State of the City Address
Good afternoon everyone and thank you to the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event. Before going any further I want to say thank you to my wife Terri for everything she does for me and our city.
I know we have some of our current Council members here today – would you folks stand and be recognized? Jeff Doherty, Lee Fronabarger, Tom Grant, Carolyn Harvey, Adam Loos and Ginger Rye Sanders. We are fortunate to have a great City Council. Each of us 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 -state officials?
From SIU Carbondale
Chancellor Dr. Austin Lane
Provost Dr. Meera Kammaraju
Matt Baughman, Chief of Staff
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
SIU Carbondale is our largest employer and a major economic engine for the region. They pay annual salaries in excess of $145 million to residents living in the southern 11 counties of Illinois. This fall, SIU Carbondale stopped the downward slide in enrollment. As our University regrows enrollment, they prosper as will the City of Carbondale, our business community and the entire Southern Illinois region.
Your Mayor, City Council, City Staff, and our Chamber of Commerce are committed to a continuing spirit of cooperation between the City and Southern Illinois University.
As you know, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale has new leadership and has undergone 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.
SIU has made significant improvements in recruitment activities. They are using a variety of ways to connect directly with prospective students and their families. From targeted digital advertising directed to young people, to the dozens of new billboards across the state and beyond, the recruitment activities are working. Of particular interest to all of us, these activities are working well in our local markets especially when combined with outreach activities to our local high schools and community colleges. For those of us living in southern Illinois, we should all be proud that more local students are choosing to attend SIU Carbondale – this fall the enrollment of new freshman students from Southern Illinois grew by 34% which is nearly double what it was two years ago.
Chancellor Lane and his team have recognized the importance of starting relationship building with young people by forging partnerships with Carbondale Elementary School District 95 and the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois. They also have an agreement with CCHS to provide mentoring opportunities.
SIU provides Southern Illinois students with a world-class education close to home and they are taking steps to ensure these positive trends continue.
So, as I did two years ago, I ask this of each of you - support our Board of Trustees, President Mahony, Chancellor Lane, the administrators and the faculty of SIU Carbondale. Be positive. Encourage these good folks in doing their best to revitalize this great institution.
Carbondale's second-largest employer, Southern Illinois Healthcare, is the region's largest and most sophisticated health system, with nearly 4,000 employees across southern Illinois. Through the pandemic, SIH provided invaluable leadership for the entire area by caring for COVID patients, providing community testing sites, and outreach into at-risk neighborhoods. They did whatever was needed to support the community - including transforming and dedicating entire care units for patients infected with the deadly disease.
Despite the COVID crisis, the dedicated physicians, nurses, and staff maintained their commitment to providing care to ALL, regardless of a patient's ability to pay. This resulted in $132 million in uncompensated care and charity care in FY 2021.
SIH continues to support and invest in Carbondale with the growth of physician practices and specialties, and they are poised for additional growth in neurosciences, emergency, ICU, and trauma care. Southern Illinois Healthcare, we are grateful for all you do for Carbondale and the region.
City of Carbondale
As I said earlier, "We have a great City Council that works hard and understands the value of compromise. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our Council implemented policies to help fight the devastating spread of the virus. The past year and a half brought many challenges, but together we chose community safety and support above everything else. We took the lead in workplace safety, support for businesses, and aid for vulnerable groups- all while City staff and employees continued providing services without interruption. Even amidst the pressures and scrutiny of developing our COVID-19 policies, our city employees reacted with professionalism and resilience – and for that, I am grateful. Our employees are second to none.
2021 has been a very challenging year. We were faced with having to balance the increased service needs of residents and businesses due to pandemic shutdowns, with maintaining our finances. Through a series of actions including cutting costs, leaving positions unfilled, and reorganizing staff, we finished FY 2021 within our budget. In fact, at our Council meeting this evening, our City Manager and Finance Director will share the results of last year’s audit which I’m proud to say will show that through these actions we were able to finish the year with a surplus which will be added to our reserve funds.
As we approach 2022, I can report that we have made significant progress towards construction of the Southern Illinois Multi-Modal Station, a transportation center in downtown Carbondale that will connect existing transit services throughout the region. This past year, we selected a design team for the SIMMS project using local architects, and we are now in the process of finalizing the design. Our decision to hire local kept those fees right here in Carbondale. We hope to break ground on this regional transportation hub in the fall of next year.
To help fight the effects of climate change, the City of Carbondale strives to be more environmentally friendly. Our efforts to “go green” ramped up this last year with our Solar Installation Project. Hundreds of solar panels have been installed here at the Civic Center, our Public Safety Center, and Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant. These panels provide approximately 1.875 million kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable energy to the City. In addition, we are proud to announce we've ordered our first group of electric vehicles and are participating in a study to transition our entire fleet to electric! Our work to go green will continue. Council has asked the City's Sustainability Commission to create an action plan outlining goals for a more sustainable future. We expect that action plan to be completed very soon.
As I mentioned earlier, the pandemic brought challenges. Yet, despite the socioeconomic impacts, Carbondale welcomed many new businesses and supported existing ones. We communicated grant opportunities and provided assistance with cumbersome Business Stabilization Grant applications - bringing nearly $270,000 in grant funds to Carbondale businesses. We also worked with local business owners to help them navigate the requirements of the Restore Illinois plan.
As mitigations eased, we were eager to gather and support local artists safely, so we hosted our first-ever "Off the Rails" Concert series at the outdoor Washington Street venue. The concerts held downtown were such a success that our City Council approved the construction of a permanent stage at the Washington Street location!
Economic Development Director Steven Mitchell, and our new Economic Development Coordinator Cody Lueker are working to secure funding for the project.
To help in their endeavors and make Carbondale’s downtown more attractive to visitors, our Council approved a new Arts and Entertainment District, allowing for open containers downtown while providing business owners in the district the ability to serve guests outside their establishments.
Our business leaders continue to show faith in Carbondale. In the last year alone, more than 7.3 million dollars was invested in the community in remodeling and new construction. In 2021 we welcomed...
- El Paisano Mexican Grill
- Bake Me Happy Food Co
- Kats Krab & Go
- Scooters Coffee
- Kozy Cakes
- SauSeas will open soon in the former Fat Patties location
- Novacare Rehabilitation opened inside Legacy Fitness, formerly Golds Gym
- SIH completed a $2.8 million dollar expansion project to the Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Center.
- T Mobile- Kay Jewelers- and Smoothie King are opening adjacent to the University Mall
- Other Openings include:
- Magickal Hippie
- Confluence Books and
- Raawi’s Grocery Store located on East Main Street across from Egyptian Corner.
- VIP Carbondale 8 in the University Mall
- Indigo Event Space and Lounge
- Uhaul invested $400,000 to remodel the former Southern Illinoisan building and opened an Indoor Climate Controlled Storage Facility.
Our Police Officers continue to be some of the most visible of our city employees and have many interactions with our citizens. I want to share some of the highlights from our Department in 2021:
We hired Chief Stan Reno as our permanent Police Chief. Chief Reno is from Carbondale and has continued to move our Department forward.
He is focusing on transparency and the continued professionalism of our Department.
Our officers have taken part in a new program called Five-on-Five, a community conversation initiative where five community members meet with five officers every month to have open conversations about race and policing in Carbondale.
The program has proven to be very successful. Citizens have learned about our Police Department and officers. They asked questions, shared their feelings and offered suggestions. The officers were able to do the same.
The Carbondale Police Department has hired a Mental Health Advocate to assist officers when responding to people suffering from a mental health crisis. The advocate will act as a case worker when needed, thus providing complete wrap around services to individuals in need. Officers will also refer people in need to the advocate.
The Department intends to hire a Youth Advocate who will provide many of the same services to juveniles in the Community. We are proud to be the first community in Southern Illinois to employ mental health professionals within our police department.
Under Chief Reno’s direction, the police department has increased transparency by publishing on the Department website annual calls for service, complaint summaries, daily arrest summaries and department policies. We are also working toward starting a body camera program ahead of the required mandate in 2025 and are in the process of re-accrediting our Department with the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program.
Also, our Police Department is finalizing the annual Carbondale Police Community Christmas Store. This is the 20th consecutive year of operating the store and along with the Coats for Kids initiative, the Department staff provides coats and toys for children from Carbondale. The staff and officers are proud to continue this initiative to help families in need during the holiday season.
Also among the most visible of city employees, our firefighters responded to 1634 calls in 2020 and 1547 so far in 2021. The City’s Office of Emergency Management and Fire Department members have worked tirelessly to source the much-needed PPE - Personal Protective Equipment, not only for our Public Safety personnel, but for all employees of the City.
The Office of Emergency Management acquired thousands of N95/surgical masks, gallons of hand sanitizer, thermometers, face shields, and more. This PPE was sourced at zero cost to the City because of the prior partnerships with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and local entities. Carbondale firefighters answer the call daily with outstanding professionalism and will continue to provide first-class protection for our citizens.
Our Public Works Department has had a very busy year. They recently completed the design of Phase 3 of our Downtown Street Scape. The Engineering division has also completed major projects such as the Chautauqua - McLafferty Roundabout and the Sunset Bridge Replacement. Upon completion, those projects received many positive comments about the added efficiency and safety. Those acknowledgments tell us that we are accomplishing our mission to provide the highest quality of public works services to our residents.
As part of our efforts to improve parks in the community, the City secured a 1.2 million dollar grant to resurface roads and parking lots and to build new bathrooms and sidewalks that improve accessibility at Evergreen Park! We are proud to say Carbondale was one of only 17 communities chosen for the funding out of more than 250 applications. This grant was written and submitted by our former Director of Public Works, Sean Henry. We anticipate the work on our park will be completed in the spring, and that families will be able to enjoy all the improvements as soon as warmer temperatures return.
Our Forestry and Street Departments have taken on new responsibilities to maintain Turley Park and Tatum Heights Park. Our residents have been pleased with the improvements made at both parks, and I am happy to report that more than $7,300 was donated to our Parks and Recreation Foundation on Giving Tuesday! That money will be used to continue enhancing city-owned parks.
I want to thank all of the City employees for their dedication and hard work over this past year. I know you work with diligence every day to make this community a better place. Please know your City Council and City Manager are doing the same.
We have many projects to be excited about as we approach 2022. Carbondale will continue improving conditions for bicyclists as we strive always to be a bike-friendly community.
The City of Carbondale was awarded two million dollars in funding through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program to extend the bike and pedestrian path along Route 13 from Murphysboro Road to Wood Road. When complete, this 1.8-mile concrete path will allow cyclists and pedestrians direct access to various medical offices, an urgent care facility, the Carbondale Farmers Market, and several neighborhoods on our west side. In addition, we will start construction of the first phase of Northwest Pedestrian and Bicycle Path- a 10ft wide and mile-long concrete path from Oakland Avenue to New Era Road.
Thanks to the Southern Illinois Metropolitan Planning Organization, we’ve also been fortunate to secure 80% of the funding needed to rebuild New Era Road from Glenn Road to Airport Road. This project will consist of new asphalt pavement with dedicated bicycle lanes.
The City plans to repave a section of North Frontage Road in front of University Plaza - the strip mall encompassing Dick’s Sporting Goods and TJ Maxx. We also have plans to repave McRoy Drive which serves as the entrance to the Bicentennial Industrial Park. North Wall Street from East Main to East Fisher will also be repaved. This street serves Northeast Carbondale, the Eurma Hayes Center, Thomas School, and Attucks Park.
You’ll notice many improvements to Cedar Lake in 2022. Next year work will begin to upgrade the concession stand and beach restroom facilities at Poplar Camp Beach. In addition, the City received 120,000 dollars from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Boat Access Area Development Program to construct an accessible floating dock at the Cedar Lake boat launch, install a floating dock for canoe and kayak use and build new restroom facilities and a picnic pavilion.
Our meetings with regional stakeholders along the Route 13 and I57 corridors continue on a monthly basis. SI Now 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 officials. Anything that benefits a city from Murphysboro to Marion, is good for all of us.
The City will once again 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.
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 are working to help the City 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.
Carbondale is a great place to grow up, 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. 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 take 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.