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Fri., 8:41am: Click here for the full text of Warren Mayor Doug Franklin's State of the City Address

April 12, 2013
Tribune Chronicle | TribToday.com

State of the City 2013

First I want thank Tom Humphries and the Chamber for hosting this event and allowing me the opportunity to speak on my favorite subject the City of Warren

I want to first recognize and thank the people that I rely on every day. Sue Burns Executive Secretary.. and the Director of Public Service and Safety Enzo Cantalamessa

And my thanks to our elected officials Warren City Council City Auditor Dave Griffing Law Director Greg Hicks ... Treasurer John Homlitas and all their staffs.

This is also a good time to personally thank Police Chief Tim Bowers and wish him luck in his retirement and welcome our soon to be new chief Eric Merkel.

Before I get started on this year's state of the city.

The tragedy of losing 6 young people last month still sits heavy on all of our hearts it was a horrible, horrible accident that we will never forget. I think we can all be proud of how this community came together to offer support, prayers and financial assistance to the families.

I am especially proud of our first responders The Warren City Fire Department

Chief Nussle would you please stand our thanks to you and your men for their service.

Last year I stood in front of you for my very first state of the city a brand new mayor just over three months on the job and proclaimed my optimism about the future of our city and its direction. Now, a year later, Warren is still experiencing more than its fair share of economic problems -the recent situation with RG Steel and the GE Lamp Plant as examples. We still have families in needneighborhoods that require our help a decreasing tax base and the population drain of our youth as they seek better opportunities elsewhere.

But I'm here to tell you that I have not lost even a tiny bit of that confidence I expressed last year Warren is and will be a vibrant and exciting place to live and work.

And we'll accomplish this through hard work, partnerships, and regional collaboration.

I've been working hard with our city council and Auditor Griffing to provide a workable budget that allows us to continue providing necessary services and still plan for future growth. For example through the 2012 bond issue the city was able to realize a $200,000 a year savings in the water department, a $1 million reduction in pension debt, and a total debt service reduction of $400,000 per year.

Of course our first obligation is to provide the basic City Services

Let me give you some statistics

The City of Warren has over 184 miles of streets...over 323 miles of sewer lines 20 buildings 218vehicles 290 miles of water linesalmost 15,000 garbage accounts 21 parks consisting of 263 acres. In spite of population loss and tax base our city remains the same sizeover 10,000 acres

So how do we as a city deal with this?

Let's start with our engineering department under Paul Makosky, they've has done a great job in obtaining state and federal grant dollars to use towards the reconstruction of city roads and thoroughfares.

For example:

* Last year we accessed $630,000 in community development dollars to improve 27 residential streets

* Almost 2 million dollars in State issue two money was used for improvements to Lovers Lane, Southern Boulevard, Atlantic Street, Laird Ave. ,Harvard, Berkshire Drive, and Perkinswood

* $643,000 in State funding for the Park Avenue project that began last year and will finish this year

* The Warren Blvd. Bridge projectover $1.3 million

* The Parkman Rd. projectsbridge project-$ 4.5 millionPhase over $747 thousandand the planned Phase 3 another $3 million

Millions of dollars in road and street and improvements

The operations department managed by Frank Tempesta is doing its part responsible for plowing and patching our roads, building maintenance, vehicle maintenance, and park maintenance. Even with limited personnel they still manage to do what's necessary to provide these services to the residents and keep an eye on costs ... for example, a new cooperative purchasing agreement with the Trumbull County engineer's office saved the city 19 dollars a ton on cold patch for temporary fix of streets this past winter.

Tom Angelo and the Water Pollution Control department is always looking for ways to cut costs and reach out for new accounts for example, The Lordstown Eastside Sanitary Sewer project which will serve 281 properties and a trailer park.

The Water Department's Electrical Switch Gear Project is underway. After completion of the project the Water Department will be more efficient and will reduce electrical cost by $50,000.00 annually.

The Water Department is also reducing staffing levels through attrition resulting in a $350,000.00 savings and maintaining budget control

Let me congratulate Robert Davis for receiving The Water Fluoridation Quality Award from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. And for his work with WARN, an organization of neighboring utility departments that assist each other in times of need.

By using an automated system of trash removal, the Environmental Services department under the direction of Leann O'Brien is able to offer the highest level of customer service while keeping operating costs at a minimum. They offer free leaf pick up at the curb they provide a place to drop off tires they provide a free site for residents to drop off live Christmas Trees and they work with the Geauga-Trumbull Solid Waste Management District to provide drop off sites around the county for recyclables. And they receive grant funding to assist in providing these services.

The Police department entered into an agreement with Trumbull County that provided funding for a new 9-1-1 system that replaces the old. And they installed a new record management system enabling more sharing with other Trumbull County agencies. This system was acquired at no cost to the city and eliminated a $75,000 year cost.

Also 8 new Ford Cruisers were purchased last year with state of the art equipment with an in-car camera recording system and laptops at a price of $39,000 per unit. The biggest portion of that cost was paid out of the Special Law Enforcement Police Funds

And we have just graduated our 6th class to date of the Warren Citizen Police Academy our thanks to Tina Milner and Weed & Seed and Officer Geoff Fusco for their help. This program has really gone a long way towards developing the positive relationship between police and the community.

By the way how hard does our police department work? let me go to the statistics once again

In 2012, 40,356 calls for servicealmost 3,000 citations issuedover 1,800 arrests and citizen complaints about our officers? down 30% from the year before

The City was awarded an ``Assistance to Firefighters'' federal grant of $332,500 in 2012 for a new fire truck...which is currently housed at the Atlantic St Station and replaces a 1989 truck. And thanks to the Bond Issue the Fire Department added a half-million-dollar pumper rescue truck to its fleet. Unfortunately the city was not funded in latest round of the SAFER grant which we use to keep our manpower at a more optimal levelbut believe me, we will continue pursuing these grant for our firefighters. In the meantime this new equipment will allow us to be more efficient and begin fighting fires quicker better equipment to better protect our citizens.

When I was running for mayor I made a promise that we would make the City of Warren more user-friendly. I said we must address the need for high-speed electronic and digital communication.

Thanks to the 2012 technology bond issue, and under the direction of Jim Black in our IT department, the City has committed to taking action with an aggressive plan to drastically reduce technology expenses and provide better services and identify a clear Return on Investment that will offer big dividends in the years to come.

A primary goal from the start is make government more accessible and responsive to residents and business.

One aspect of our plan is to drive a Broadband initiative that will not only connect City logistics but also facilitate a technology environment that is attractive to potential business. We recognize the need to provide services demanded by the times. A focus on the Downtown district along with the industrial and commercial based Commerce Parks began in 2012.

We can and must use technology to help us succeed, to make Warren competitive.

And we welcome you to visit the New City Web Page The City's official Web Page (Warren.org) was completely redesigned and re-launched in 2012. We wanted to do something fresh and something we could be proud of.

Also under fiscal consideration is a new Community Development module. This component has enormous potential for enhancing and automating tasks such as: permitslicensingparcel managementthe inspection process code enforcement and more

With creative thinking and the willingness to change the way we do business, it becomes evident that technology can be the common ground for impacting municipal services and Economic Development.

In 2012 our Brian Massucci and the Human Resources Department implemented an employee wellness program which will result in decreased health care costs, reduce absenteeism, improved work performance, increase morale, and reduce overall costs

And HR continues to provide a comprehensive workers comp program that focuses on employee safety and diligent management of claims. The result has seen a savings of millions of dollars and HR has been approached by surrounding communities hoping to emulate Warren's 'success

Working with Lisa Mazzochi in our purchasing department the city applied for and was awarded a $350,000 grant enabling upgrades to the aging HVAC system at the municipal building. These upgrades have provided a 40 to 50% saving in natural gas costs and over 60% saving in electric costs.

Using Federal and State funding, the music hall has completed a $1.5 million project that included upgrades to the stage, sound and lighting systems enabling the hall to attract new promoters and shows

In fact, I am very happy to announce at this time that the city will be making a presentation to the Packard Board regarding an agreement to have Sunrise Entertainment in collaboration with Bob Early Productions begin outside marketing of the music hall to attract new entertainment and talent to the community. This entertainment will not only include musical concerts but Broadway shows and plays as well. Sunrise entertainment has done a great job with their series of concerts at the Amphitheater and this new endeavor will begin after the amp season and feature a variety of music and performances. We truly appreciate the work they've done not just in providing weekly entertainment choices but in showcasing our city and bringing thousands of visitors to our downtown every week during the season. I know that this success will continue with their efforts at the music hall.

So as you can see, through hard work grant writing - and creative planning the city is able to provide the necessary core services to the community and still work within a very tight budget.

When I was the Safety Service director, the city commissioned a study to develop a strategic plan. That plan is commonly known as the Poggemeyer report, and I'm happy to say it is not sitting on a shelf gathering dust as some feared it would It is serving this administration as a blueprint for improving our neighborhoods and addressing slum and blight issues this city has been facing. And we are making progress.

The City of Warren's Health Department and Deputy Health Commissioner Bob Pinti, worked with the law director and the State Attorney General's Office to reduce the number of massage parlors from 10 to onemy goal for next year zero.

Community Development under the supervision of Director Michael Keys worked with the Health and Building Departments to complete the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which enabled us to demolish 377 vacant and blighted single family homes in our neighborhoods. Over 30 of those houses were with the assistance of the Trumbull County Planning Commission

The city was able to successfully convince the owners of Pamela apartments to remove that horrible blemish on the northwest side

2012 also saw the State of Ohio grant a Covenant Not to Sue after the remediation of the former Mahoningside Power plant once a contaminated eyesore is now a pristine 6 acres by the river ready for development.

And we have finished a phase II environmental of the former gasification plant on the corner of South and Main Streets and can now pursue dollars for cleanup.

This year we will be going out to bid to do an additional 1 million dollars in demolitions in our neighborhoods thanks to Sam Lamancusa and the Trumbull County land bank with funding from the State Attorney General Mike DeWine's office

The city is also partnering with the Port Authority, the Trumbull County Planning Commission and Howland Township to pursue additional US EPA dollars to address issues in the golden triangle area.

A Community Challenge grant from HUD is allowing Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership to carry out its efforts to work with the Neighborhood Associations and residents to develop a land use plan and inventory of city properties as suggested in the Poggemeyer study

With the help of Attorney General Mike DeWine the city has taken legal action against the owners of the old St. Joseph Hospital to have that building demolished.

I promise you as mayor we will continue our aggressive action to eliminate blighted properties

And we are getting plenty of help the city is truly blessed to have strong partnerships in this effort: our great neighborhood associations Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, The Trumbull County Landbank, Gregg's Gardens volunteers and their work to establish the City Garden district, and numerous other volunteers and organizations.

This administration is also working closely with council to introduce or strengthen legislation dealing with vacant properties outdoor sales sign ordinances all in a strong push to do more to clean up our city and make it attractive to visitors and investors

And along that line, the City engineering department has secured grant funding for improvements and signage at our major Gateways into the city

When I was running for Mayor I said that one of my goals was to speak with business owners in the city to learn what we can do better how can we become more business friendly? Well thanks to the coordination efforts of Tom Humphries, we have been conducting a series of Business Round Table discussions with representatives of all economic sectors such as local bankers, representatives in the health field, restaurant owners, manufacturers, retailers, and the legal community.

80% of all new jobs are created by existing businesses -- so as we are planning our future we need to tap into their knowledge and expertise

There is a certain loyalty these companies have to the City and we as city leaders greatly appreciate it these are private sector businesses that believe in Warren and are willing to make investments in our city with confidence that it will be worth the risk.

And you have my word as Mayor that we will do all in our power to help you succeed in Warren Ohio not just as a reward for your loyalty and commitment to us - but because your success is necessary for our success

Now as I'm starting my second year as Mayor I want to reiterate a promise I made while campaigning: ``This administration will respond quickly to the needs of the business community''

What we offer is a strong support system for our business community to ensure that you meet your goals and a promise that you will never regret making the decision to invest in Warren Ohio

The City of Warren has worked very hard and has been successful in attracting new investment into the city especially in our Central Business District in the past couple of years. Some recent examples are:

* The Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center's $3.1 million renovation of a vacant downtown building to house their new incubator which will concentrate on the development and commercialization of new technologies for the energy industry

* The Eastern Gateway Community College which announced their search for additional space in Downtown Warren to expand the number of available classrooms

* This past July, the Wean Foundation had the grand opening of this building a $2.5 million historic restoration of a once vacant building.

* National Fire Repair, Paul & Holly Clouser -- a $1 million restoration of a vacant building

And there are other examples:

* Bill Axiotis and Nick Liakaris and their work at both the Hippodrome building and the Chase Towers

* Dale Bell who built out new office space and upstairs apartments next to the Chase towers

* The owners of the new Park Best Western who recently completed a renovation of that historic Warren hotel

This is in addition to the investments made by a number of existing downtown businesses who did their part in the revitalization efforts of our downtown over the past number of years, business leaders such like Marty White, Thom Duma, Diane Sauer, Gene's Jewelers, Jim Economus, and others

A number of other things are happening in our downtown

A re-energized Main St. organization with new director George Piscsalko

And beginning May 31 and continuing every third Friday after through October a farmers market in Courthouse Park

On Friday June 14th Relay for Life will be holding a benefit concert featuring Eddie Money.

And the City is doing its part with improvements to Grohl Alley utility poles have been removed, new storm sewers, new paving and new lighting

You may have heard by now we are working with Paul Clouser to create an access using his building that will connect the square with the parking deck

And let's not forget we now have a revitalization district, thanks to help from Senator Capri Cafaro and State Representative Tom Letson, which provides the city another tool in attracting investment into our historic district

And even as we speak there are meetings and discussions with developers regarding additional projects in areas adjacent to the Central Business District

So I invite you take a walk in our downtown, exciting things are happening- and it's getting harder to find an empty storefront on courthouse square

The city continues to develop our parks, bike path and greenway railswe are currently working with MVEDC and the Warren Commerce Park Board in establishing another trail head on N. River road. 2012 also saw a number of improvements to our parks including the repaving of drives and roadways. This city has seen more and better use of our parks over the last few years. Last year we had over 500 kids participate in soccer programs at Perkins Park. This year we expect that number to increase to 600. Imagine 600 children and their families and friends in the city parks what a beautiful thing that is.

We are also pleased to announce that the city will begin construction this spring of new volleyball courts at Perkins. These courts will be open for use by the publicand in addition we will be collaborating with the Warren City Schools and their volleyball teams, coaches and boosters to host tournaments which will result in even more activity to our parks and central business district

This summer will also see construction of handicap restrooms at the Kinsman house. These new facilities and the addition of an elevator to the building will allow for greater use of this historic home

While running for mayor, one of the main focuses of my campaign was the development of educational and recreational programs for the youth of our community. We need these future teachers future doctors future police officers and firefightersfuture bankers and businessmen and women to continue what we are doing today. We need to nurture them provide them with resources and learning opportunities let them know that as a community we care about them and want than to have all the advantages we can give them to be successful in life. I'm very happy to announce that along with the city schools and Inspiring Minds the city will once again commit their assistance to the Summer Enrichment Program for Warren City middle school children.

I would also like to express my gratitude to the Wean Foundation who has just announced a $30,000 award to Inspiring Minds to develop a plan for youth development for our city children and I'm proud that the city will serve as a representative of the steering committee. My thanks to the Jeff Glebocki and the Wean board of directors for understanding the importance of the developing learning and leadership skills in our young people

Deryck Toles and Inspiring Minds are good examples of what I'm talking about Deryck knows the importance of what we are doing hereHe studied and worked hard became successful and came back to his hometown to pass it on to the next generation

To Sum Up: our employees are working more efficiently we are taking advantage of every grant and funding opportunity that we can to supplement our basic city operations we are relying on our partners both in the public and private sector and we are asking you - the people in this room -- to join us and support us in the effort to be the best city we can be.

As Mayor I'm excited about where we are as a city. This is the tipping point. With the coming of the shale industry to our area this is the opportunity we've been hoping for the opportunity to become a viable and thriving community.

And to the nay-sayers who always seem to question our commitment let me say to them that the true test of the character and the heart of a city is how it reacts to adversity For those of you out there that want to dwell on all the problems in our city those that see the negative in everything we do as community leaders ... I have a message for you stop living in the past and join us in creating our future.

As Mayor I see a lot of great and wonderful things happening in our community and I promise you that things are getting better for Warren but as we move forward let me make it clear that we still have plenty of challenges and obstacles to overcome. I have no intentions of failing but city government can't do it alone. Strengthening our community takes partnerships and I would like to thank the partners who helped make our successes

So I'm extremely grateful to the organizations and partners for all their efforts and I commend all of you for recognizing the need and showing the leadership necessary to ensure that we are serving the residents and businesses in our community.

There is a new can-do attitude in Warren I see it happening all around positive changes taking place

And this is the spirit that makes Warren great and this is why you make me proud to be your mayor.

 
 
 

 

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