February 26, 2013

Citizens of Carroll, council members and city staff, I'm presenting this State of the City address to you as we near the end of another busy budget season.

Benjamin Franklin said, "Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning." In this last year as mayor of Carroll, I can only describe it as a fantastic journey. Representing Carroll locally, statewide and nationally has been one of the great opportunities of my life.

There is no denying that Carroll, its citizens and our business community, are successful. This last year we have seen the opening of a number of businesses bring jobs and adding to our shopping experience. We recognize the need to focus on existing businesses, available space, and succession planning. So a new committee of business leaders with the assistance of the Carroll Chamber has embarked on ideas to recruit and plan for our future.

Economic studies show we have a tremendous impact on the region for employment and retail. Carroll and Carroll County are playing a bigger part in the success of Western Iowa than ever before.

Property values have increased with taxable valuation growing 3.12 percent from the previous year and valuation of $436.3 million up from $317 million in 2005. This last year, 14 new homes had a construction value of over $3.4 million, and there were 57 residential remodel projects totaling over $987,000. In addition this last year, there were seven new commercial construction projects totaling $3.2 million and 17 commercial remodel projects valued at almost $3 million. This tells me that people and businesses are proud of Carroll and they want to reinvest in their businesses and our neighborhoods.

General Fund balances of over $2 million, the highest bond rating a city our size can obtain, General Obligation debt going to $0 in just a few short years and the lowest interest rates on record have left us in a strong position to improve our buildings and infrastructure while being proactive with future legislation and added amenities.

This last year, we passed a Local Option Sales tax which will contribute 25 percent or over $300,000 annually toward debt each year and will allow us to plan for $500,000 in street rehabilitation in each year. This tax is generated by all of the people who choose Carroll for their shopping needs. These folks choose Carroll for a number of reasons including: it is where they are employed, where they receive health care services, where they bring their children for school or sporting event and because they appreciate the beauty of our downtown and unique merchants and retailers.

In the next five to seven years we will be presented with significant upgrades to our wastewater facility, the potential for a decrease in commercial and industrial property-tax revenue, costs associated with the new health-care laws, flat population trends that impact per-capita funding formulas and low unemployment numbers that make attracting large employers challenging, to say the least. It is important, however, that as community leaders, we realize decades of good planning and the decisions we have made even this last year are positioning us to grow when others struggle or take a step backwards.

In this last year we have implemented technical upgrades at the police department, which will save time, improve logistics and create efficiency in documentation and data entry. We have replaced technical equipment at city hall, including electronic time and attendance systems and we continue steps forward in data distribution to council members and the public. We have completed the parallel taxiway at the airport utilizing a significant grant from the federal government and we have replaced a snow plow.

We have continued to work with Region 12 on rehab assistance and first-time home buyers' down payment assistance grants. These while also working with Region 12 to update the Comprehensive Plan. We recodified the City Code and put it online. We replaced the City Hall boiler and recently replaced the 1970s carpet at the public library. Our fire department accomplished a goal to have all members certified to Firefighter 1 while welcoming new members and thanking retiring veterans for their years of service.

The Fire Department received the Carroll Chamber of Commerce Public Service Award for 2012 and will receive a new tanker truck in March of this year. We experienced great success with the Carroll County Historical calendars, a celebration of the unique history we have, having almost 1,000 of them published and sold. We are conducting testing and expansion of our water wells this upcoming year while having completed the new tennis courts in Graham Park. Several work sessions where conducted in 2012 resulting in study updates for the Corridor of Commerce, baseball stadium, aquatic center, Rec Center and Highway 30/Grant Road. Finally, we have allocated funds to help Carroll kick off a community-wide festival in August of this year.

Much like last year, the council has a number of goals and several processes to put in place. We will embark on a strategic plan in the upcoming months to put data we have from the Comp Plan with census data and community input to help craft a five- to seven-year vision for Carroll.

We will discuss a plan for the Carroll Public Library allowing improvements to the many services and programs it provides. More can be expanded with technology to save on staff time, improve efficiencies and improve communication with the public.

We will be replacing and updating areas of our infrastructure, buildings and equipment. In addition to these critical areas, I hope we can provide funding to conduct structural and design related analysis for improvements and repairs in other areas of our city including trails, the Rec Center and baseball stadium. Along these same lines we will continue to improve the sidewalk, lighting and aesthetics of our corridor of commerce.

The service the city provides our citizens is second-to-none.

There are wonderful ideas to improve our community being brought forward by our citizens every day. Our challenge is to find ways to implement those improvements to people's quality of life while balancing financial responsibility.

Carroll has a long history of volunteerism, compassion and the general attitude it can get things done. We have some important decisions to make in the upcoming months and years. They include the need to determine what we want to be as a community and where we want to go. Carroll is unique in every way, from its geographic location, population, amenities, generosity and quality of service. No matter where you go or who you talk to, you will find this to be true and we should all be proud. We have a great story to tell, and much more is unwritten.

I look forward to working with everyone to continue to make our city great. Thank you, God bless and good evening.