Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters delivered a State of the City address Friday reflecting on accomplishments of 2017 and goals and projects for 2018.
The event was sponsored by the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce and attended by approximately 100 people at Cafe Of Hope.
Fetters said the city’s everyday strategy for success is doing what you say you will do.
“We try to make a commitment, get it done and make sure things are clear for others,” Fetters said.
He said there cannot be a vibrant community without pursuing jobs that provide a livable wage and meet family needs.
Fetters looked back at park improvements accomplished in 2017.
He said three miles of trails were finished along the Little River up through the Erie Rail bed by the Huntington University ball diamond.
Park signs have been updated in the city with a fresher look and paint. The city is working to make sure the parks are active and attractive.
A dog park will come this year on East Market and Briant Street where dogs can run in a fenced in area.
“If you’re a dog owner, you will have a place to take your dog and socialize. It will be a great amenity in a central location,” Fetters said.
A new BMX pump track between Leopold and Wilkerson Streets opened last year. Fetters said it is the rock star park of 2017.
“There are kids from 4 to 44 who have come to the park. It was built by those who built the pump tracks for the X games and Olympics and has some street cred. We have people coming in from all over the region,” Fetters said.
There were several Veteran’s Park improvements last year. A Navy Anchor was installed as well as a monument dedicated to Thomas Aquinas Parker, a Huntington native and Navy Corpsman who was killed in action in Vietnam.
“We have been able to incorporate the memorials in a way that celebrates and honors the service and sacrifice of all veterans who lived and died and are from Huntington County,” Fetters said.
Big accomplishments in 2017 included Etna Avenue improvements, still ongoing. There will be curbs, gutters and storm sewers installed in the area.
Big challenges in 2017 were layoffs at UTEC, the opioid crisis and the fire at 43 W. Market St.
“I’m very pleased with how our community has come together to deal with the layoffs. UTEC is not closing and is still hiring people,” Fetters said.
He said the opioid crisis is a big deal, noting that State Senator Andy Zay has hosted two opioid summits, one in Wabash and another in Huntington. The event in Huntington was attended by 90 people where attendees heard stories of progress and from those involved in the crisis.
“It’s aggravating and frustrating to see these things happen to people, but at the end of the day we have chiefs and public safety leaders who have a heart for the people who are tangled up in these addictions,” Fetters said. He said it’s about helping people find hope, a path and a way to make better choices.
He addressed the Market Street fire that occurred downtown in March, displacing residents of the apartment building across from city hall.
“The only building that was damaged was the one where the fire started,” Fetters said. He said it was a team effort by law enforcement, fire departments and the water department to make sure residents were safe and the fire was extinguished.
He said in Huntington County there were 4,262 volunteers in 2017 who put in 15,189 hours of volunteerism and completed 113 projects. Those included Wabash River cleanup and painting playground equipment at local parks.
Fetters addressed plans for the city in 2018.
The curbside recycling program kicked off in January and will help preserve the life of the landfill, Fetters said.
“There are guides on the container of what can be thrown in there. As this rolls out, people in Huntington are conscientious and want to do the right thing,” Fetters said.
The UB Block Building project will begin this year by creating 35 market rate apartments. A Huntington University entrepreneurship center where businesses can be launched is part of the project, as well as a regional creative arts studio to be run by Pathfinder Services.
Goals for the city for 2018 are improving sidewalks and street paving, increased code enforcement and continuing neighborhood alliances that work together to improve neighborhoods.