By Anna Skinner
Westfield has had a very full year in 2015 with the fulfillment of promises from Grand Park, expansion of the Westfield Youth Assistance Program and the continuation of the Grand Junction Plaza design.
Westfield Mayor Andy Cook reflected on these accomplishments and is also ready to charge ahead into the goals of 2016.
The largest goals that Cook said he hopes to accomplish are beginning the Grand Junction Plaza, planning for political sustainability and continuity over the next decade and expanding the Youth Assistance Program throughout the state.
The completion of the Grand Junction Plaza design is expected in mid-2016. Cook said he believes construction of the plaza will begin in 2017. A public forum from the architect and landscaping group is planned for 7 p.m. Jan. 7 at city hall, 130 Penn St.
A few other goals were mentioned in Cook’s State of the City address given at the end of November. Some of those included beginning the thought process of establishing a civic center – preferably in the downtown area of Westfield – and also introducing a public safety income tax.
“We need to be begin thinking about a civic center. It’s just an idea right now, but it could potentially be a building of various size, preferably located downtown near the plaza … so that’s just something that we threw out as a long term idea,” Cook said. “I also threw out that I am going to ask the council to raise taxes this year. We are going to ask for a small increase, like 10 to 15 dollars per month, in a public safety income tax.”
With a raised public safety income tax, the city could hire more firefighters and police.
“It would be very easy to ignore the need, as happens in a lot of political arenas. It would be a lot easier not to raise a tax and let our public safety prevention slip,” Cook said. “Then we would end up in the reactive mode, which is exactly where Indianapolis is today. For a few small dollars we can add cops and firefighters and remain ahead.”
Cook also plans to bring up some difficult questions to the city council, such as how big Westfield should be.
“So many people move to Westfield because of the quality and the size of the schools and secondly the small town charm,” Cook said. “We are in a very unusual situation with all of this potential for growth that we have, and we’ve created a huge demand by the public to live here. I’m going to ask the council if we want to be a city of 60,000 or a city of 100,000 people because we could be either. It should cause some interesting debate.”
Although the biggest accomplishment of the year is Grand Park encouraging hospitality growth throughout Westfield such as hotels and restaurants, Cook’s proudest achievement was the expansion of the Youth Assistance Program.
“I personally am most proud of the fact that our Youth Assistance Program has gone to all of our schools in Hamilton Co., and our judicial system is beginning to see positive effects of the program,” he said.
Westfield 2015 Quick Facts: