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In State of the City address, Ewing highlights busy year

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By Vince Luecke

TELL CITY – Mayor Barbara Ewing looked back on her first year in office Monday, delivering her first State of the City address. In it, she reflected on a busy and historic 2008, including initial results of her  inaugural call for residents to take part in city government. She also shared fond memories of the celebration of the city's sesquicentennial last summer and several improvements made by municipal departments.  

When sworn in Jan. 1, 2008, Ewing pledged to extend city government beyond the walls of City Hall, taking public meetings  into neighborhoods each quarter and recognizing homeowners who provide outstanding care of their properties through an initiative she has called Partners in Pride.

"As mayor, I presented the community with a challenge by paraphrasing the words of President John F. Kennedy, stating "ask not what your community can do for you, ask what you can do for your community," she said.

The call for new partnerships was proven successful during preparations leading up to the sesquicentennial, she said.

"No partnership was as great as the numerous community volunteers who donated countless hours in the planning and implementing of Tell City's 150th birthday celebration," Ewing said. "None of this would have been possible without not only the countless community volunteers, but also the many generous donations which supported the sesquicentennial."

Civic contributions during 2008 also came from other groups that supported arts programming in the community, new floodwall murals and park improvements.

"Through the many contributions of these entities, Tell City has improved its community for its citizens with such programs as Music in the Park, children's summer-arts programming, a photography contest, regional-arts competition, floodwall murals, spring floral plantings and the lighting of City Hall Park with a beautiful holiday display," she said.

Last year's accomplishments also included a new City Hall Park gazebo, a gift of the Borders Family, and work funded by Schweizer Fest Inc. to remove old trees from the park.

The landmark fountain near the statue of William Tell was rehabilitated in 2008.

Ewing thanked leaders of the Edgar and Lucile Schergens Foundation for their support of work in Frank Clemens Field and officials and offenders from Branchville Correctional Facility for labor provided for city projects.

The mayor also complimented groups who worked to complete a greenway along Windy Creek and merchants who took an interest in a downtown-rehabilitation project that concluded last year.  

2008 brought additional housing rehabilitation to Tell City, she said, with a $187,500 grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

The William Tell Senior Citizen Center, damaged by a windstorm and flooding caused by a burst pipe, is back in the business of serving seniors, and a September windstorm that caused widespread damage brought out the best, Ewing said, in city workers and residents.

"As mayor and on behalf of the entire administration, I would like to thank everyone who responded in our community. As Police Chief (Greg) Hendershot and I assessed the damages throughout the day, I was extremely proud of each of our city departments as they worked to protect Tell City and its citizens," she said.

"I would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our citizens as they extended a helping hand to neighbors in need. The event was truly a joining together of our community as we faced this disaster."

Addressing city departments one at a time, Ewing talked about the accomplishments achieved. The trash-collection department received a trash compactor in May 2008 at a cost of $79,538.  A one-ton truck was purchased for the department in October 2008 and a new dump truck for the street department, replacing a 1988 model, was received in December 2008 at a cost of $56,950.  

The city's floodwall committee led efforts to perform needed maintenance on the earthen levee protecting the city from flooding. Trees were removed along the levee, a small gravel roadway removed and the original slope restored, all required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Ewing complimented the electric department's employees and board of directors for improvements that included street-lighting improvements, tree trimming and installation of fiberoptic lines from the Waupaca Substation to the Tell City Electric Department offices.  

2008 also brought an increase in electric-utility rates for customers, but not without an extensive discussion of the impacts on customers.  Ewing complimented everyone for the civil sharing of ideas.

Last year also saw the city council vote to accept and commit to five-year compliance on a $10 million combined sewer overflow project and long-term control plan.  

"This action will also result in reduced expense on the project and a reduced impact rate for the utility users, Ewing said.

Engineering plans on a lift station in the area of 15th and Pestalozzi streets are being drafted to help correct neighborhood flooding on the south side of Tell City. This project is scheduled to begin this year.

The past year again proved to be a very active year for the city's recreation department, she said. Summer-baseball, softball and soccer leagues were offered with much participation.

"Special thank you to the community volunteers for their active participation and support of the activities and the youth of our community," she said.

Hagedorn Park area saw much activity with the operations of the JFK City Pool.  New lighting was installed at the park tennis courts.  Poles obtained in 2006 were used for the lighting with an electrical investment of $23,000.  

Planned improvements to courts this year include fencing and resurfacing.

The Hagedorn Park Girls Softball Field will also see new handicap-accessible restrooms in 2009. This construction will be made possible through a partnership with the Softball Association and the City.

Ewing thanked Terry Rogers, who served until last year as chief of the city's water department. She also expressed appreciation to his replacement, Dale Poole, and his staff, for their work replacing a major valve at the water-treatment plant and maintenance of waterworks serving ThyssenKrupp Waupaca.  

The department also provided maintenance on several water line and main breaks in the community.

A major break on Indiana 66 last month brought several city departments to the assistance of department as crews worked in near-zero temperatures.

"The city continued to recognize the importance of economic development and the "Quality of Place" improvements for our community," Ewing said.  In 2008, the city completed negotiations with Tell City Boat Works on a 10-year lease, with two 10-year extensions, on property located at the city port.  

"We value Tell City Boat Works and its presence," she said.

Other efforts included partnered activities with the county port authority, county officials and Canenelton leaders to apply for a grant to improve River Road and another county road that would provide a new main access route to the port.

The full text of the mayor's address can be found in a separate story on this site.