During 2012, the city of Washington completed several major projects and set the stage for more improvements in the coming year.
From completing Front Street improvements to extending 14th Street from High to Stafford streets, to construction of a new permanent stage/event center at the fairgrounds, the city had a busy year with projects, City Administrator Jim Briggs said.
And there’s more coming up in 2013.
“I think we had a very good year,” remarked Mayor Sandy Lucy. “We accomplished a lot, far more than expected.”
The mayor said a key to the city’s continuing progress is that city council members work well together and continue to move the city forward.
“Sometimes we agree to disagree, but we continue to work for the best interests of the city and citizens,” she said.
“The strength of our city is the good working relationships we have with other entities like the Chamber and service organizations,” Lucy said. She also mentioned that she’s proud of the city employees who work hard every day to help the citizens.
One of the major highlights of last year, Briggs said, was obtaining approval from the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission to include a new Missouri River bridge for funding in the latest State Transportation Improvement Plan. That puts the project on track for beginning construction in 2016-17 to replace the more than 75-year-old span.
Briggs credits the Highway 47 Bridge Committee for its work over the last five years in pushing the new bridge project to the forefront of the state’s priority list.
“That was an enormous accomplishment,” Briggs remarked.
Probably the biggest “lowlight” of the year was the city council’s decision in December not to move forward with an annexation plan that developed by the planning and zoning commission after a year-long study, the city administrator said. He noted that board members and the city staff put in a lot of work and effort into developing the plan.
Briggs said on the financial side, the city ended the year in very good shape. In the general fund, which covers the majority of city operations, the city ended up with approximately $200,000 more in revenue than anticipated and operating expenditures were about $600,000 less, Briggs said.
“I want to commend our city department heads for holding the line on expenses,” he remarked.
Among the other major projects completed or significantly completed during 2012 were construction of Phase II of the fire department training center in the Heidmann Industrial Park; construction of a new 30,000-square-foot hangar at Washington Regional Airport; completion of the team track rail siding at the end of West Main Street; and development of new tennis courts at the city’s Phoenix Park, Briggs said.
The city also completed major renovation and expansion of the Washington Public Library, one of several projects made possible with revenue from the half-cent capital improvement sales tax that was renewed by voters, Briggs noted.
A team of staff members and citizens began work on a new city comprehensive plan last year and should wrap up its work soon.
“The comprehensive plan needs to be updated regularly,” Briggs stated.
Work on designing a Highway 100 beautification project for the area east of Highway 47 was completed and a construction contract awarded in 2012. Work on adding landscaped median strips, additional signage and bike lane markings will begin this spring and be completed by fall when plantings are done. A federal enhancement grant will cover the lion’s share of the cost.
Briggs said he’s looking forward to completion this year of the new skate park off East Ninth Street and the new all-abilities park in the main city park.
Also this year, the city will be working on additional beautification projects in the downtown area, Briggs said, as well as a fiber optic system to connect computers in all city offices, and the staff is working on a plan to switch to digital agendas and information for the city council which will result in savings from less paper used and reduced staff time preparing packets.
City staff members have started customer service training classes and those will continue this year. The classes are designed to train employees to provide better service to the citizens.
“It’s a good program for them,” Lucy said. “I think we should continue to follow that in the future.”
The mayor remarked that her vision is for the city to address all segments of the community, like economic development, parks and recreation and infrastructure improvements.