Hello 1st Ward Citizens:
Many of you saw me at the recent (which Tom and I volunteered for and underwrote), and you asked why you hadn't gotten an e-mail update from me lately. I guess I now know that people were reading them! I wasn't sure of that, but I plan to correct the fact that I haven't sent anything in a while. Following are a few things that have been going on at city hall that affect the quality of our lives here in U. City. As always, I invite you to contact me with your thoughts, feelings, and insights about any or all of these issues.
Jackson Avenue Pedestrian Light: The city council has approved work on a new pedestrian light for Jackson Avenue. This will make the crosswalk there accessible per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The work will be funded primarily by a federal grant, which will cover 80% ($131,200) of the cost, with the city supplying the rest ($32,800) from general revenue. I feel this needed improvement is a wise use of our city's resources that will benefit those in need. This use of funds positively reflects the values of our city.
I am very pleased to report that we are moving forward with an important new commercial development at this prominent location. It promises to be up to a $30 million project that will include a new Walgreens, office space, and a residential component. The council voted unanimously to approve this. I look forward to working with the development team on this site. Our city has struggled at times with our reputation with the development community. It is my hope that our city administration will work in a cooperative manner with the development team on this project for the benefit of our entire community.
The decision by our city manager to discontinue lighting our public driving range continues to be a point of contention for many residents. Because the project, including the lights, was partially funded by a grant from the Parks Commission, our city council really needs to take a vote on giving the money back to that entity. By allowing the lights to be turned off, we have not held up our end of the grant, which was awarded with the understanding that the commission was funding a lighted driving range for night-time use for both residents and non-resident guests. Our city manager continues to insist that he needs to see another lighting study, in addition to the one he already commissioned, of which he doesn't accept the results. It seems that what could have been a source of steady revenue for the city is costing us more and more as our city manager tries to build a case against those who disagree with his decision.
There are arguably many good reasons for our city to build a new firehouse. Furthermore, stimulus funds from the federal government continue to make now a good time for us to start doing so. However, since September 2009, we've known that the original size of the grant for this purpose was reduced considerably. In addition, since plans were begun, construction cost estimates have gone up, management costs have been added, and previously-overlooked lighting costs as well. So the original price tag for the city has increased from around $200,000 to over $800,000. While this is still probably a great deal for the city, these cost increases should have been taken into account in the most recent city budget. Citizens have a right to know the true costs of the things the city is investing their tax money in, and I feel that the cost of this important project has been presented dishonestly. In addition, I question our city manager's ultimate goal of moving not only the fire department but also the police department out of its current location near City Hall. Land that he has proposed for this move, at Olive and Midland, was purchased with your tax dollars for the express purpose of economic development, not for the purpose of building a public facility like a police station. And once we move our firefighters and police department out of the historic building at 6801 Delmar, what are we to do with that structure? Many uncertainties about this long-term plan remain, and this is the time for citizens to voice their questions and concerns. The ONLY public hearing on the new fire house will be held at City Hall during the next City Council meeting that will be held Monday, October 24th at 6:30 p.m. I hope that you will feel free to share your opinions on this important issue with us at the public hearing. It is important that all sides be heard. If you are unable to attend, please feel free to share your opinions with me by e-mail or phone.
Thank you all for your interest in and commitment to our city's government. I am honored to represent you, and I invite you to share your thoughts on these and other issues facing the city council today.