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AURORA -- A crowd of several hundred attended Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin's "State of the City" speech Feb. 22 at the Aurora Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon at the Bertram Inn and Conference Center.
She shared her accomplishments over the past three years both administratively and in improving the community's amenities, infrastructure and economic development.
"Aurora is a beautiful community, and I have enjoyed working with City Council, the Chamber and many other partners moving Aurora forward," she said. "We still have sidewalks, bike paths, infrastructure, parks and town center projects in various stages of planning and implementation, but I hope you will agree we've gotten a lot done in the last three years."
Womer Benjamin said the city is looking at more than $3 million in infrastructure improvements in the upcoming year.
"Aurora is upgrading its infrastructure under the guidance of Service Director John Trew, and we will bid on the $1.4 million replacement of one of the last of our 1925 water lines on Hurd Road this year," she said.
Other planned improvements this year include $500,000 for stormwater control improvements and $1.3 million for roads, said the mayor.
"We were very fortunate last year to complete the Routes 43 and 82 paving, a $1.7 million project with state funds covering 82 percent of the costs," she added.
During the past three years, Womer Benjamin said the city has had 3,000 feet of sidewalk installed, and about 3,000 more linear feet of sidewalk are planned, "mostly on South Chillicothe Road."
Despite the cost of these and other services and projects provided by the city, Womer Benjamin said she's pleased to have kept a lid on spending, thanks to former Finance Director Bob Paul and current Finance Director Timothy Clymer.
"Our general fund budget has had fairly modest [spending] increases, with the 2017 budget increasing by only 1.2 percent," she said. "We have enjoyed three operating surpluses since I started, and I have budgeted surpluses for infrastructure projects throughout Aurora."
Womer Benjamin also said she's shuffled administrative positions within the city, creating a chief of staff position currently filled by Karen Aldredge, and a service supervisor position.
"The total full-time head count remains at 119, the same place it was when I started as mayor," she said.
When it comes to economic development, Womer Benjamin said the goal is "to maximize our commercial potential while maintaing our small town feel."
Near the historic center of town, she said the 1815 Tavern has opened, and the Aurora Inn has completed "beautiful renovations."
In 2016, the city saw an influx of 100 jobs when Pyrotek opened its doors in Aurora. Avenue of Aurora, a skilled nursing facility, opened a new operation with 50 employees, she added, and Aurora School of Music also opened a new performing arts center.
Ground will be broken soon for a TireMax store, and Starbucks' new store opened recently. On the manufacturing side, Womer Benjamin said Philpott Solutions will come to the city.
"We have streamlined approval processes while holding builders and developers accountable and reinforced our historic character and appearance through changes to our zoning and design regulations," she said. "While we are always willing to explore new opportunities, we will stand firm about what is or is not appropriate for our community."
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