Southside mayors share plans on growth for the upcoming year
By Nicole Davis
Southside mayors have completed their first year in office, and all say they feel optimistic about what they have accomplished and what they have planned for their second year. Sharing some of their larger plans and goals for 2013, the mayors all have a lot on their agendas.
Beech Grove revitalization
Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley said though the city has accomplished a lot in the past year, they have a long way to go. With a long list of upcoming projects, Buckley said it’s all about economic revitalization.
“It was really tough when we got started but there’s been a lot of good work done,” Buckley said. “We’ve made some big investments in the city. I’m looking forward to next year because we can continue to make it better.”
Buckley said in 2013 the city plans to conduct maintenance on the sewer system, fixing sewage problems that are especially prominent on the Southside of the city, fix erosion in the crick in the park and install two new shelters and ADA compliant playground equipment. The Fire Department will receive a long-needed new fire engine in late January or early February. He said business growth is being promoted with the construction of the new ADM flour mill and construction of the property behind the police department which he said, hopefully, will house senior apartments. He said the city is also working on a budget for the redevelopment commission.
“Obviously the big project next year is Main Street,” Buckley said. “This is one of the most important projects we’ve had in several years. We will continue to work to make it better.”
As the city continues making improvements, Buckley said there are other budgetary issues they have had to address, including sewer rate adjustments. Beech Grove has not adjusted the rates since 2004. Since then the cost has increased by $4,000 for waste water treatment and 32 percent for trash treatment. Buckley proposed a flat rate for residential users at the Jan. 7 council meeting, which passed in its first reading with a 4-1 vote. This means residents would pay a set rate of $2.19 per cubic meter, an increase of $1.19. He said this means the sewer bill for a residential property would be $24.62 per month. Currently the minimum bill in the city is $16.60. The proposal also calls for an automatic adjustment of 3 percent every year for the next four years.
“We don’t have any choice – we are losing money and this is an expensive business,” Buckley said. “I feel once (residents) get used to it, they will like it.”
Making Greenwood a one-stop-shop
Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said when he came into office in 2012 there was more than a $4 million deficit. By hiring a controller, they have a balanced budget for 2013. With growth of the city still a main focus for this year, Myers said he feels confident about projects that will begin soon.
Ending 2012, Myers signed the paperwork to close on the Presnell Building which will be used as the Civic Center for Greenwood. They purchased the 47,000 square foot building for $1.75 million and Myers said they will have $4 million invested once it has been renovated for their needs. He said a new building of the same size would usually have sold for $9 to 10 million. He said the facility is large enough to hold the offices that are currently located throughout the city and that having everyone in one building will save on traveling time, making them more productive and accountable.
“I can’t tell you how excited we are,” Myers said. “We got the building at a great price. We have been looking for a building for years. One of my campaign promises is we would have everyone under one roof, a one-stop-shop.”
Myers said the next largest project is the widening of Worthsville Road from a two-lane country road to a five-lane road, leading to an interchange for I-65. Construction is expected to start for the widening of the road in May. The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) will pay half the cost for the interchange and is expected to start their work in 2014.
“This will help us build up our economy,” Myers said. “I expect it to be a huge impact. We get bottle-neck traffic every day with people coming home. We really see in the next 5-10 years that road taking traffic from downtown Greenwood so we can build up and add more businesses. A lot of this was all in the works when I came into the office a year ago.”
Myers said there are many things still on the city’s agenda, such as repairing the storm water system and finding a permanent location for the pool, but said they have made great strides within just the last year.
Southport’s moving forward
It’s all about improvement for Southport Mayor Jesse Testruth – from creating a balanced budget to repairing run-down roads and adding springtime flowers around the city. Retiring from ADT after 34 years, Testruth said he is happy to have more time in 2013 which he can spend talking to residents.
“Southport’s moving forward,” Testruth said. “It’s a nice atmosphere in our city council. The council has started talking to the residents to see what they want. I think the citizens are feeling more confident now. I preside over (the council), but they run it. They are doing a great job.”
Testruth said the top priority when he took office in January 2012 was the budget. There wasn’t one. Diana Bossingham, treasurer, said there were prior taxes that had not been filed and projects started for $100,000 that had not been approved. She said she was able to sit down with different departments and get everyone’s input for the final budget the city proposed, which is still awaiting approval from the Indiana Department of Local Finance.
“In my own household, we operate on a budget,” Bossingham said. “In our city, I had a group of people that when I said we can’t spend, they took it very seriously. Everybody gave their input. I think that we’ll continue doing well because we believe in being fiscally sound. We’re moving along, it’s a new year. I think this year will be more fun than the last.”
Testruth said he feels the budget they submitted was reasonable. He said he did give the city’s workers a pay raise, but if the city has to cut more, that’s where it has to be. He said they will soon make their last payment of $81,000 on a bond which he feels puts the city in a pretty good shape.
Departments in the city have also begun to find additional resources to make them stronger. He has made an agreement with Greenwood to use their salt during icy weather, for which Southport will be billed at the end of each month it’s used. Testruth said utilizing the Beech Grove courts to enforce Southport’s fines and tickets has freed up time and money within the police department and they have been able to obtain needed resources like new mace and weapons for the officers.
As for the rest of the city, Testruth said they will focus on beautification. Testruth said the city will have construction projects, including repairing Stop 10 in late 2013, fixing the drainage system on Southfield Road, putting in speed bumps where needed and complying with ADA requirements for sidewalk accessibility. He is working with the Department of Public Works to get Southport Road repainted and repaired. He plans on adding flowers in the springtime and a covered pavilion in the park for residents to use. Testruth said he hopes by 2014 to have a new handicap accessible playground in the park, part of a master plan left over from former mayor, Rob Thoman. He said the Parks Department also plans to open up for a farmer’s market and flea market once a month. The city will host more events throughout the year, including an Ice Cream Social for the Fourth of July.
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