by Rick Schultz, St. Joseph Mayor
First, I want to recognize three who have concluded their service as St. Joseph board members.
Sr. Kathleen Kalinowski served on the St. Joseph Planning Commission for 33 years. Her leadership and knowledge will be missed.
Lonnie Abbott faithfully served on the St. Joseph Park Board for 16 years.
Tom Skahan served on the St. Joseph Economic Development Authority Board as a supporter of our active business community for the past 10 years.
I thank each of you for your service to our city.
I am pleased to tell you, the state of your city remains strong and our future is as promising as ever. In a time of less money and fewer resources St. Joseph continues to advance on key city goals, and we continue to ensure our city’s financial health. As we move forward during the next several years and as the overall economy continues to make progress, our future budgets will focus on three simple things: continue to fund core services; monitor the current and future debt levy so growth and infrastructure improvements are managed and planned; and set funds aside for capital-improvement projects that maintain our assets, as well as attract private investment and new homeowners.
We will protect the public’s safety. We owe a debt of gratitude to our dedicated firefighters and police officers who serve St. Joseph. The police department continues to respond to the challenge of keeping our city safe with smart, pro-active strategies. The results speak for themselves. Unfortunately, the leadership of Chief Pete Jansky is coming to a close. Having announced his retirement earlier this year, the city faces the challenge of replacing his knowledge and expertise in the coming months.
We will restore our downtown and other neighborhoods. Our downtown should be a showpiece, the center of activity and civic affairs. The city has participated in several efforts to address ways, methods and designs to restore St. Joseph’s neighborhoods and revitalize our downtown. The city’s EDA Board is committed to three things in our business district and neighborhoods: 1.) work directly with residents to understand their vision for their neighborhoods; 2.) evaluate land-use laws and ordinances that may contribute to the problems, assisting developers through the planning and redevelopment process; and 3.) line up diverse resources to aid in this effort.
With the collection of half-cent sales tax, the design and shape of a new community center is underway. The city anticipates developing a center and meeting facility on a parcel located within the city.
The city welcomed several new businesses: Cone Castle, Bello Cucina and McDonald’s. Construction progress continues with the first phase of the Villages of CSB, a residential development owned by Collegeville Cos.
We will do all we can to support downtown revitalization, but at the end of the day, it is the private-property owners who will ultimately determine downtown’s fate.
Next year, we expect to add several other new businesses into the mix. The Army Reserve Center design is underway, and we are working with a biomedical company whose plan is to relocate to St. Joseph.
We will enhance our parks, trails and youth programs. The park board has dedicated resources to redeveloping Cloverdale Park, adding new amenities and a sitting area. In addition, they completed the last phase of the playground equipment in Northland Park. In an effort to promote active recreation, the park board has developed a new archery range that will open this spring. This could not have been completed without the generosity of the local service clubs and business community.
We will fund sidewalk and trail extension to create connections to the Wobegon Trail. The extensions should be completed by mid-summer.
We will enhance and increase communication. The year 2012 included a major rebuild of the city website, entering into an agreement with Civic Plus to host the site. The new website provides an expanded option for keeping residents up-to-date on events in the city, as well as easy access to resources and online bill payments.
I have made it a point to host town meetings at the Local Blend throughout the year, inviting anyone with concerns or ideas to discuss them. I will continue this practice throughout 2013.
As the city continues to grow and change, I welcome your feedback and involvement. It is not the city council, its boards or city staff who drive this city. It is those who live and work here who will ultimately determine its future.