will provide, Murray said there are still challenges facing the city. For example, the city has still not received its approved 2012 budget from the Department of Local Government Finance, so the possibility of further cuts still looms.

Stellar projects also bring with them their own set of challenges. All of the construction and infrastructure work planned for the city will mean delays in traffic and service.

"I ask for your patience in that," Murray said. "It's not always going to be convenient."

And even with the improvement of the downtown business district, the ongoing challenges will be in keeping it occupied and vibrant.

"It's not just about beautifying downtown, it's about filling the buildings to maintain downtown," she said.

The hope is that projects only a few years in length will have a lasting impact on the quality of life in Greencastle and Putnam County.

"We must believe that by working together we can and we will create the kind of Greencastle our children and grandchildren will want to call home," Murray said.

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