During her fourth — and final — State of the City address Tuesday evening, Martinsville Mayor Shannon Kohl spent time looking back at the three years she’s served as the city’s executive, while highlighting the bright future of the city.
One of the first topics she discussed to those gathered at the Martinsville High School cafeteria was her five building blocks, which include safety, neighborhoods, economic development, communications and citizens voice.
“Having a focus on each building block enabled us to undertake key goals of my administration,” Kohl said.
Reducing crime, strengthening neighborhoods, expanding business, operating openly and seeking involvement from residents were some of the items Kohl listed in her speech as accomplishments during her term as mayor.
“Under each building block, with each goal in mind, the needs of our community have always been top priority, with constant improvement being the driver of all our work,” Kohl said. “We have faced the last three years head on and ready for anything thrown our way, and we will continue to do so for a fourth year.”
Kohl believes the success of the city during her administration boils down to the strong partnerships that have been built.
For example, the city’s police and fire departments have worked together to hold active shooter drills at Tabernacle Christian School.
The police department has also worked with IU Health Morgan to be prepared for incidents that could occur at the health-care facility.
In 2018, the Martinsville Police Department also added K-9 Jada to the force and continued with the DARE program in local schools.
Since Kohl took office, the city’s fire department has also increased the number of training hours.
“That training has paid off,” Kohl said. “Not only that, but our investment in better equipment to be used with that training has paid off and taken our ISO (Insurance Service Office) rating down from a five to a four, and that means more money in your pockets.”
The Martinsville Department of Public Works was another topic of discussion during Kohl’s speech.
According to Kohl, there have been several improvements made to city streets and sidewalks.
“But many of the improvements you cannot see because they are underneath you,” Kohl said. “That is all the improvements with our infrastructure.”
For several years, Kohl noted, the city “Band-Aided” the infrastructure issues in the city.
“We have invested in our infrastructure over the past three years and will continue to do so through the end of my term,” Kohl noted.
New look for city
According to Kohl, when she ran for her current office 2015, she also wanted a new look for the city.
“If you look downtown, you can see that new look,” Kohl said. “We have a downtown that many communities would love to have.”
For many years, she added, several buildings around the courthouse square sat empty and unused.
In 2016, Kohl said she had lunch with local businessman Craig Fenneman.
“I shared with him a vision of downtown and how I believed we could bring it back to life,” Kohl said.
Eventually Fenneman, along with his wife Mary and friends Doug and Paula Molin, created the Artesian Group, LLC.
“They began to pump life back into our downtown, all while preserving history,” Kohl said. “What was once a ghost town of a square is now hopping with people on any given evening.”
Another way Kohl believes she has helped give the city a new look is with the Unsafe Building and Hearing Authority (UBHA), which includes members Mike Lanam, Tom Gray and Dwayne Metcalf.
Martinsville Building Inspector Brian Love also is an important part of the UBHA team.
“Through tremendous teamwork and extensive expertise, this team has improved almost 50 structures since 2016, a huge accomplishment that I know they are extremely proud to see happen in Martinsville,” Kohl added.
One of the issues Kohl ran on in 2015 was finances in city government.
“Within the city, we have completely turned our finances around and presented the first balanced budget since 2005 for the 2017 fiscal year,” Kohl said.
During her speech, Kohl said her administration has now presented three balanced budgets.
“Each year, we have grown our cash flow — the opposite of how it was prior to my administration — increasing our cash position about $1.8 million in the last three years,” Kohl said.
Part of the reason Kohl believes the city’s finances have improved in recent years is a five-year capital improvement plan, which allows the city to replace aging equipment.
“Just last year, we raised nearly $4 million for improvements, projects and equipment, all while keeping the tax rate level, which we have done since 2015.”
Earlier this year, Kohl announced that she would not be seeking a second term as mayor of Martinsville, but spent the closing moments of her speech discussing the city’s future.
“We have been presented with some progressive steps for Martinsville, as well as some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to bring growth to our community,” Kohl said. “Just as we have been doing, we will continue to do that in 2019.”
During her final months as mayor, Kohl will focus on the future of the city’s residents and visitors.
“I am proud of what we have done in the last three years and excited to see what will come in 2019,” Kohl said. “Things will never be the same in Martinsville and that is why I was elected three and a half years ago, because people wanted things to change, and we delivered on our promises.”