Strick talks state of city at council meeting

Mayor Richard Strick delivered his State of the City address to the Huntington Common Council at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

In a departure from previous years, city department heads did not present their annual reports to council at the meeting. Rather, those reports were submitted to council members in written form, with members invited to approach department heads if they had any questions.

The accomplishments of the city’s departments in 2019 were summarized by Strick in his address.

Of the Huntington Police Department, Strick noted that 2020 would be a momentous year for it, thanks to a major development in 2019.

“This summer, our city gets to tangibly express our gratitude by cutting the ribbon on a new police department that broke ground in 2019,” he said.

Construction commenced in April on the facility, which is located on Cherry Street. Barton-Coe-Vilamaa designed the structure, with The Hagerman Group hired to build it.

Strick noted that the city’s engineering department had been involved with the police headquarters project in 2019. The department’s other activities last year, he shared, involved closing the Huntington City Landfill, completing improvements to State Street, replacing the West Park Drive culvert and making headway on the city’s long-term control plan.

Of the Department of Community Development and Redevelopment, Strick said its 2019 activities were highlighted by a collaboration with Huntington County Economic Development. As a result of that collaboration, 187 acres of land were annexed into the city for new industrial development, he said.

The department’s other accomplishments last year included the continued demolition of structures at the H.K. Porter site, closing out the city’s 2015 brownfield grant and offering low fees and fast turnaround on permits.

Strick praised city utilities for continuing its initiative to clean and televise the city’s storm and sewer lines in 2019.

“This proactive survey allows the team to identify blockages and sections of the system needing repair before they become critical issues for customers,” said Strick of the initiative, which began in 2018.

An added benefit of the initiative, said Strick, is that it leads to water lines and sewer taps getting mapped in Huntington County’s Geographical Information Systems, or GIS.

Strick stated that the Huntington Fire Department had prioritized training and updating its equipment in 2019. Those priorities paid dividends for the department, he said.

“With updated tools and training, they improved their ability to rescue people trapped in vehicles, as well as in fast-water situations,” he remarked.

Turning his attention to 2020, Strick stated that one of the city’s main objectives would be addressing the remaining projects in its long-term control plan. Completing those projects, he said, would bring Huntington into compliance with the Clean Water Act, a 1972 federal law governing water pollution.

“Part of that amendment meant changes pertaining to the regulation and limitation of the amount of raw sewage that flows into American waterways across the nation, including our very own Little and Wabash rivers here in Huntington,” he explained.

Completing the long-term control plan is mandatory, he added, with the state monitoring the city’s progress.

“When we have successfully completed these duties, we can rest assured that we’ve made Huntington’s infrastructure better than we found it,” said Strick.

Another objective this year, said Strick, is taking inventory of the resources available in the city to assist citizens struggling with substance abuse. Strick created a task force in January to take that inventory, as well as study other communities to determine if they are offering any resources that Huntington should consider offering, too.

“I’m looking forward to having their report for my review in July,” said Strick of the taskforce.

Strick added that city government would strive to increase its communication with citizens in 2020, dispensing detailed information about city plans, actions, events and more. To that end, he announced the creation of a new full-time position, communications coordinator, which will be filled by Kevin Krauskopf.

Ultimately, Strick expressed confidence that the city’s successes in 2019 had laid the foundation for even greater achievements in 2020.

“This is our opportunity to keep believing in and working for a better Huntington,” he said. “We want to set aside minor differences in service of a greater cause and purpose of Huntington rightfully assuming its role as leader and influencer in northeast Indiana and the state of Indiana.”

Strick will give his State of the City address again on Friday, Feb. 28, at Pathfinder Services, in Huntington, at 7:30 a.m. The public is invited to attend the event, which is being put on by the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce.