State of the City is strong, Costilow says in first mayoral address

Staff Report

Mayor Mark Costilow delivered his first State of the City address Monday to Amherst city council.

Here is a transcript provided by his office:

“Citizens of Amherst, city council, and members of the press. This is the state of our city as I see it during my first two months in office. My transition into the mayor’s position has been seamless, due in large part because the city was left in good order and I was able to hit the ground running.

“Our city’s strength is seen in more than just numbers in a budget, utility rates, reports, and infrastructure. I am very aware that Amherst’s sense of community is among our biggest assets.

“The state of our city is strong.

“With that in mind I will present this year’s plan that positions us for the future while preserving our unique character.

“A mayor’s duty and my greatest concern are for the health and safety of our citizens. Amherst is fortunate to have both well-equipped and well-staffed fire and police departments. This year Greg Knoll was promoted to fire chief upon chief Wayne Northeim’s retirement. Our fire department responded to 508 calls during 2015. We plan on replacing a 20-year-old fire truck with a state-of-the-art new one this year.

“Our police department is led by chief Joe Kucirek. Last year we hired five new police officers and two dispatchers. Our police department went live with the county-wide records management system and is now sharing information in real time with other county agencies. We will be replacing two police cruisers this year.

“Amherst is blessed to have both talented and dedicated safety forces!

“The 2016 final budget passed tonight. Thank you. This balanced budget assures we will not spend more than we have, that we will live within our means while still providing the citizens of Amherst with exceptional city services and safety forces.

“We are working on improving technology and connectivity within our city departments and buildings. We are at a point in time that our city’s demand for technology has far surpassed what we are currently able to provide.

“We have already completed a technology audit and inventory of all our city departments and that information will be used to better understand each department’s needs. We are currently in the process of developing a plan to connect all city buildings, provide the necessary equipment, and build a system infrastructure that will handle not only our immediate needs but plan for our needs in the future.

“I am proud of our street, utility, and service personnel. They all do a great job of providing services, maintaining our current infrastructure and streets. The street department will replace a snow plow truck with a new one this year.

“Our utility rates continue to be among the most affordable in the area while also being among the most reliable. The annual tree trimming program along with the 1.8 million dollar electrical distribution upgrade, which was recently completed, have both been successful in reducing power outages throughout our entire city. Due to the startup of AMP’s hydro projects, our electric rates will see a slight increase. Hydro power is costly to build, but after the cost of startup is behind us it will be cost effective and friendly to our environment in the future. We will be replacing a 1980s digger truck for the electric department.

“A capacity study was recently completed for our water pollution control center and shows that we have the ability to treat our current waste water and have room to meet the foreseeable needs of our future. Recently the EPA lowered the interest rate to three percent on our debt from the 2001 water pollution control plant upgrade. This will significantly lower our debt and free up funds to allow improvements to our infrastructure. That debt will be paid off on January 2025 and will save the city approximately $168,000 in interest payments.

“Barring any major capital expenses, our water rates will remain stable through 2018. I am developing a plan to finish our radio read water meter program. We are 10 years into replacing water meters and only halfway completed. I am investigating a performance-based bid process that will allow Amherst to borrow the funds at a very low interest rate and repay the debt with the savings guaranteed by the energy saving efficiencies associated with upgrading to the new meters.

“I want to publically thank Mother Nature for the mild winter we experienced. The below-normal snowfall and mild temperatures have helped us save a significant amount of money that would normally be spent on vehicle repairs, fuel, overtime, and road salt.

“This year a proposed $3.4 million worth of construction will be bid out as road and infrastructure improvements. Approximately 40 percent of that or $1.4 million are grants or federal highway dollars that have been awarded to the city of Amherst. Five miles of streets and 68 manholes and catchbasins will be improved.

“What can a mayor do to promote business? What do businesses need? What can be done to retain existing business and promote business growth while preserving Amherst’s unique hometown character? Those are some of the issues I am actively working on. During the first two months as mayor I have met with realtors, property owners, land developers, and businesses… Their input has been extremely valuable. Surprisingly, tax breaks and incentives were not high on their list. Existing businesses find importance in the reliability of our utilities, the effectiveness of our service workers, and the condition of our roads. Amherst ranks excellent in all of the above.

“New businesses are searching for good locations where their business will thrive. I am developing good government practices that will make Amherst inviting to new development. I have already met with potential developers and am working with and helping them through our planning process.

“Amherst’s planning commission has a business-friendly format, while allowing city residents a forum to address their concerns publically and a city engineering review process that will ensure our business growth continues.

“I am very pleased to report to you that Amherst is welcoming over $7 million of commercial construction so far this year. That is quite an accomplishment considering the overall economies of Lorain County. Besides our commercial construction this year, a new residential development of 99 homes and the redevelopment of the remaining portion of Northpointe Estates are ongoing projects.

“As mayor I am committed to partnerships with our residents, schools, and the business community with goals of continuing to provide a high quality of life. I am proud of the work that we are doing and look forward to keeping this vision as Amherst moves forward.

“As I stated earlier, the State of the City of Amherst is strong. The mayor’s office, city council, all of our city departments, and you our residents will continue to work together to keep Amherst a city we are all proud to call our home.”

Staff Report