“When looked at from the standpoint of where we are today compared to where we were on election day four years ago, there is little doubt that we have not, by any measurement, made any appreciable forward progress and that major changes are necessary in order to reverse this trend.”
Let’s take a look at some measurements and try to determine if “any appreciable forward progress” has been made by the City since election day four years ago.
- Tax Rate - four years ago our city tax rate was 9.44 mills. Now it is 7.3277 mills, a reduction of over 22%;
- Tax Base – in four years our tax base has increased from over $543 million to over $830 million, an increase of over 52%;
- Helping Citizens – The Fire Department received an improved rating from the Insurance Services Office from a 5 to a 3. This improvement could help lower insurance premiums for many property owners. In addition, the City Commission approved these measures:
- Utility lifeline rate – provides low income water customers with a lower bill;
- Utility rate reduction for low water users;
- Limited senior exemption - provides an additional property tax exemption for low income seniors.
- Fire/Rescue service improvements in the last four years include:
- a second fire station serving the north city area has opened;
- We now have the best Fire Department fleet ever, including our first ladder truck;
- the department has implemented a paramedic program that has already been credited with saving lives.
- Police service improvements include:
- a police sub-station has been opened in the Lincoln Ave area;
- our police officers have been issued tasers;
- our police patrol officers have video cameras in their cars.
- Both police and fire have new, advanced technology radios.
- Utilities improvements in the last four years include:
- the start up of the reuse system (strongly recommended by state regulatory agencies.) This project, 10 years in the making, provides highly treated wastewater for irrigation rather than using drinking water;
- the completion of the southside force main, another long planned project which relieves heavy flows in the sewer collection system around Lake Wailes and prepares for the future;
- the establishment of the queue system, which collects money from developers up front to use towards the expansion of water and sewer capacity for new developments;
- the new water tower that is going up at the corner of Scenic Highway and Hunt Brothers Road;
- a great deal of preventative maintenance that was deferred over the years.
- Streets – this is another area in which a great deal of work has been accomplished that had been deferred for decades. Many streets in the historic area have been resurfaced, and the worst flooding area (First and Seaboard) has been corrected.
Enhanced ServicesThe grand openings of the soccer/multi-purpose complex, the skate park, the boat ramp, and the Boys and Girls Club have significantly added to our recreation opportunities – with all capital funding coming from grants.
- Downtown – major events include:
- the successful foreclosure of the Grand Hotel;
- The City Commission’s conveyance of old city hall to Polk Community College for the JD Alexander Center branch, which has its grand opening this Friday at 2 pm;
- City Commission approval of the Core Incentive program in cooperation with the county, forgiving many impact fees in the core area to encourage re-development.
- Elsewhere in town: Business openings include:
- At the Longleaf Business Park, Harley Davidson and the state fire marshal’s office;
- Around the mall, Lowe’s, Chili’s, Hampton Inn and Suites, and Gate Petroleum, with additional construction underway.
- SR 60 area, three new medical office buildings, and Pizza Hut.
- The City Commission approval for the conduit financing package allowed the retirement center project supported by area churches to move ahead, after being stalled for years.
- Airport – Perhaps no other area of the City has changed as dramatically as the airport. In addition to all new buildings on the airport property following the hurricanes, there is a new water system (required for the new buildings), and the City Commission’s purchase of 60+ acres for a future runway expansion project. All of this work was done with insurance proceeds and state grant funds.