Last year was a year of change.
Since taking office in December 2016, we seen many new faces on the job for our city. It began immediately with the appointment of our new City Administrator Tara Vasicek. In her short time here she has added an air of freshness and openness at City Hall, which has been well received by all.
The decision was made to move to a full-time fire chief and this brought on Dan Miller. We said goodbye to Police Chief William Gumm and promoted Captain Chuck Sherer — this appointment allowed us to have two other promotions within the police department.
Human Resources Director Mike Olgevie announced his retirement and we hired Tammy Orender. Library Director Drew Brookhart decided to go back to Colorado and we hired Laura Whitehead. And our new Public Works Director Chuck Sliva came from within the ranks.
The community continues to grow. Our industries and services are constantly expanding. The new Columbus High School, with the STEM Academy, opened in March. The Cargill plant's expansion, Columbus Middle School remodel, 25th anniversary of ADM and recent announcement of the BD Medical east plant expansion are just a few of the exciting things happening in Columbus.
Construction is progressing on the Third Avenue viaduct, the 18th Avenue pedestrian crossing is underway and right-of-way acquisitions are almost complete on the 12th Avenue viaduct. The major expansion to our wastewater treatment plant continues. We have installed two new lift stations that are now operational and a third lift station is currently under construction. The Loup River levee project is complete.
Excitement is building as we get closer to bringing specifics to the public regarding our public safety facilities. Work was done during the last few months of 2017 to finalize the needs for these facilities. We made a decision to bring on another consultant in an effort to jump-start this process and they did. In the next few weeks the details will be shared and the timeline laid out. This project is quickly becoming a reality.
Affordable workplace housing has been a topic discussed at many council meetings. The council approved a housing study early in the year and in an effort to support the needs of our community we are trying to move forward with the tools that can help. LB840 was approved for use with housing. TIF financing has been explained and shown how it can be a viable development tool. Staff is working to identify areas within the city where TIF financing could be helpful. By identifying and approving these areas we are trying to help move the process along.
Our budget of approximately $75 million is being managed wisely. We will continue to provide the necessary services to pave and plow our streets, handle our wastewater and deliver safe drinking water. Our parks continue to grow — the newest being Frontier Park near the armory. And the need for ballparks, soccer fields and other amenities is always being discussed.
The needs of police and fire will continue to be met. Besides the new facilities that will be constructed, there will be the physical needs of manpower and equipment.
As staff members bring forth their needs, the council will continue to work with them to see that these needs are met.
We are excited about having our community service department working on property maintenance enforcement. We passed ordinances to strengthen our regulations, moved staff around to be able to enforce and have committed to trying to clean up properties that have become rundown, neglected and even abandoned. Every one of us can point to something that we feel should be picked up, cleaned up or torn down. Our goal is to start addressing these areas. It will take time, but we have begun.
As we move into 2018 we have many things on the horizon:
• The police and fire facilities being brought forth and the necessary bond issue going to the public in May.
• The continued growth of the city fueled by growth of our industries and businesses bringing in new employees.
• Affordable workplace housing becoming a reality with the help of the tools that we are developing.
• The possibility of a combined 911 dispatch facility. The chance to work together with the county and offer all of the citizens of Platte County the best bang for their buck is exciting.
All of this will happen with the continued dedication and efforts of our entire city staff. We are blessed to have such a qualified workforce.
The past year has been a pleasure serving as your mayor and I look forward to 2018. Thank you!