State of the City 2018
I began my 2017 State of the City Address by stating that I thought Bucyrus was at a unique time in the history of our City and, as we take a moment to look back on 2017, I believe that our accomplishments in 2017 will lay a strong foundation for the future of Bucyrus.
I hope that you agree with me that the opening of the state-of-the-art Water Treatment Plant, the beginning of our long-awaited, storm water separation program and the opening of the Schines Art Park were milestones in the history of Bucyrus that will pay dividends long into the future.
It was on a beautiful day in September that we christened our new Water Treatment plant complete with cheerleaders, a marching band, and hundreds of proud citizens who came for the tours led by our staff. It was a day of great pride. Our new plant will provided nearly a million gallons of water a day to our residents and industry and ranks in the top ten percent of the entire state for water capacity which can be increased to three million gallons each day. Expansion of our customer base is our goal and we hope to sign-up new customers outside the City if Council will allow us to do so. We have met with Chairman Truka and the Service Committee and we have presented a plan that will allow us to increase our customer base by nearly 20% over the next decade which would allow us to increase our revenue as we pay for our new plant, reducing the burden on our current water users.
In 2015 we signed a consent order with the Federal EPA that allows us to comply with mandates to separate our sanitary sewers from storm water sewers with the goal of reducing the amount of overflows by about 80%. We were able to negotiate a favorable agreement with the EPA that allows us to spread the project over decades instead of being done in a just a few years reducing the burden on our utility customers. We began the project in 2017 with Phase One—separation on Southern Avenue. It’s been a bit bumpy down Southern Avenue and we thank everyone for their patience and we expect the final asphalt coating to be done this spring.
East Southern Avenue was the site of another tremendous accomplishment. With the assistance of the County Commissioners we were able to alleviate the flooding in the Robin Hood Heights area with the use of a detention pond on at the County Fairgrounds—and it worked like a charm during a recent four inch rain event. Lake Wagner was full and the homes were dry!
Since I took office in 2014, I have been a proponent of improving the quality of life in Bucyrus. We are very proud of our improvements to the City in 2017. We added a very nice slide to Aumiller Park pool and it was met with excitement and rave reviews. We also applied for (and received) a grant from ODNR for a short stretch of bike/walking path off West Southern Avenue to the Friendship Bridge. It is a small but symbolic grant that puts us on the path to more grants in the future with the end goal of having our City become more bike/walking friendly. Sadly, the 2017 Finance committee voted against accepting the grant and I am asking Council to reconsider this decision and appropriate funds in order to accept the ODNR Grant so we can complete this project in 2018.
Quality of life improvement means also managing our urban forest. I have a proposed plan to improve the condition of our urban forest which has been neglected for decades. Judging by the condition and size of our urban trees, it appears that we had aggressive planting fifty to seventy years ago and little management of those trees since they were planted and now we are in danger of losing most of our trees within a generation. We have many trees that are diseased or have diseased limbs and pose a danger to cars and pedestrians. We have over two hundred trees that have been cut down and the stumps left in tree lawns and in our parks. This is an embarrassment to our community. Developing a tree program is a very small part of our budget but one that pays large returns with reduced energy costs, reduced flow through our Waste Water Treatment Plant and, of course, added beauty to our community. City Council approved a tree program for fiscal year 2018 but, sadly, the 2017 Finance Committee voted to remove the tree budget and we don’t have funds to mitigate the danger to our citizens or to plant new trees. I am asking that you also reconsider this unfortunate decision and replace the funds to our tree budget so we can improve the safety and beauty of our community. This is an urgent matter and we don’t have time to waste.
In December of 2017, the City of Bucyrus was awarded Tree City USA status for the first time ever and we will receive this award from ODNR in April. Tree City, USA is a free award that is given to a community that has a plan to manage the trees in the community along with a small tree fund that allows for planting, pruning and removal. I ask that you support this low-cost, high-return effort to improve the safety and beauty of Bucyrus. John Rostash and I have just finished ODNR’s Tree Academy and the knowledge that we have gained will help us to improve the quality of life in Bucyrus.
2017 saw the 50th anniversary of the Bratwurst Festival and it was the best festival ever. The crowds were huge—the weather was perfect. The Bratwurst Festival is synonymous with Bucyrus and I am proud that City Council is partnering with the Festival. The Festival Board is young and energetic and is committed to making the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival the best in the State. Expect big things from the Bratwurst Festival in the future.
Now is a good time to mention a very important milestone in the history of Bucyrus. 2021 will mark the Bicentennial year and we will need to begin preparations in the near future—it’s just three years away and it’s not too early to begin planning our celebration.
The completion of the Schines Art Park will be a large part of the celebration. We still have a permanent stage to build and we are looking for funding sources to do so at this time. In the mean-time, we have a wonderful park in our downtown business district that is a source of tremendous pride. The condition of the downtown business district plays a huge role in the feeling of citizens toward the community and I have received so many comments about how good the downtown looks. Schines Art Park is a gem and it will get even better as we add more pieces of art and the permanent stage to the east end. I can’t wait for this year’s movie series. I will put our downtown up against any other in the State of our size. Our downtown is the best and we need to keep it that way with careful attention to our parks, landscaping, and buildings.
Our administration has also been looking at every department’s budget to see where tax revenue can be saved. We have lost revenue from State sources as well as from estate taxes that has hurt the City. We have looked at many creative ways to offset the drop in revenue and I am happy to report that we are saving the City taxpayers over $250,000 per year by making changes to our health insurance plan and by eliminating supervisor positions and we are looking at possibilities of raising additional revenue and cutting further expenses in the future. These savings have allowed us to invest in a property maintenance department which has made a large dent in some of the property issues that face us. Rest assured taxpayers, that we are watching every expense to insure that your tax dollars are not wasted and invested wisely in the services that will make us better.
Looking ahead for 2018—we will see the start of the very long awaited Plymouth Street reconstruction project. This project will rebuild the street along with the sidewalks and curbs and we will also be doing some storm water/sanitary sewer separation which will give us additional credit with the EPA. The project should be completed by the end of 2018. In addition, we have received a Small Cities grant to repave North Sandusky Avenue to the City limits. As you know, the condition of North Sandusky Avenue from Plymouth Street north is in rough shape and the timing to the grant was perfect. We have also been working with ODOT about the possibility of moving our City workers under one facility using the old ODOT facility on Irving Street. We plan to rehabilitate the facility and this will also allow us to eliminate a potential eyesore for the City.
In closing, I see a bright future for our community. Yes, we have specific and special challenges that will require us to develop new methods to address the issues facing Bucyrus and all of rural America. But I believe that we have made great progress so far, evidenced by the drop in crime in our community. There are many people to thank for that drop including Mr. Ratliff, Chief Koepke, and the entire Police Department as well as Judge Sean Leuthold. Our local organizations also play part in preparing our citizens to be responsible. I thank Mr. Kevin Kimmel of Bucyrus City Schools and staff, all the mentors who give their time to help out those in need of a guiding hand. I mention every year that our local churches and organizations are what makes Bucyrus special and 2017 saw no exception to their self-donation of time and talent. In addition to the school system and community organizations, I don’t want to forget to mention the vital work of the Chamber of Commerce, the Crawford Partnership, and Crawford Works in preparing our community for future growth. I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the Crawford County Land Bank and the great work that has been done in removing derelict properties in 2017 with more to come in 2018.
On a more personal note, I would also like to thank the people that I work with who are innovative and energetic in leading the City. Mr. Wagner is a Service Director with special talents and we need to make sure that he continues in his job for a long time. Kelli Patterson brings enthusiasm and organization to our office. John Rostash and Landyn Hill are committed to making Bucyrus exceptional. I don’t want to overlook elected officials, Mr. Ratliff, Ms. Love, and Mrs. Schifer who continue to contribute effective leadership—and to all members of City Council, thanks for serving and our administration has enjoyed working with you these last two months of your new terms and let’s dream big together. We love your enthusiasm. Please allow me to thank my wife Gayle, for her patience and support for these past few years—we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary in 2017!
We have much for which to be thankful. God has blessed this community for nearly 200 years and we pray for continued blessings on all our citizens, businesses, organizations, school systems, City staff and elected officials as we work toward making Bucyrus a model community.