State of the City Address

Good afternoon everyone and thank you to the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event.

I know we have some of our current Council members here today – would you folks stand and be recognized? Jessica Bradshaw, Jeff Doherty, Lee Fronabarger, Tom Grant, Carolin Harvey and Adam Loos. We are fortunate to have a great City Council - each of them understands the value of compromise, which is the primary reason that we have accomplished so much for our city. My thanks to each of you for your dedication.

Any former Mayors or Council Members in attendance today?

Other guests include:

From SIUC:

Provost Dr. Meera Kammaraju

Matt Baughman, Chief of Staff                                                                

Lori Stettler, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Tena Bennett, Student Center Director 

From Southern Illinois Healthcare:

Darrell Bryant, Chief Operating Officer of SIH Medical Group

Lindsay Ledbetter, Regional Director at Center for Medical Arts

Jeremy Freeman

And last, but most certainly not least, my wife, Terri.

Mike Henry
Carbondale City Logo

SIU

Obviously, we are a university community.  SIUC is our largest employer and the major economic engine for the region. They pay annual salaries in excess of $160 million to residents living in the southern 23 counties of Illinois. Each student spends over $10,000 annually in Carbondale. As our University regrows enrollment, they will prosper as will we and the region. Your Mayor, City Council, City Staff, and our Chamber of Commerce are committed to a continuing spirit of cooperation between the City and SIU.

As you know, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale is moving forward with a significant reorganization.  This is a bold initiative undertaken during a period of challenges to our system of higher education, not only in the state of Illinois, but also nationally.

So, I ask this of each of you - Support our Board of Trustees, President Mahoney, Chancellor Dunn, the administrators and the faculty of  SIU Carbondale. Be positive. Encourage these good folks in doing their best to revitalize this great institution.

SIU has made significant improvements in recruitment activities. They are using direct mail, high school visits, and campus visits that include tours of the City for prospective students and their parents.

Of special note: We now have two full-time recruiters in both Chicago and St. Louis. As recently reported, applications are up by 27% over this time last year.

SIH

Southern Illinois Healthcare, our second largest employer, and SIU have completed a joint venture with a new building at the corner of University Avenue and west Oak street on the Southern Illinois Healthcare campus. The City Council incentivized this development with a $1.3 million sanity sewer upgrade that extends from University Avenue east to Wall Street. This improvement enhances the service to SIH as well as to businesses and residents in Northeast Carbondale.

This venture brings jobs to our city, supports the SIU School of Medicine with internships, education of nurses and includes medical offices. Southern Illinois Healthcare is a regional provider of state of the art Healthcare services. Their other Carbondale facilities include: their Corporate Headquarters, Memorial Hospital, which recently received designation as a Level II Trauma Center, The Center for Medical Arts, Prairie Heart Institute, Cedar Court Imaging and several physician’s offices

City

As I have said before, “We have a great City Council that works hard and understands the value of compromise. Our City Staff and employees are second to none.  Everyone is working together to get things done – to move Carbondale forward.  Our citizens are engaged in the process and know that they will be given a chance to be heard.”

The City’s budget is currently one of our top priorities. Our new budget year begins May 1st of 2020. That is just four short months away. 

The budget process is, at best, very difficult, due in part to the continued uncertainties of funding coming from the state Illinois.

General Fund revenues come from the Local Government Distributive fund (which is a share of the income taxes that you and I pay to the state), local sales taxes, and from other sources such as taxes on Prepared Food and Beverage, Package Liquor, Entertainment, Gaming etc.

At the last Council meeting, we voted unanimously for no increase in real estate taxes that are levied by the City.

Incidentally, the city’s annual real estate tax on a $150,000 home is approximately $150.00.

Staff is currently drafting a proposed budget and will be sending it to the council as it becomes available.

In review of 2019:

Over $15 million was invested in the community in remodeling and new construction.

Restaurants:

  • Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
  • Captain D’s
  • 2 Guys Pizza
  • Mod Pizza
  • Pizza Hut
  • Sergio’s Cantina

Healthcare:

  • IlliniCare Health - 400 jobs
  • SIU Center for Family & Community Medicine

Downtown:

  • The Cellar Beer Garden expansion

Education:

  • Brehm Prepartory School OPTIONS Program expansion - $1.9 million

Banking:

  • Regions Bank on West Main

Other:

  • Planet Fitness (in a section in Kohl’s)

Retail:

  • Home Goods expected to open Spring 2020    

The Bank of Carbondale celebrated its 100th Anniversary

The City launched the inaugural Citizen’s Academy to allow Carbondale residents to learn more about City government

We started the grant-funded Coworking Space Feasibility Study that will determine the business case for a flexible office space facility in Carbondale’s downtown

We saw the formation of the Carbondale Musicians’ Advisory Council to advocate support for Carbondale’s musicians and performing artists

We led the regional SI/Works Employer Driven Solutions conference to address the workforce shortage

We recently announced the receipt of a 14 million dollar Federal Grant for the construction of our Regional Multimodal Center that will replace the Amtrak station.  In addition to Amtrak, this new center will also be used as a ticketing office and waiting area for other means of mass transit, Saluki Express, Taxis, Uber, etc. to move people throughout the region.  We have also asked the State for additional funding in support of this project.  It should break ground in 2021. Support came from State legislators across the region, US Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin and US Congressman Mike Bost.

We completed the resurfacing of West Freeman Street from Oakland Avenue to Glenview Drive at a cost of  $346,000.

Rehabilitated one bridge on Chatauqua Road at a cost of $264,000.

Signed an agreement with Affordable Gas and Electric for 3 Solar Arrays in Carbondale.  These arrays will be installed at City Hall, our Public Safety Center and at one of our wastewater treatment plants. Our goal is to become a leader in the deployment of sustainable energy in Southern Illinois. The City will have zero capital outlay for this project and will see savings of up to $1.5 million over the life of the PPA.

Police Department:

Our Police Officers are the most visible of city employees and have the most interaction with our citizens, so I want to spend a little time talking about the department. In 2019 our Police Department:

  1. Embraced Community Policing and conducted Citizen Police Academies, Personal Safety for Women, Southern Illinois Batterers Intervention as well as numerous other community policing programs
  2. Continued expansion of the downtown surveillance camera program and increased foot patrols in Downtown/City Center areas
  3. Continued an increased emphasis on foot patrols in “hot spot” areas of criminal activity, as well as high density population areas to encourage police and citizen interaction
  4. Sponsored the 14th annual Community Christmas Store for Carbondale residents, serving 125 children ages 1-8
  5. Partnered again with SIU Athletics on a Coats for Kids drive which distributed over 150 new coats to underprivileged children
  6. Continued the Community Service Officer positions within the department, providing SIU college students “hands-on” education into law enforcement
  7. Worked closely with Building & Neighborhood Services regarding 6 chronic nuisance properties
  8. Provided active shooter training to City employees, civic groups, churches, elementary schools and businesses
  9. Provided traffic safety to Community groups to for 5k fundraisers
  10. Assisted the Carbondale Rotary in providing bicycle helmets to second grade students at Thomas School
  11. Assisted Community businesses and residents on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design to promote safety in the Community by conducting free security surveys for residents, businesses and churches
  12. Continued to work with the elderly population through the elderly services program to provide services for the residents in Carbondale
  13. Continued the School Resource Officer program at Carbondale Community High School

In 2019 officers attended training on the following topics:

  • Law Enforcement Response to an Active Shooter
  • National Child Passenger Technician
  • Emergency Medical Dispatch
  • Sexual Assault Trauma Informed Response
  • Juvenile Justice Symposium
  • Crisis Intervention Team Training
  • Criminal Justice Summit
  • Basic School Resource Officer
  • International Crime Scene Investigators Association Conference
  • Annual Downstate Conference on Child Abuse
  • Policing in Diverse Publics
  • Hazmat Technician (EOD Bomb Squad Training)
  • Personal and Professional Breakthroughs for Police Officers
  • First Line Supervisors & Middle Management Training
  • Basic Life Saving/ CPR Instructor

Fire Department:

Since January 1, 2019, the Carbondale Fire Department has responded to 1518 calls. One of these in particular was the largest residence in the City of Carbondale. This 29,000 square foot home, owned by Wes Gibson, caught fire on October 22, 2019 at 6:12 p.m. Our firefighters arrived within 5 minutes to heavy smoke and fire conditions coming from the attic space. The initial efforts of the Carbondale Fire Department helped save more than 5 million dollars’ worth of property and contents. The Carbondale Fire Department was on the scene for more than 10 hours and had assistance from 8 other departments. In total 25 pieces of equipment and 54 firefighters battled the blaze.

Building and Neighborhood Services:

Completed more than 2,500 rental housing inspections in calendar 2019, during which time hundreds of smoke detectors were serviced or replaced. 

In conjunction with Development services-inspected all liquor license holders, and hotels. 

Removed dozens of inoperable cars from city streets, and residential properties, and enforced parking regulations both on street and on private property.

 Dealt with numerous “eyesore” properties that suffered from blight such as disrepair, garbage, overgrowth, and hoarding.

 Assisted in the search for Patrice Dotson, and located the child.

 Assisted the Fire Department in bar inspections/occupancy checks during Halloween. 

Events:

We held our second Halloween Event this year. Local musicians performed at our new entertainment venue downtown on Washington Street. This site works very well because it has little effect on traffic, lots of parking nearby and is pedestrian friendly.  We hope to build a permanent covered band stand on the site in the near future with the support of local businesses and the State.

2020:

Our meetings with regional stakeholders along the Route 13 and I57 corridors will continue on a monthly basis. This group is facilitated by Southern Illinois Healthcare and includes the CEO’s of the region’s largest employers and banks, Directors of local agencies and our elected legislators.  Anything that benefits a city from Murphysboro to Marion, is good for all of us.

The City will, for the third time, participate in a legislative meeting in Washington DC with other key community stakeholders. This effort enhances our visibility with our federal legislators, improves relationships with federal agencies, and provides Carbondale with a voice in our nation’s Capitol.

Public safety will remain a top priority through enhanced Community Policing and neighborhood-based patrols. Outreach programs will continue to strengthen bonds with the citizens we serve.

We will begin construction of a new roundabout at Chatauqua and McLafferty Road at a grant of $1.5 million.

As I have said before, Carbondale can and should be the Cultural Center of Southern Illinois. The Carbondale Tourism Bureau, Carbondale Community Arts, Carbondale Mainstreet and The Varsity Center for the Arts and SIU are working to initiate and support performances, concerts, art shows, festivals, and sports events in Carbondale that will draw visitors from throughout our region. 

These kinds of events benefit our businesses as well as our students. Most importantly, they can improve the quality of life for all our citizens.

Wrap Up:

Carbondale is a great place to grow up in, go to school, raise a family and retire. I know because I’ve done it – except the retirement part.

We have a lot of good things going on and more to come.

I ask each of you to be positive about our city.  Get involved, volunteer and vote. Get to know your neighbors and be kind to one another. A simple nod of the head and a smile go a long way.  We are a diverse community and that diversity is perhaps our greatest resource.

Our local businesses are strong supporters of our community, local charities and our children. Their employees are your neighbors. Now, more than ever before they need our support. If you find something online, take a few minutes and purchase the item locally.

As I have said many times before –

Together we are making Carbondale the city that you and I,

our children and our grandchildren are proud to call home.

The holiday season has arrived! Many of us may be so caught up in shopping, socializing and travel that we forget to make some quiet time for ourselves and our families. 

This is a time of renewal. A time to reflect on the events of the past year; to make amends if needed; to consider positive change and to set goals for the new year.

Be safe. Be thankful. Be kind to others.

May peace be with you.