Mayor Sonya Margerum thanks citizens, notes accomplishments in State of the City address

West Lafayette Mayor Sonya Margerum makes her final State of the City address at West Lafayette City Hall Monday night. Mayor Margerum will step down as mayor of West Lafayette after 24 years of service.

The following is the complete text of outgoing West Lafayette Mayor Sonya Margerum, which was delivered during the City Council meeting Monday night.

Good evening. Members of the Common Council, colleagues, friends and fellow citizens: Thank you for joining with me tonight for the State of the City address.

The mayor usually gives the State of the City in the January council session. However, because Mayor-elect Jan Mills will be sworn into office by then, I wanted to take this opportunity to address the citizens before my term concludes.

In the midst of a difficult year for our state and country in which we lost our governor, the economy struggled and our nation is engaged in a conflict overseas, West Lafayette has prospered. The new police station is open, financed without one penny of property tax dollars. Lindberg Road is bustling with traffic. The Hilton Garden Inn and other businesses at Wabash Landing are thriving. Purdue Research Park is an economic engine. Walkers, bicyclists, inline skaters and nature enthusiasts are enjoying the new trails network. We have a visionary plan for Sagamore Parkway. And we passed a lean, fiscally-responsible 2004 budget.

Many of these accomplishments are the results of our commitment to citizen-driven strategic planning. Since 1987, we have utilized strategic planning as our roadmap to progress. Our recently-updated Strategic Plan affirms that while we face some challenges, the state of our city is stronger than ever.

Financially, the city enjoys a clean bill of fiscal health. Delays from court-ordered reassessment forced West Lafayette, like many other Indiana cities, to borrow money internally on a temporary basis in order to fund city services and other obligations. But we continue moving forward. Services are excellent. About 65 percent of the property tax portion of the budget is committed to public safety. And the city is making efficient use of tax dollars. I want to recognize Clerk-Treasurer Judy Rhodes for her dedication.

West Lafayette is thriving because we have invested in the future and positioned the city for success in this 21st century.

Last year, I reported on the exciting growth in our new downtown, Wabash Landing. The growth has continued in 2003 with the openings of six new businesses, including the Hilton Garden Inn, which has been booked for every home football game. Later this month Scotty’s restaurant will open, priming the pump for more businesses to locate in the walkway area.

Wabash Landing has received three prestigious accolades that affirm what a special place it is: the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns’ Community Achievement Award, the Indiana Land-Use Consortium’s Models of Success Award and the Main Street Award with Lafayette.

The city and Purdue University’s economic development partnership continues yielding high-tech growth and statewide recognition. In May, then-Lieutenant Governor Joe Kernan came to West Lafayette to designate Purdue Research Park Indiana’s first-ever Certified Technology Park. This was an economic development coup for our city, the University and the state. The Redevelopment Commission will reinvest revenue generated by tenants in the designated 50-acre area into further improvements.

In October, the city and University cut the ribbon on phase two of Purdue Research Park, literally paving the way — via the extended Win Hentschel Boulevard and new McClure Street — for the creation of a projected 900,000 square feet of new office space and 2,000 new jobs. This is in addition to the 2,200 jobs and one million square feet of office space already in the park.

I want to thank Director of Development Josh Andrew and his staff, City Attorney Bob Bauman, project manager Tom Gall, Steve Belter and the Redevelopment Commission and so many others for helping make the progress at Wabash Landing and Purdue Research Park possible.

Our commitment to economic vitality and high quality of life stretches to all corners of the city. In May, I established the Sagamore Parkway Task Force and asked the members to create a plan for improving that gateway to our community. The task force met bimonthly, formed subcommittees to address specific issues, consulted with experts, held three public forums and commissioned two surveys of the community. It was also instrumental in the formation of the Sagamore West Area Business Association.

Two weeks ago, the task force presented its final report to the city. While most of the report’s recommendations are long-term projects requiring cooperation from the Indiana Department of Transportation — such as gateways, additional sidewalks and improved crosswalks — some of them can be implemented in the short-term. I know Mayor-elect Mills is looking forward to taking up the challenge. To the Sagamore Parkway Task Force members and chair Joseph Hornett, thank you for your service.

The Common Council is about to wrap up the four-year term. Accomplishments this year include the passage of the 2004 budget, which is $51,000 less than last year’s budget; placing a maximum charge on the towing of vehicles in West Lafayette; providing tax abatement to Cook Biotech, which is building a 55,000-square-foot R&D facility in Purdue Research Park; establishment of the Police Merit Commission; and approval of a number of planned developments. We are all proud of this council’s commitment to bipartisan progress.

One of the reasons we have such a high quality of life is our parks system. People of all ages and walks of life are enjoying our 11-mile trails network. Eventually, the network will link to more neighborhoods and tie in with the Wabash Heritage Trail. We also opened the new playground at the Dubois Street neighborhood park, improved the historic Trolley Line Trail and held maybe the best Global Fest yet. More than 15,000 people enjoyed Riverside Skating Center in its successful inaugural ice skating season. Morton Community Center has a much-needed new roof, and class registrations there are up 6 percent over last year. I want to thank Parks Superintendent Joe Payne, his staff, and the Park Board for a job well done.

Keeping this community safe is our top priority. This year our Police Department, under Chief Daniel Marvin’s leadership, has added two officers, updated radio equipment to improve communications and relocated to the new station, which will accommodate growth for the next 25 years. The department will soon begin a central dispatch pilot program with the county, saving our city about $1 million.

The Fire Department has had a steady year, experiencing about the same number of runs as in 2002 and no major incidents. We will miss Chief Ron Ford, who is retiring after devoting 33 years to the fire service. Ron has provided strong leadership for our excellent Fire Department. He added a new fire engine in 2001, improved safety equipment and remodeled the historic Number One station. Maybe his most significant accomplishment was beginning the first responder service. A few months ago, I met a young man who told me the city had saved his life. He had suffered a life-threatening head injury during a basketball game. Had our first responders not quickly arrived on the scene and stabilized him, he told me he might have died. Ron, thank you for your many years of service.

The Department of Development, headed by Josh Andrew, was involved in several major projects, including the updated Strategic Plan and the Sagamore Parkway Task Force. The department is now focusing on Wabash Landing way-finding signage, and on collaborating with the county, Purdue University and the city of Lafayette on the geographic information system, or GIS. Our support of the Downtown Business Center resulted in the Dancing in the Streets event and the Brown Bag Lunch concerts. The department also hired a new redevelopment and neighborhood planner, Beverly Shaw, who has coordinated the pruning of more than 600 trees this fall and is engaged in a number of other quality of life projects.

The code enforcement office, under the authority of the 2001 rental inspection ordinance, substantially completed rounds 13 and 14 of initial inspections of rental units. Allen Grady is evaluating our rental certification program’s effectiveness in controlling and preventing over-occupancy and other violations. Allen and the code enforcement staff are doing a fantastic job.

Our growing city has kept the Engineering Department quite busy. The department has been involved in five residential planned developments and subdivisions and five major commercial and public projects. It has also played important roles in the Purdue Research Park expansion, Kalberer Road and Tapawingo Drive South projects. But perhaps the completion of Lindberg Road in August was the most significant accomplishment. The section of the road that passes over Celery Bog is now supported by 1,218 maintenance-free auger-cast pilings.

The Engineering Department will undergo some changes in 2004. After 37 years of dedicated service, City Engineer Scott Snyder is retiring. Throughout my 24 years in office, I have relied countless times on Scott’s expertise. I truly appreciate his calm, thoughtful manner and institutional knowledge of the city’s history and infrastructure. Thank you, Scott, for all that you have done. You will be missed.

Among the first orders of business in 2003 was restructuring our street commissioner’s position to include oversight of the Wastewater Treatment Utility. David Downey accepted the challenge of additional responsibilities and has done an excellent job of keeping our streets well-maintained and running an efficient and effective Wastewater Treatment Utility.

In 2003, the Street Department resurfaced all or sections of 13 city streets, reconstructed the sidewalks along three streets, participated in the Lindberg Road project and provided services to 130 additional homes. To date, it has handled 6,975 tons of trash, 1,825 tons of recyclables and 436 tons of compost. I want to thank the hardworking Street Department staff for their service.

The Wastewater Treatment Utility staff continues to serve as outstanding environmental stewards. While the completion of the wet weather treatment facility has been delayed, it should be completely online soon, treating storm water that otherwise would flow into the Wabash River. The city has also constructed a storm water sewer near Tapawingo Park that prevents trash from flowing into the Wabash.

West Lafayette’s Internet site continues to improve. The ticket payment service enables citizens to conduct city business online, rather than in line. More services will eventually be made available online. In the summer, the Web site received major upgrades, and scores of additional informational pages were created, along with the city’s new colors and logo. Our public information officer updates the Web site daily with the latest news.

Serving as mayor of West Lafayette for the past 24 years has been an honor and a privilege. When I was elected to this office in 1979 — having served on the council for four years — I had no idea I would be here for six terms. But serving the citizens of this great city was too much of a joy not to keep at it. The door to my office has stayed wide open, and I have always made a point to knock on your doors now and then to make sure the city is meeting its obligations.

We have accomplished so much over the past 24 years. In 1987, West Lafayette became one of the first Midwest cities to create a first Strategic Plan. We also established the code enforcement program to provide safe housing and purchased Morton School.

In 1990, West Lafayette became the first city in Indiana to implement a curbside recycling program. In 1991, our Fire Department initiated its first responder service. In 1993, the EPA approved the Wastewater Treatment Utility’s 20-year plan, calling it one of the best it had ever seen. In 1997, the city purchased the dilapidated Sears site and the following year initiated the early stages of the Wabash Landing redevelopment project. In 1999, the Lilly Nature Center in the Celery Bog Nature Area opened. In 2001, we extended Win Hentschel Boulevard, a critical component of Purdue Research Park’s expansion plans. This year, we have completed the Lindberg Road reconstruction project, opened the police station, cut the ribbon on the trails network, completed phase two of Purdue Research Park, updated our Strategic Plan and created a citizen-driven plan for improving Sagamore Parkway.

None of that, plus so many other accomplishments, would have been possible without you, the citizens of this great city.

About this time last year, I decided that the time had come for someone else to step in and serve as mayor. I am glad that person is Jan Mills. She has devoted two decades of service to West Lafayette, strengthening our neighborhoods, chairing our strategic plan, facilitating improved communication with Purdue University and tirelessly representing her district on the council. No one has been more prepared to serve as mayor than Jan Mills. I am looking forward to swearing her into office — to turning the reigns over and enjoying private life for a while.

Thank you, and good night.

Sonya Margerum is the mayor of West Lafayette.

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