‘A city with big ideas’: Lawrence mayor delivers 2021 State of the City address

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On May 12, Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier delivered an optimistic State of the City address, especially considering how much has changed since his previous address 14 months ago.

“The very next evening (City Controller/Deputy Mayor of Lawrence) Jason Fenwick and myself would be attending the first (COVID-19) super-spreader event at (the) Lawrence North (basketball) sectional, and the next week everything would begin to shut down,” Collier said.

Collier is bullish on the future of Lawrence and the growth that he has seen in the city since he became mayor in 2016.

“In these last six years, we have evolved into a city with a vision, a city with big ideas, with citizens and leaders that are asked to make them become a reality,” he said.

The City of Lawrence general Operating Reserve

The City of Lawrence ended fiscal year 2020 with a general operating reserve of $8.7 million. The city has seen the number steadily increase during the last six years. Between fiscal year 2014 and 2015, the operating reserve decreased by $450,000. Since 2015, the general operating reserve has increased by an average of $1.4 million each year.

“We just keep setting records through responsible stewardship while continuing to invest in the city,” Collier said.

DroneDek

DroneDek is repurposing the old sheriff’s garage at 4423 Shadeland Ave. It is anticipated that the company will bring 85 high-paying jobs to Lawrence. Currently located at 7601 E 88th Place, DroneDek is creating a mailbox system to accept deliveries via drone.

“This is going to be a pretty cool, futuristic addition to the city,” Collier said.

Utilities

Collier painted a bleak picture of the city’s utilities prior to 2016.

“In 2016, we were just months away from losing our water utility, had virtually no paving projects for five years, water plants that were consistently failing and water mains were failing at an alarming rate in the older part of Lawrence,” Collier said.

Now, residents can make utility payments at the drive-up payment kiosks at the city government center.

Lawrence also has been working on two water plants. The 59th Street water plant is undergoing a $12 million improvement. The Indian Lake water plant also is receiving improvements. Both are expected to open in early 2022.

When the water plants open, Lawrence will be able to produce 1 million gallons of fresh water each day.

With regard to other infrastructure improvements, between 2019 and 2020, the city filled more than 9,000 potholes, which is the fewest during the last three years.

In addition, Lawrence has created a new simplified permit/plan review form that is anticipated to increase the number of entities interested in collaborating with the city. Collier said “an abundance of ill-conceived ordinances adopted years ago” dissuaded potential collaborators from wanting to work with Lawrence.

“It has been roundly appreciated by contractors wanting to do business in Lawrence,” Collier said.

Stormwater improvements

In November 2020, Lawrence reclaimed the operation and use of the city’s stormwater system.

“The Indianapolis stormwater district, created in 2003, resulted in an abject failure for the City of Lawrence,” Collier said. “For many years, nearly all of the fees collected from Lawrence citizens were spent nearly everywhere except in the City of Lawrence.”

The city will now be able to collect more than $1.8 million each year that will be dedicated to stormwater improvements.

Police and fire

The city completed a four-year plan of upgrading the police department’s fleet of vehicles. Every full-time officer is assigned a vehicle that is three years old or newer. The vehicles are mostly sports utility vehicles, which are more cost efficient and versatile than other options, Collier said.

In November 2020, Lawrence completed a replacement of all fire department front-line equipment while adding three hands-free Lucas 3 CPR devices and purchased a power cot that will do most of the work lifting gurneys into ambulances. The fire department is planning to demolish Fire Station 38 this year and rebuild it as a full-time firehouse.

Winterfest

Civic plaza will undergo a significant facelift this summer to become an expansive event and gathering space. Winterfest will temporarily move to Lee Road Park at 6200 Lee Rd., Indianapolis.

Youth honored during State of the City

Two of Lawrence’s younger residents received congratulations from Mayor Steve Collier during the State of the City address.

Ethan Marasco, a Cathedral High School student and City of Lawrence intern, received accolades for his design work in the last three years on Lawrence Parks signs, the city’s seal and the city’s flag. Marasco will attend the University of Denver in the fall.

Lawrence North High School student Jayla Smith, the 2021 Indiana Miss Basketball, also was honored. Smith led the Wildcats to a state championship in 2020, the first title for the school in girls basketball before becoming Lawrence North’s first Miss Basketball. She will attend Purdue in the fall. The Welcome to Lawrence signs also commemorate her Miss Basketball recognition.


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