The county is beginning its budget meetings. Delaware County is looking at $8 million shortage, lay-off of 100 employees or at the very least three-hour reduction of work week or 8% cut in pay. According to Larry Riley’s column today, the county council submitted a budget which is higher than the 2011 budget.
As many of you know the county was unable to meet this year’s budget and 25 people were laid off from their jobs. I am trying to comprehend how the county council could submit a 2012 budget higher than 2011. Is it a shuffling of money? In other words, is the 2012 budget higher in order to cut and thereby giving the appearance the county has done due diligence to meet the $8 million dollar shortfall?
We all know it is common practice to submit a budget higher than needed, that way cuts can be made, the county can function like normal and everybody is happy. Times are different.
During the spring budget meetings this year, the county borrowed from the rainy day fund. Most understood the fund would never be paid back. It would be impossible considering the current financial climate. Today’s articles confirmed it. We do need cuts, and there are plenty of things that should have never been done. Additional hiring, $7 million dollar bond, forgiving a loan and receiving land as payment, changing lawyers and losing nearly a million dollars in taxes because of it, a county broke in 2009 and so on and so forth.
Every warning signs were ignored, poo-pooed as just citizens making a stink about elected officials. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The simple fact is, who we have in office is a detriment and it can’t be any clearer in light of the financial mess.
When I think about how our city council is a mirror image of the county officials, I can’t help but feel a tinge of uneasiness with the November election. The very thought we would vote in the same people again and place Dennis Tyler as head of the city is extremely unnerving. And it should be.
When members of our city council tried diligently to shuffle animal control to a county that was flat broke and lacked any real experience. Giving away every asset paid for by city tax dollars, you and me, and give up any control the city would have in running the shelter, is amazing. The city council paid no attention to the county’s finances or even considered how the county could afford the additional cost of animal control. And they didn’t care.
This is nothing but dereliction of duties on the part of city council. When a woman from Albany, Indiana stood before the council imploring them to take the county deal, and many of the city council members listened to her, while the people who vote, live and pay for this service were ignored and treated as if their involvement and concern for their city was nothing more than excrement to be scraped from the shoe. We knew we have no representation on city council.
Now, the simple fact is this, city council never looked any further than the immediate. It’s a good thing the Mayor of Muncie, Sharon McShurley vetoed this proposal or we would see our selves without any form of animal control at all. Gregory, Polk and Conatser , city council members, saw the future and changed their votes.
I can’t stress this enough. We can’t just look at the immediate without considering the future.
I implore all city voters to consider our future and vote with this in mind.
I don’t support Alison Quirk, Mary Jo Barton, Jerry Dishman, or Nora Powell. Mark my words, having these people along with Dennis Tyler as mayor will see us in the same boat as the county. If this is what you want, then this is what you will get.
But, if you have a strong desire to see our city move forward, then you will replace every single person that has hampered our progress and created nothing but drama for our city. It’s your choice, vote informed.
Things are rolling down the track. With the second meeting of Land & Traffic since 2007 under our wheels, you may be asking “What the heck was this meeting about, anyway?”
I can fully understand why they chose this to be a venue without public input, as it was obvious they hadn’t a clue on the issue before them or what they were supposed to be doing. So, I am going to recap as best as possible on what happened.
The full committee was there, Mary Jo Barton, Jerry Dishman, Julius Anderson, Alison Quirk and Mark Conatser.
The committee’s goal was to discuss the ordinance 17-11 which is to close the tracks permantly on 9th & 10th Streets. It wasn’t about the quiet zone. Julius Anderson was the facilitator of the meeting.
Mary Jo Barton began the meeting by saying the neighbors don’t want it closed. She said she found paperwork on when it first started. She believes it began with David Dominick wanting more parking for the convention center. Mary Jo Barton said the plan was quickly shut down by the council.
I was trying to picture the convention center and the proximity of 9th and 10th streets. There must be a link to connect the two…somewhere.
When asked what year this took place, she shuffled through some papers and said she didn’t know. Why she didn’t have the articles or a synopsis available is strange. Mary Jo Barton said the railroad can’t close down the tracks.
Conster said he believed the railroad could, and I tend to agree with him. He had spoken to someone at Norfolk Southern a few years ago when he tried to address the trains stopping on the tracks in his neighborhood.
Mary Jo Barton said it was up to the city and not the railroad to close the crossings.
A link to Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Handbook – Revised Second Edition August 2007 outlines the procedures for railroad crossings. I want to be upfront, I don’t know if this is current, but it is a read, nevertheless, on the questions of who is responsible for closing the crossings.
Alison Quirk said this is an ordinance to vacate a public street. (Something the city council has done several times.) She said the purpose of the meeting was to determine who to invite to the public meeting in September. Mary Jo Barton reiterated it was to vacate/permanetly close the streets.
Allison Quirk stated the purpose of the meeting was to put our (committee) concerns in writing. She had no opinion, just wants to make an informed decision. Then she began to list the questions/statements. Not sure if I got them all, but here is what I believe she asked.
1. Why two crossing next to each other?
2. Who is responsible for maintenance?
3. Who determined 9th & 10th Streets closed?
4. There is an agreement and wants to know who has a copy of it?
5. She wants input from Police, Fire, and EMS.
6. What is the signage if the streets are closed?
7. What is the community impact?
8. What will the closing look like? (Drawings/rendering of the closings.)
9. Impact on businesses.
10. Who assumes liability?
Now, we are getting to the crux of the matter. She heard the railroad would compensate the city. What is the amount of money, how could it be used and would the money be appropriated by city council. (I thought they appropriated the money now.) What is the estimated cost for ongoing maintenance?
Mary Jo Barton said she believed it would be $4,000-$10,000 per year. I am just going to have to take her word for it, and that makes me uneasy. (Stole that line, but it is fitting in this case.)
Jerry Dishman asked some questions. More like a recap of Quirk’s list.
Conaster had no questions.
Jerry Dishman said the sound of the engine was as loud as the horn. (Huh?) Financial was his biggest concern. (Sure it is Jerry, which is why they paid $35,000 for a fiscal study on the consolidation plan after having it for nearly a year.)
Mary Jo Barton said she didn’t understand the vacate verbiage. 16 years on the council and she still doesn’t understand the word vacate.
Dishman thought the railroad would do the maintenance and the city would reimburse.
Quirk said she thought the railroad should be at the next meeting.
Anderson asked what are the codes? Need to talk with the department of transportation.
Barton forgets her question.
Quirk has pictures of the crossings.
Anderson will work with clerk on getting people notified.
The crossings have been closed for several years, the land & traffic committee hasn’t meet since 2007 and suddenly we have this concern for the public. Nearly four years to consider the impact and nary a word said. It’s an election year.
Don’t be fooled as Alison Quirk said at the 2007 candidate forum when asked if she had to cut the budget she would look at public safety, meet with department heads and work with the mayor. None of which she has done.
Sorry if this is a little jumbled, it’s the best I could do with what little I had to work with. The spell check stopped working so I had to eyeball it. We depend on technology for everything!
Have a great evening, folks. Sleep tight and know our city is in good hands….(not).
Periodically, I would drive by Tuhey Pool to assess the progress of the construction. It wasn’t all that exciting and not much changed from trip to trip. The last visit was about a week ago. What a difference a few days can make.
A welcome sight to find water flowing into the pool, and the lifeguard stations up. What really tugged at me was the slide. A beautiful blue and white circular slide, although stationary, was full of movement. The sun glistening on the color and contrasting to the crystal blue water was so inviting. The picture taken with my phone turned out far better than I imagined.
All sorts of images ran through my mind as I snapped the few shots. The most vivid was imagining the children on the slide. delightful laughter, smiling faces and surprised looks as each one hit the water.
Just being kids.
Last week there was so much construction debris I wondered if it would be finished by this summer. To the untrained eye, all that is left to be done today, is the landscaping and finishing touches on the building.
July 9th, 2011
On June 3rd, 2011, Lisa A. “Nettie” Peterson-Hankins left behind three small children. The event that lead to her death had many of us in shock and disbelief. I didn’t know Nettie and I have never met her children. From this tragedy, a young man, Benji Koontz, is running a race to raise funds so Nettie’s children can go on vacation.
Last year Benji ran from Losantville to Wes Del Little League Complex to raise money for Ryan Berry who is battling cancer. Mr. Ryan’s family got a vacation. Benji will be doing the same run this year for Nettie’s Kids.
Benji’s scheduled run is listed and the end of this post. At each stop, you can greet him, offer support and make a donation. Let’s make this vacation possible for three beautiful children.
Ryan Berry said the support from the community is “exploding.”
“It’s kind of taken a life of its own here,” he said. “You have many people saying, ‘I’ll do whatever. You tell me what and I’m there.’ It’s been huge.”
The July 9 event will include a cookout with a carnival atmosphere at the Wes-Del Little League Complex after the run. Admission to the carnival will cost $5, which will cover food and activities. T-shirts will be for sale for $10. Organizers are asking anyone who can help them get a bounce house, dunk tank, cotton candy, games, tournaments or any other novelties to call Audra Koontz at (765) 722-0008.
Benji Koontz will be running that day, and members of the public are welcome to join him, either on bicycles or on foot, for as long as they wish. Berry and his family plan to ride bikes along the route with Koontz, and Kris Berry’s brother, Ryan New, will be riding an adult-sized tricycle.
Benji’s Running Itinerary:
Click on the link for the itinerary in a printable PDF Another Berry Long Run Netties Kids pdf
» Losantville Trail Head (start), 7:30 a.m.
» South Prairie Creek Reservoir Post, 8:50 a.m.
» Memorial Drive, 9:47 a.m.
» Greenway Depot (Muncie), 10:05 a.m.
» McGalliard Road, 10:19 a.m.
» Riggin Road, 10:30 a.m.
» Wheeling/County Road 400-N Post, 10:43 a.m.
» Delaware County Road 500-N, 10:55 a.m.
» Wes-Del Little League Complex, 11:25 a.m.
It’s time to tell the local politicians to LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE!!
The Delaware County Commissioners and the Muncie City Council will have a joint Public Hearing on their AMENDED Reorganization Plan on:
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 @ 6:00 pm
Commissioners Courtroom, Room 309
Delaware County Building, Muncie, IN
In February 2008, over 2,200 local registered voters and citizens petitioned the local governments to reorganize and modernize Muncie and Delaware County. A bipartisan committee of 8 very dedicated local citizens appointed by our local governing bodies worked extremely hard for well over a year to craft a very progressive and comprehensive Muncie-Delaware County Plan of Reorganization . This effort would move Muncie and Delaware County out of the 19th century and into the 21st century reducing layers of bureaucracy, consolidating and unifying the local governing authority and public services to represent everyone equitably and efficiently. No more double dinging the taxpayers through multiple layers of government, no more taxation without representation by a COIT Council controlled by the Muncie City Council and many other antiquated and expensive concerns could be addressed in this reorganization.
For nearly a year, the County Commissioners and Muncie City Council allowed this Plan to gather dust as it sat on their desks wholly ignored until the statutory deadline forced their hands. At the midnight hour, a 2-person “committee” comprised of Todd Donati and Sam Marshall, who never had an open meeting to discuss or reveal their intentions, and after throwing $70,000.00 of taxpayer money at a financial impact study in an attempt to provide themselves “cover”, simultaneously sabotaged the future public referendum on this initiative by amending the plan to require a 2/3’s (66.67%) Supermajority approval at the polls in November 2012.
This folks, speaks volumes to the agenda of our County elected officials and the 5 members of the City Council that supported this amendment to the Reorganization Plan. After being forced by a citizen-driven initiative to seriously consider broad sweeping changes to our archaic local governments, our elected officials have now shown their true colors in a last ditch desperate measure to deny the citizenry and sustain the status quo. This ought to infuriate any voting citizen who believes and participates in our democratic processes.
To make matters even worse, our illustrious elected officials have strategically orchestrated this subversive maneuver in such a manner as to occur at the very last possible moment in the statutory timeline so as to minimize, if not nullify, the public’s response. Thanks to our local legislative bodies, there will be ONLY ONE OPPORTUNITY to speak out against this Supermajority requirement and that will be at the meeting on Tuesday, June 14th at 6:00 pm in the Commissioner’s Courtroom, Room 309, County Building in Muncie.
PLEASE REMEMBER THIS!!..
IT DOESN’T REQUIRE A “SUPERMAJORITY VOTE” TO ELECT AN INDIVIDUAL TO A POLITICAL OFFICE!…
IT DOESN’T REQUIRE A “SUPERMAJORITY VOTE” FOR A LEGISLATIVE BODY TO ADOPT LEGISLATION (INCLUDING THESE OBSCENE AMENDMENTS TO OUR REORGANIZATION PLAN)!….
IT DIDN’T REQUIRE A “SUPERMAJORITY VOTE” TO ELIMINATE INDIANA’S TOWNSHIP ASSESSORS!….
IT DIDN’T REQUIRE A “SUPERMAJORITY VOTE” TO RECENTLY CHANGE OUR STATE CONSTITUTION TO INCLUDE PROPERTY TAX CAPS!….
IT WON’T REQUIRE A “SUPERMAJORITY VOTE” TO CONSIDER INDIANA’S MARRIAGE AMENDMENT TO OUR STATE CONSTITUTION….
IT DANG-GONE WELL SHOULDN’T REQUIRE A “SUPERMAJORITY VOTE” FOR MUNCIE AND DELAWARE COUNTY CITIZENS TO DECIDE ON OUR FUTURE (NOT THE SELF-SERVING “PROFESSIONAL” LOCAL POLITICIANS) WHEN IT COMES TO HOW WE CHOOSE TO BE GOVERNED….
In a nutshell, whether in favor or opposed to the Plan, Muncie and Delaware County voters are at the threshold of having a once in a lifetime opportunity of HISTORICAL PROPORTIONS. We would like to think (and hope) that you would want to be a part of it. We would also like to think that as Americans, Muncie and Delaware County citizens you would want to have this very important consideration fairly adjudicated by a vote of the people in a manner consistent with the the way we decide upon all our other governing and political issues.
We sincerely hope to see you at the County Building on Tuesday evening…….
Poison Ivy in the fall
Sam Marshall, president of Muncie City Council introduced changes to the Modernization and Consolidation.
Here it is in a nutshell. For this to pass in 2012, there must be a vote of 66 2/3 vote. A majority vote is 51%.
Jim Arnold asked if they would like the same to be applied to them…at the polls.
Another speaker asked if the City Council had the authority to speak for the county on this 66 2/3 vote. The usual him-hawing and finally, I believe it was Marshall, said it had to match the county. I was told, but can’t confirm, the county passed the same tonight.
It is so obvious to any person that has a brain, this was an attempt to destroy the people’s right to vote. Raising the vote to an outrageous 67% is nothing short of self-serving and party line government leadership.
Voting for the 66 2/3 vote was (in alphabetical order):
- Julius Anderson Democrat (up for re-election) District 6
- Mary Jo Barton Democrat (up for re-election) District 3
- Jerry Dishman Democrat (up for re-election) District 5
- Sam Marshall Democrat
- Alison Quirk Democrat (up for re-election) At Large
Voting against the 66 2/3 vote was (in alphabetical order):
- Mark Conatser* Republican (up for re-election) District 2
- Linda Gregory* Democrat (up for re-election) At Large
- Mike King Democrat
- Brad Polk* Republican (up for re-election) District 4
There is no gentle way to say this, these city council members are destroying our city and have shown nothing but lip service on her behalf. It is time to vote them out of office in November. And we need to do the same in 2012 on the county level.
They have been poisoning our city for decades and it has gradually been seeping into our roots. “Round Up” the voters and let’s remove the poison from our city.
*Good city council members.
The total presentation lasted approximately 45 minutes. Commissioner Todd Doanati laid down the ground rules. (Those were his words, not mine.) There was to only be questions from the council members and the attorneys. For the city, Joe Hunter and for the county it was Jack Quirk. (Mike Quirk abruptly resigned.) Missing from the city council was Mary Jo Barton (no surprise, there) and Mark Conatser (big surprise). If memory serves me correctly, Mark & Linda Gregory were the only council members which were familiar with the Modernization and Consolidation proposal. I don’t remember seeing Jerry Dishman.
Mr. Donati made a point to ask the representative from Crowe-Horwath if the company had enough time to do a thorough job on such short notice. The answer was a resounding YES. Mr. Donati just doesn’t get it. He along with the other usual suspects aren’t listening to their constituents. The problem was not the late hour of the study, but their total disregard and lack of interest on an important proposal given to them June 2010.
In 2006 legislation was passes giving local governments the legal right to consolidate. In 2007, neither city or county took the initiative. A group of citizens gathered over 2500 signatures forcing the hand of our elected officials to move on this marvelous tool. From the passage in 2006 we saw the Kernan-Shepard Report with recommendations that would save our state millions of dollars.
In 2008 the voters went to the polls and we consolidated all of the assessors. Saving over $100,000 and creating a more uniform department. As far as I know, not one single citizen has suffered pain from this first step at consolidation. Countless articles have been written, in fact it was even brought up at the League of Women Voters candidate forum in 2007.
The reason I am giving you all this background is simply to let you know the elected officials have let us down by allowing a good proposal to gather dust for nearly one full year. Certainly with all of the budget meetings, a combined budget of nearly 80 million dollars and knowledge of how the city and county are structured, the commissioners and city council should have been able to reasonably assess the proposal. However, because they lacked the will to do so, at the final hour both entities commissioned a study for $70,000.00.
For goodness sakes. As many times as the resolution/ordinance has been voted on and voted down and tabled and then voted on again, you would think there would be some interest shown on their part when the proposal was finally completed.
But, I digress.
It was hard to follow the financials without having it in your hands. The cost analysis was on a screen and unless you were sitting very close, it would have been nearly impossible to read it. Still, this is what I gleaned from the presentation. I hesitate to put the numbers out there as I can’t guarantee they are 100% accurate. Still, this is what my notes read.
A side by side study of current tax rates. The company used use this to determine what tax rates would be if the sheriff departments was paid for by the unincorporated cities/towns. All Delaware County pays into this budget now. They used the 2011 budgets for both the city and county, took into account debt and revenue to estimate tax rates/levies. (None of the taxing entities such as the library were considered.) City would pay .68 and Center Township would pay .33 more.. For example, because the city taxes are so high now and Perry Township taxes are so low, they would see an increase.
Mayor Sharon McShurley said if the consolidation of Yorktown and Mount Pleasant went through this will increase the tax rate. The representative said that was correct.
I hope to have the video link to post tomorrow.
Now, some of the candidates asking for our vote were at the scene. Jim Arnold candidate for District 5, Murray Barthomome candidate for Council-at Large, Doug Marshall, and Nora Powell.
That’s all, folks. The public hearing is tomorrow night 6:00 PM at the Horizon Convention Center. Expect a media blitz of solid information from the reorganization Committee.
The June 23rd deadline is just around the corner and the Delaware County and Muncie legislative bodies (Commissioners and City Council) are now in the final stretch in responding to the Mun-Del Reorganization Plan filed last year. Next week will have both a joint Commissioners and City Council Special Meeting as well as a Public Hearing on the Mun-Del Reorganization Plan. It is all so important for the citizens to now come together and become informed of this immensly important opportunity of historical proportions. Be rest assured, there will be a whole lot of misinformation and uninformed dialog being disseminated as our current elected officials are starting to exhibit a lot of paranoia about the prospect that the citizens might decide to move out of our antiquated 19th century of governing.
As spoken to before, the two person committee of Todd Donati and Sam Marshall have been meeting behind closed doors to come up something that they and their respective legal counsels, Mike Quirk and Joe Hunter, may only know. So much for transparency in our local governments. In addition at the last possible moment, the Commissioners and the City Council mysteriously came up with $70,000.00 to throw at a Financial Impact Study that is suppose to reveal some sort of financial revelations of the newly formed political subdivision as proposed. Initial drafts of that report appear to fall way short of a comprehensive assessment and only redistribute existing costs. The final report has yet to make its appearance, at least at the level of the public.
The law requires the County and the City to respond by a twice-read Resolution and a Public Hearing at the level of each political subdivision. The City Council entered their first reading of said Resolution in April and then tabled the issue not to be read again. The Commissioners have done nothing. Following the introduction of the Resolutions, there is suppose to be Public Hearings in each participating Political Subdivision which apparently is not going to occur. Instead, it appears that there will be some sort of “joint Public Hearing” next week.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011 @ 5:30 pm:
Muncie City Council & Delaware County Commissioners
Joint Special Meeting on Crowe-Howarth Report
Financial Impact Study on Reorganization
Commissioners Courtroom, Room 309
County Building, Muncie, IN
Wednesday, June 1, 2011 @ 6:00 pm:
Muncie City Council & Delaware County Commissioners
Public Hearing – Muncie-Delaware County Reorganization
Horizon Convention Center
401 S. High St., Muncie, IN
State Sen. Eckerty recognized for
100 percent voting attendance record
Senate President Pro Tempore David Long (R-Fort Wayne) today recognized State Sen. Doug Eckerty (R-Yorktown) for his outstanding 2011 voting attendance record of 100 percent.
“Often, important meetings or other matters can happen simultaneously while the Senate is in session – which can make casting every vote a challenge,” Long said. “I believe Senator Eckerty’s strong commitment to Senate District 26 is clearly shown by his perfect record.”
This session, 118 Senate bills moved to the governor’s desk.
“These pieces of legislation represent the people’s work, including a balanced budget, private-sector job initiatives, education improvements and a fair redistricting plan,” Long said. “I’m proud to say Senator Eckerty gave his best throughout the legislative process.”
This session, state records show 299 of 317 Third Reading roll call votes in the Senate were bipartisan in nature. Of these, 128 were unanimous.
State of the City 2011
Moving Muncie Forward
While many of you know the city has had a reduction of revenue, many do not realize the City of Muncie has lost 29% of its revenue since 2007. When I ran for office four years ago I knew we would see a reduction but had no idea it would be so significant. An analogy I used during the campaign was that with less income we would have to decide to watch the movie at home and pop our own corn, instead of taking the family to the movie theatre. What I didn’t realize was that we would have to decide to sell one of the family cars, or downsize to a smaller house, as many of our residents have had to do. As difficult as the past three years have been, with the tough decisions that had to be made, and good stewardship of the resources we were given, the city didn’t burn down and we didn’t close the doors.
I’ve often said that in order to be successful in our new reality, we had to understand our purpose. We set out to define who primarily uses the service, how the service is funded, if the service is statutorily required, if we are duplicating services amongst departments, and then deciding if the city should even be providing the service.
The purpose of this type of evaluation was to identify services we can discontinue or reduce, privatize, consolidate or cover the expense of the service with an appropriate fee. We had to establish ways to measure what was important, so we started simply, communicated that performance, and used the data in that decision making. In the process, we developed a mission statement, “Muncie, Great Expectations, Excellent Results.
We have developed ways to document what we are doing, and every day we continue to differentiate between what is important to know and what is not. We also use the information to make decisions about the services we provide.
I’d like to recap some of the departmental data we’ve collected from last year with you.
Last year the animal shelter re-opened with no animals in the shelter. On January 1 of this year we were housing 149. Our Animal Shelter brought in over 1800 dogs, cats and other animals last year. We adopted over 200 of them, and the same number were reclaimed by their owners. Only 6% were euthanized due to overpopulation. The others were euthanized due to sickness, injury, and wild or aggressive behavior. While this is still not the ideal, it is effective, humane and responsive.
Last year the building commissioner reported that the city experienced approximately $60 million of commercial construction and $6 million of residential construction. I know you won’t be surprised that most permits granted were for remodeling and renovation. Given the real estate market we believe that trend will continue this year as people are opting to stay in the homes they own, instead of selling and potentially suffering a financial loss.
The Building Commissioner’s office also manages our weed complaints. We mowed almost 900 properties and billed a quarter of a million in fees last year, all with a staff of one full-time and three part- time employees. This, my friends, is high performance government. On the collections side of the equation, we have only been able to collect on 1/4th of the cost of the program. We will continue to find a better way to administer the collections, as it is only fair to the taxpayers who are being responsible property owners.
Community Development had only one State Board of Accounts finding for the 2009 audit. We’ve come a long way from January 2008 when Connie Gregory and I met with HUD officials in Indianapolis, making our plea to reauthorize the city to draw down funds to pay expenses. Had we not succeeded, we would have been unable to make payroll for the department and provide the necessary oversight of the federal funds we had been allocated.
Our blight removal initiative continues. We are still calculating financial data for 2010 so I will share the 2009 information with you. We assessed a half a million dollars in civil penalties through our Unsafe Housing Authority. We also pursued judgments for demolition costs and second civil penalties for $400,000 and are working towards collection of those dollars. Unfortunately, we have collected less than three percent of the fines and penalties. Clearly, blight has a significant cost associated to it, from the decline of the neighborhood, to increase in crime. Nothing good comes of a vacant, abandoned building in a neighborhood. As the existing funding sources dwindle, collection of those fines and civil penalties will enable us to continue removal of blight. Last year, we demolished another 107 blighted properties, and with approximately 4,000 vacant buildings, we have much work ahead of us.
The Fire Department continues to find ways to go paperless including daily and monthly reporting, which is now sent electronically to headquarters. We also have applied for private funds to buy mobile laptops and printers for the fire department inspectors to enable them to remain in the field during the day, thus enabling more efficiency.
We also changed the response protocol with the guidance of the Delaware County Medical Advisor, and all provider entities that provide emergency services to our citizens. The impact on the fire department has been a reduction of the number of emergency medical service calls by over 2400 since 2008. This change provides significant cost savings to the fire department as it costs hundreds of dollars every time a fire apparatus rolls out of the station.
In addition, I am very pleased to share the most recent report regarding our average response time after the consolidation of fire stations. Our average response time increased by only 17 seconds. While every second counts in a fire emergency, I think you will share with me a sigh of relief by knowing that these changes did not bring about a devastating impact to the community.
We also consolidated fire protection with Center Township, which reduces operating expenses for taxpayers and moves us in a direction of modernization and reorganization. This consolidation also provides more opportunity for future grant funding as we continue to assess our capital needs.
One area that often goes unnoticed is the Urban Forestry portion of the Park’s Department. As we address our quality of life issues trees add to our natural assets. Our Urban Forestry instituted a certification process for all tree and landscape companies that do business in the city limits. This minimal license process ensures all operating companies carry the proper liability insurance and have the basic knowledge needed to properly work on trees.
We planted over 450 trees on city property with a majority being planted in the park system. We also added rain gardens and “no mow” areas to parks in collaboration with the Muncie Sanitary District, and for the 12th year in a row, received the designation as Tree City USA.
The Park Board is very actively engaged in the two downtown parks that are finally under construction: Canan Commons and Tuhey Park. Canan Commons will be completed early summer, and our children will be able to jump in the Tuhey pool, which is scheduled to be re-opened on July 4th.
We also installed new ADA accessible playground equipment at Cooley Park last year, making it the fourth city park to receive new equipment.
Under new leadership at Prairie Creek we have increased revenue by over $130,000. This has enabled us to begin the much needed upgrades to the facilities, making it an even more valuable asset to the community. It continues to be a success story under the leadership of Bobby Patterson, Matt Bailey and the Park Board. There are now plans underway to install new bike trails, build a natural ampitheatre, and install an ADA accessible playground.
Last year the Muncie Police Department (MPD) received over 62,000 calls to service, which is actually down from 2009. The good news is that theft, battery, robbery and burglary decreased. There were no homicides, and we no hate crimes reported.
Last year we averaged a DUI arrest a day, arrested more than 1600 adults, and arrested almost daily, one juvenile-someone’s child under the age of 18.
MPD Drug Task Force took crack and powder cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, pills and mushrooms off the street and out of the hands of criminals and our children. The majority of the new drug cases filed were cocaine related.
And, that’s not the bad news. The bad news is that we have two areas of crime that are very concerning. Domestic problems and sex crimes, both rape and child sex crimes and abuse, increased significantly. To clarify, we had an average of seven calls per day reporting these crimes. Rape calls increased by 68% and most troubling, child sex crimes and abuse calls increased by 73%.
I hope you share with me these numbers are unacceptable for any community, and I pledge to work with the police department to effect real change in these numbers.
In 2009 we installed the New World Software system that allows us to readily retrieve the information I just provided. It enables the police department to identify trends in neighborhoods, crimes, or other identifiable issues. While the police department can’t stop crimes from being committed, we can create awareness of the social issues we face in the community with the information we collect.
Potholes! If you can prove you haven’t seen one or ran over one I’ll give you a dollar! I’d like to say this year they seem exceptionally worse but I thought the same thing last year! The crews are out filling them, starting with primary and secondary streets. We begin with those streets because of the volume of traffic and the speed with which cars travel on them. We then move out to neighborhoods. If you want to report a pothole you can do so by going to the city’s website and inputting the information on the Department of Public Works link. Or, if you want to report it the old-fashioned way, you can report it to a person by calling the department at 747-4847.
Just so you know, we paved 29 lane miles last year and will be paving 20 this year, compared to only 6 ½ in 2008. And, last year we completed over seven million dollars in infrastructure improvements, compared to just two million in 2009. Pete Heuer, our Superintendent of Public Works, really pushed the envelope for the city last year, which saw many stagnant projects move into action again.
Once again the Sanitary District had no pollution discharge violations. We completed three significant neighborhood storm sewer construction projects at 18th and Macedonia, Perdieu and Ewing, Elgin and McGalliard, and a Hydrological Study in Mayfield Addition was also completed.
Last year the Muncie Sanitary recycled thousands of tires, over 500 tons of electronics, and participated in 19 neighborhood cleanups collecting 115 tons of trash. Also, they issued over 1500 trash violations in the city, and continue to work with property owners to resolve the violations without court action.
During the High Performance Government process we determined that, of all the goals we wanted to establish, upgrading the accounting software and training of employees were paramount to our financial future. The software we currently use in our accounting process is ten years old, is no longer supported by the vendor, and does not enable departments to interact. With the new accounting software we not only will have vendor support, but departments will be able to be share information electronically interdepartmentally. A novel idea! Accounting reports will be easier for the layman to understand, which will make it easier for our staff, city council members, and the public. Also, it will assist us in staying in compliance with the State Board of Accounts.
We also updated the city website last year and continue to provide transparency by providing as much information as possible on the web for the public to peruse, including agendas and minutes from all the boards and commissions the Mayor’s Office has appointments to.
While I have shared many details regarding the city’s departments, I’d also like to share about our international trade missions and our local economic development efforts. I have traveled abroad several times to represent the City of Muncie and Delaware County in our economic development endeavors. Lt. Governor Becky Skillman has stated that we can watch our children leave our communities in search of employment opportunities or we, as elected officials and leaders in the community, can travel to seek foreign investment that will create jobs for our children. We must continue to foster the relationships we have established. We must continue to thank those that have chosen to invest in our community creating jobs for our families. We must continue to seek out opportunity for future investment. Rest assured, we continue to evaluate the cost against the opportunity. I appreciate the working relationship that exists between the Economic Development Alliance and the Mayor’s Office. Jay Julian, Terry Murphy, Bruce Baldwin, and Traci Lutton are true professionals and understand their roles and responsibilities to the community. They are the ones that do the heavy lifting, keeping the information flowing between elected officials and those making the decisions on where to invest.
Our visits to China have resulted in the establishment of five business relationships, and we expect that number to continue to grow as we work with the Chinese company’s business consultants to meet their clients’ needs.
We continue to maintain the relationships we have established with our friends in Japan. Terry Murphy and Larry Ingraham, our Japanese consultant, and I have visited the city of Sendai and in 2009 toured a Keihin facility there. And I ask you to keep them in your prayers as they recover from the recent earthquake and tsunami. There is a long-standing relationship with Indiana and Japan. Over 200,000 families in Indiana benefit from Japanese investment.
The economic development trip to Turkey has far exceeded our expectations. Roy Budd of Energize ECI traveled with Ball State University and came back very enthused about Turkish business opportunities. In January we participated in our first regional economic development endeavor with representatives from Fayette County; Mayor Wayne Seybold of Marion and a representative from Grant County’s Economic Growth Council; Dan Zuerner as Chairman of the East Central Indiana Economic Development Board, and a representative of Garmong Construction; Jay Julian, our Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce President; and Necati Sozuoz, our Turkish Business Development consultant. This group of public and private representatives traveled to Instanbul, Gaziantep, Ankara, Konya, Anatalya, and our sister city Isparta visiting with the leaders and members of their Chambers of Commerce. Turkish Chambers of Commerce are much stronger than US Chambers. Each Chamber is broken into sectors and there are leadership roles for each sector, with each member contributing a percentage of their profits to the organization. Since our return, we have hosted two visits and have four more planned. We continue to learn how we can meet their needs and what they need from us to be successful in our region.
People often ask why we think we can get international investment, and that is a fair question. The true benefit for most foreign companies is that in order to have a true international presence they must have a distribution point, a manufacturing facility, and or a headquarters in the United States. Manufacturing in our country enables the corporation to label their product with the ‘Made in the USA’ label. We are still the most stable country in the world, both politically and financially, and businesses from other countries being able to claim the ‘Made in USA’ label is a very valuable incentive.
Domestically, we are always focused on job retention and new development opportunities. Delaware County has one of the most successful shell building programs in the state, and we are under contract to build yet another one in the Airpark. We now have Progress Rail. We continue to work with Indiana Stamping (formerly Duffy Tool) to retain the existing jobs and to add more. We continue to work on the Hotel Roberts project recognizing it will have a significant impact on our downtown if we are able to return it to its original vibrancy. And, we recognize the value of our small businesses, those that employ less than 10 individuals. While it is great to have the big win, small businesses are the backbone of our economy.
So, this brings us to the future. What are the plans for the future?
Jobs and economic development opportunities will continue to be a priority. We know we have lost over 13,000 jobs in our, but results like Progress Rail continues to build up our employment base. The same is true of Indiana Stamping, and Delaware Dynamic. We will continue to work with our small business owners to support them when needed. We are making progress and will continue to travel abroad to follow the leads we have for investment opportunities. We thank those who have headquarters in other parts of the world for investing here.
We will continue to invest in quality of life issues. ADA compliance, continued investment in our city parks, and maximizing the wheel tax for paving projects. We will continue our efforts to stabilize our neighborhoods with blight removal, and focus on redevelopment of those properties. We must address our predator landlord issues so that our residents have safe housing.
We will continue to strive to form public/private partnerships. A great example is the future private-sector management of Tuhey Pool. Soon the Park Board will be awarding a pool management contract to a private sector entity with more expertise than we as government in an effort for the facility to be sustainable in the long term.
We will continue to collaborate with our not-for-profits and foundations to provide opportunities to stabilize families, through Bank On Muncie efforts, job training, home ownership skills, and education. We must find ways to address our domestic violence and child predator issues.
We will continue to collaborate with the community to implement the 47 MAP initiatives. Early childhood development is extremely important to our future, and education is extremely important to sustain our future. Primary Physicians are now organizing to fight smoking and obesity in our city. These are issues we desperately need to recognize and develop a plan that will truly transform the city.
It is an honor and a privilege to represent the City of Muncie. I have worked hard to be a good steward of the office of Mayor. Instead of walking away when roadblocks were put in our pathway, we listened and we found solutions. The future of Muncie is too important to all of us, whether you are young, retired, an employer, or an employee. We must find ways to talk with one another, listen to one another, and work with one another.
Finally, as I end my re marks today I’d like to share the following quote I read recently in a book entitled “Politics with Principle: Ten Characters with Character” by Michael Kerrigan. This was part of a speech given by the 26th U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who know great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I have served through some pretty hard times for the City of Muncie with that spirit in mind. I’ve not run from the tough issues, and I have made the difficult decisions. I’ve not been afraid to ask the tough questions, especially when it comes to the protection of our taxpayers and residents. I will continue to work, every day, for a better Muncie, for all of us.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your mayor.