Ironton#039;s #039;new leadership#039; is not working out so well
About 18 months have passed since I left office as mayor. The vote was counted, and it was clear that Ironton wanted new leadership.
The new mayor, John Elam, stepped in with the stage set. My carryover balance was a record high, more than $700,000. The usual carryover to start the new year in the city had been between $300,000 to $400,000.
I had also signed a lease with Bellefonte Hospital to occupy the fourth floor of the city building, bringing 50 new high-paying jobs to our downtown.
Also, in the works was the new fire house, new ODOT facility locating in the industrial park, new downtown sidewalks and making the Center Street floodwall opening wider to promote safety and revitalization on the riverfront. There was grant money set aside for extensive street paving in 2004 as well.
We had just founded the Ironton Port Authority to develop city-owned property. The IPA needs to be commended for the recruitment of new business and industry into Ironton.
Without the IPA, I do not believe any professional recruitment would be happening today. We were also in discussions with up-scale restaurants and hotels for development of the Ironton Hills Mall area. There were plans in place and grants were being worked on to replace the aged and leaking reservoir on Nixon Hill. This reservoir not only poses a threat of collapse causing catastrophic damage but also life-threatening concerns. Some repairs have been made recently, but it is still leaking.
My plan was for a three-year project. At the completion of my project, Ironton would have a new reservoir and water towers on the north and south end of Ironton.
The majority of this project was funded from grants.
Eighteen months ago, most of the downtown store fronts were occupied.
In the residential neighborhoods, I had a goal to demolish at least 30 plus dilapidated and blighted properties annually. This would enhance the appearance and increase property value in the neighborhoods.
Now, after 18 months of "New Leadership," we must ask ourselves, are we better now than we were? Within two weeks of new leadership, Bellefonte pulled out.
As for the carryover of $700,000, a couple of months later, the money seemed to be gone and city workers were sacrificed to balance the budget.
This must not have been enough because Mayor Elam started proposing a $10 fee to help offset the deficit. This has not been passed, yet the proposed fee has risen to $15 per household. By the November ballot, the mayor will probably want $20 per household.
In looking back, there have been faithful city employees laid off or fired because the city is broke, and there is constant fighting between council members trying to do the mayor's job because he cannot and or does not.
A funding fee is being imposed after being voted down for floodwall protection, there are no flood gates for Center Street, a limited police force to protect the residents, a nearly vacant retail area in the city building, a downtown with a string of vacant store fronts, no removal of dilapidated buildings, no municipal swimming pool for the children operated by the city, no major new jobs coming in.
Now, council passes legislation that will cost my business and approximately 200 other businesses to be taxed thousands of dollars annually. I have spoken to many of the businesses from the smallest to the largest.
Some are threatening to close the doors and move to another community that is willing to help businesses grow.
Recruitment efforts will be hindered by this additional fee being added to the cost of leasing or buying property for commercial development.
Why? Because the new Mayor John Elam, the self-proclaimed grant writer has not written a grant nor found any other way to pay for this project. He is instead taking the easy way out by taxing the business owners and residents.
I do not believe that all avenues - grant funding, low-interest loans and help from the federal agencies - just to name a few, have been exhausted. Putting all the financial burden on the backs of our residents and business owners is wrong.
It is wrong for your family and mine and the 200-plus businesses to pay this amount of fees because the administration cannot figure another way.
Now, I read that Mayor Elam projects the city will be broke by June 2006. He is hoping for changes? Doesn't he know he is mayor and not supposed to hope, but show leadership and make changes?
Some people said let's give the new mayor a chance. I think he has had his chance and the city is in a downward spiral, out of control. It's time we take control and change the direction of Ironton's future.
Bob Cleary is an Ironton resident and business owner. Cleary has served as Ironton mayor and as a councilman.
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