With more than 260 in attendance, Steve Collier gave his third annual State of the City address as mayor of the City of Lawrence last month at The Garrison at Fort Benjamin Harrison.
“I set some aggressive goals for the first two years of this administration,” Collier said. “Moving Lawrence forward has truly been a rewarding and challenging task. We have closed the books on 2017 with some very good news. The city ended the fiscal year with a general fund operating reserve that has more than doubled in just two years.”
Collier said the city’s rainy day reserve is vital for planning emergencies and unexpected changes in revenue. With the reserve, the city has reached a level of financial stability that is expected to result in its third S&P upgrade in only two years. In April 2017, the city was upgraded by S&P to an A+ rating. The highest rating possible is AAA+.
“Finally, after years of stagnation, we can begin to invest in capital projects,” Collier said. “Last year, at this same venue, I told you that we had set an aggressive target of establishing an operating reserve of 10 percent budgeted expenditures. Today, I can tell you that we blew that goal out of the water. We got to 17 percent of operating reserves, or $3.5 million, for the city. This is a critical benchmark for fiscal responsibility.”
Collier announced the city’s new goal is now 20 percent, just above approximately $4 million, for December.
“As a comparison, only five years ago, our total operating reserve was about $60,000,” he said.
For the first time in the city’s history, it received the Government Finance Officer’s Distinguished Budget Award, the highest award given in the state for budget preparation. Only two other cities in the state, Fishers and South Bend, received the award.
In 2017, the city welcomed the following businesses:
- Valva+Meter Performance Marketing, 5625 N. Post Rd.
- Art to Remember corporate headquarters, 9425 E. 59th St.
- Jack’s Donuts, 9105 E. 56th St.
- Hotcakes Emporium Pancake House and Restaurant, 11915 Pendleton Pike.
- Phaya Thai, 5645 N. Post Rd.
- Fitzgerald’s Lunch House, 9130 Otis Ave.
On the Horizon is the Canada-based Tim Hortons, set to open at 9910 Pendleton Pike.
Recently, The Bradley Company purchased and began a major remodel of the Harrison Building to house a Dept. of Child Services office. Otis Avenue opened to Lee Road in July, paving the way for the construction of the Lawrence Branch of the Marion County Library in 2019. In addition, planning and development continues at the corner of 59th Street and Sunnyside Road for Meyer Plastics, Inc. Daniel Pels has purchased and continues upgrades to Maison Gardens at 42nd Street and Post Road.
“By effectively leveraging EPA grant dollars and to private investment along the Pendleton Pike corridor, we continue to enhance our proposal for a Trades District,” Collier said.
“I would like to be able to show you where (Supt. of Lawrence Utilities) Scott (Salsbery) started in January 2016 to where Scott is today,” Collier said. “What has happened in the past two years in nothing short of amazing. In May of 2017, the common council followed the recommendation of the utility service board with my full support of the new rates for the water utility. This resulted in a financially solved water utility. That was a brave move on the part of the common council. Nobody likes to see rates increase, but we now see a water utility that’s in a far healthier position.”
Construction continues on the Richardt Water Plant. The plant, directly on top of one of the largest aquifers in central Indiana, will provide enough water for the entire City of Lawrence when complete. It will produce 4.32 million gallons of water per day.
In the past year, the Lawrence Police Dept. purchased 12 new patrol vehicles, increased staffing in its investigations division, added 10 new reserve officers (10 more will be added in 2018), trained three new arson and fire investigators and fully staffed its 911 communications center for the first time since 2012.
Since 2016, the Lawrence Police Explorer Post has grown from two to 35 in 2018, providing more than 3,500 hours of law enforcement services to the city in the past year, something Collier said is the equivalent of having eight full-time officers.
“Post No. 160 is the oldest, continually operating post in Indiana, and now, we’re the largest,” Collier said.
This year, the city will begin construction on its new police station at 5150 N. Post Rd., a 4-acre space and the former site of the Snafu Saloon.
The Lawrence Common Council approved the project in February. The station will be 37,000 square feet and will include a sally port, a 2,000-square-foot vehicle maintenance garage, 150 parking spaces and also will include the city’s 911 communications and dispatch center.
In the past year, the Lawrence Fire Dept. put two new battalion vehicles and two new ambulances in service. A new engine was put into service in January 2017, and a new ladder truck has been purchased and will be put in service this month. The department also continues to provide smoke alarms to residents and partners with the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township to provide safety education to students.