When a president gives the State of the Union speech, he always says the state of the union is strong.

Mayor Harold Gordon believes the the state of the city of Connersville is strong and is making progress after ending a financial emergency in 2017.

The general fund balance at the end of 2018 stood at $3,331,852.11, down about $64,000 from the start of the year.

“The council, (clerk-treasurer) Rosemary (Brown), department heads and everybody worked together very well to keep the city solvent,” Gordon said. “I’m proud of the way the council works and everyone together. A lot of credit goes to Rosemary who tells us ‘no.’ I appreciate what she does.”

The city replaced some older equipment and maintained its srteets, utilities and other infrastructure, he said. All departments had some updates during the year.

The city bought a new automated trash truck, new loader for the transfer station, a used fire truck, two police vehicles, two ambulances and a Emergency Medical Service commander’s vehicle, thermal imagers for each fire station, utility truck and computers for police vehicles.

The Emergency Medical Services ran out of space for additional ambulances it uses for transporting patients in addition to emergency calls. The city obtained the former Dove Pontiac building owned by Eldridge CPA, he said. Overhead doors are being installed. An ambulance and crew is already stationed in the building.

Other than police in their new contract, city employees did not provide raises in 2018.

“If you’re not going to give raises or hire more people, if you expect people to do more work, they have to have good equipment,” Gordon said. “They are willing to work with us.”

Improvements in the fire department resulted in a better fire rating, which should improve insurance rates, he said. Overtime at the fire department has been kept at a reasonable level.

Connersville Utilities is ready to start construction of the upper Grand Avenue sewer separation project, drainage improvement project on Major Drive and Deer Trail and a major project at the wastewater treatment plant.

Gordon cited the work of Discover Connersville and the Festival Committee for making improvements to the downtown area that are bringing more people downtown.

Discover Connersville received donations for new benches and for twinkle lights in trees. 

The Festival Committee put on the Apple Dumpling Festival in September and Winterfest in December. They had 209 ride in a carriage and more than 400 kids met with Santa Claus. Both organizations plan on doing more events, he said.

The Parks Department had more than 1,200 participants in sports. Improvements have been made to the tennis and pickleball courts.

A new stage is being installed under the roof at the Roberts Park amphitheater so acts do not have to have a temporary stage on the track, he said. It will also have new lighting.

The city also began an energy savings program. Most of the new LED lighting will be installed by year’s end. Engineering work for solar panels at city-owned properties should be completed this year.

In 2019, in addition to street paving, he said the Street Department wants to pave some alleys. The department bought a paver and will do it in-house.

During 2018, the contract to construct phase one of the Rivers Edge Park off Veterans Memorial Drive finally received approval after two bidding processes and negotiations on costs.

Excavation work has begun and building construction will begin soon, Gordon said. 

He said the park’s planning group met Wednesday and he told them it’s time to get started or sell the property.

The city is developing a plan to provide seed money to use as match money for future grants or to start work on the diamonds, he said.

One of the issues mayors have discussed previously is making the city more presentable to visitors or people who may be looking to live in or start a business in the city.

Gordon said it’s hoped that property owners will follow the city’s lead in making improvements.

“By paving streets in sections of the town, like the east side and the industrial park and will do with the new project this year, that don’t normally get much attention, I think that makes people do something,” he said. “When we paved the east side I drove around to check on the work and I saw people weed eating I never saw weed eating before. By paving areas, the morale is raised and the residents believe the city cares about them.”

Copyright © 2019 The News-Examiner