Ironton must move forward

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 1, 2017

Dec. 1 marked one year since I stepped into the position of mayor.  Having already worked for the city, I knew the internal operations, but there was still a lot to learn.
After making a few internal adjustments, we began the process of implementing the LEAN Ohio program to help create more value for our residents with fewer resources.  Just because we’ve always operated a certain way doesn’t mean we should continue those operations.  Remember, Einstein’s definition of “insane” is to do the same thing over and over, but expect a different result.
Within months of taking office, I was tasked with investigating and correcting flooding problems in the north end of Ironton.  At the same time, a majority of our residents had brown water issues.   After thorough investigations, we identified the problems and have begun work to correct both situations.
During the flooding event mentioned above, I was introduced to the Combined Sewer Overflow project.  In 2009, the U.S. EPA handed down a court-ordered, non-funded mandate to separate sewer water from storm water.  This is an approximately $20 million project to help eliminate polluted water from entering the Ohio River.  Recently, we were informed by the Ohio EPA that our current wastewater plant has exceeded its lifespan and that they expect us to replace or update our current plant in order to meet their mandates.  This has the potential to be an additional $20 million project.
Did I mention only 30 percent of our residents pay taxes?  Tax dollars are what pay for these types of projects, as well as police and fire services, street repairs and alley grating.  It also pays for your city health department, municipal court, and tax, finance, benefit and public service departments.  Let’s not forget about our contract services for engineering, community / economic development, labor management and legal services.  How do we continue providing services to our people when we don’t have enough revenue generated to hire enough staff to perform the services?
In order to operate our sanitation department Monday through Friday, it takes six people.  What happens when we have to cover for vacation, sick or personal days?  We pull from the understaffed street department.  This now stops progress in the much needed pothole repairs.
For 13 years, I’ve watched Ironton City Council struggle with raising taxes or fees.  Their heart is not to burden the people with high rates.  Unfortunately, without an influx of economic development, this has been their only option.  Do we sit and do nothing and let things get worse or do we make some hard and or different decisions to continue moving Ironton forward.  That in itself is easier said than done.
What about Ironton’s one percent income tax rate? Imposed 47 years ago, we now have one of the lowest rates in the entire state of Ohio.  With only 30 percent of our residents paying taxes, you can see this doesn’t generate the amount of funding necessary to run a city.
Even with our struggles, I do see light at the end of the tunnel.  I’ve watched a number of successful projects come to fruition over the past few years that will aid in moving Ironton forward.  A new bridge was built, new medical facilities have been established and a riverfront development project is underway.  Let’s not forget about the Gateway Center.  Many new small businesses have opened up, including Boo’s donut shop, the new Hot Spot Boutique and the upcoming Tudor’s Biscuit World.  As we welcome and encourage new business, we also want to recognize and support those businesses that have remained Ironton mainstays over the years. All of these projects are investments into our community.
If Ironton is going to continue growing, everyone is going to have to do their part.  Elected officials will have to make hard decisions.  Residents have to take responsibility for their personal property and vacant commercial building owners will need to invest into their facilities to help attract new businesses.
As we move forward making decisions for Ironton, I encourage each of you to join with us as we work to build a better economy for our residents.


Katrina Keith is the mayor of Ironton. She can be reached at 740-532-3833.

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