VALPARAISO | Many improvements have been made in the city in the last decade, but Mayor Jon Costas promised many more in the coming decade.
Costas' annual state of the city address before the 101st annual luncheon meeting of the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce had to be read by City Administrator Bill Oeding because Costas was home recuperating from the flu. He also missed Monday's council meeting.
The speech compared the city of 2003 with the 2013 version, calling the former a "caterpillar in its cocoon" that now is a butterfly whose only question is "How high can it fly?" Among the accomplishments so far were the revitalization of the downtown, the transformation of the Eastgate corridor, miles of pathways, a new YMCA, the V-Line and ChicaGo Dash bus services, a new police station and the Central Park Plaza.
He cited the Ind. 49 interchange at Vale Park Road and the roundabouts for making intersections safer and more efficient as well as attractive and the many stormwater projects for giving the city a year without sewer overflows into Salt Creek for the first time in anyone's memory.
For all the accomplishments of the past decade, the city already is embarked on several more projects to make the future even better, he said. One is a study of the city's water supply to find out if it is time to switch from wells to Lake Michigan water. He said a decision on that will be made in a few months.
Plans are under way for improvements to the U.S. 30 corridor and construction could begin by the end of the year with the help of $22 million from the Indiana Department of Transportation, the biggest grant the city ever received. It's part of $85 million in state and federal grants the city has received over the past 10 years.
This year also will see construction of "the mother of all roundabouts" at the five-points intersection of Vale Park, Roosevelt Road and North Calumet Avenue.
"While there has been some angst about this, I want you to know that we have engineered it within an inch of its life and are firmly convinced it will be a safe and effective solution to a problematic intersection," he said. "And, for those who are too timid to jump in, the city will be providing certified car instructors to take you through for the first time."
As the audience of about 400 gathered at Valparaiso University's Harre Union chuckled at that suggestion, Oeding added, "He's a visionary."
While stating the city's financial condition is strong despite having to get by on less money, Costas put in a plea for a bipartisan effort on the federal level to deal with the growing budget deficit saying the cost eventually falls upon the average family.
"It is incumbent upon all citizens to be engaged and to demand fiscal accountability and nonpartisan reform from their federal government," he said. "Today we are poised for success like never before. We have momentum, we have an ocean of talent and spirit, and we will find the resources needed for every task.
"So, again, I pose the question to each one of us: How high can we fly? To that I answer, 'Let's find out!'"