MAYOR SAYS MANAGING CITY BUDGET, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, SUNNY LAKE PROJECTS ARE FOCUS

by Mike Lesko | reporter Published:

Aurora -- Mayor James Fisher said his goals for 2013 will center on managing the city's budget.

"I believe it's a good budget that is balanced and will address the needs of the city and its residents," Fisher said of the budget, which must be approved by Council by the end of January.

"I believe the collaboration between Council, the mayor's office and the city directors ensures that the needs of the city of Aurora are addressed and that ownership is shared by all involved parties," Fisher said.

As 2013 gets under way, Fisher is looking ahead to other goals within the city.

Working with key members of Council, the city will define the next generation's program/department structure for economic development, he said, possibly by naming an economic development director.

"Economic development is critical when establishing a sustainable tax base for the city," he said.

Fisher said that by utilizing key stakeholders in the city plus outside resources, Aurora will define a program that will be proactively positioned to recruit and retain businesses.

"With Council's approval, the city plans to hire a part-time person to lead this key initiative," he said.

In addition, Fisher said a network will be established that will utilize the experience and value of various organizations. These will include but not be limited to the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, Portage Economic Development Board, real estate professionals, Aurora business leadership and citizen representatives.

Working with Council and the city directors, Fisher said a list of new appropriation spending will be considered once the 2013 budget is approved by Council.

Fisher said in 2012 tax revenue exceeded the city's projection, and "this situation gives the city leadership the opportunity to address a select number of city of Aurora needs."

"THE MAYOR'S office and City Council will aggressively discuss the needs of the police department," he said. "Currently, the department is functioning at 2008 head count levels, and there are a number of operating issues that must be addressed."

Police Chief Seth Riewaldt could not be reached for comment regarding how many officers he would like to hire.

Fisher said the city also will manage major projects associated with Sunny Lake Park. Those include a boathouse, concession stand and restrooms.

"Sunny Lake is a key asset for the city, and there is a need for strategic ongoing investments," Fisher said.

Parks and Recreation Director Jim Kraus said projects to be started and completed in 2013 for parks and rec include:

Aurora High School varsity softball field construction, Field No. 4 baseball field regrading, Sunny Lake boathouse replacement, concession stand and parking lot [depending on Council approval for bids], recarpeting project in the senior activity area in Walker building, additional waterline at the Community Garden, water fountain and shade structure installed at Tails 'n Trails Dog Park, install bullpen and possible batting cage fencing at Sherwin Field [No. 5 varsity baseball field], and develop site plan and get conditional zoning certificate for the Bretschneider property.

Regarding the new water capital fee, in which residents will pay $80 more a year to help fund future water system improvements, Fisher said, "The new water capital fee is a good start in establishing a reserve that will address the project and emergency expenses associated with the city's waterline infrastructure."

"The absence of new construction tie-in fees has created a financial challenge for the city when addressing the needs of our waterlines and water towers," Fisher said. "I know that this decision is somewhat unpopular, but it was a business decision made by the mayor's office and City Council."

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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