Local FOX News Story – Save Maumee Weighs In – Watch here while it lasts….
Reported by: Marchelle McConnell
Friday, February 19 2010
Monday Mayor Tom Henry spoke about his efforts to improve the rivers in his state of the city address. The Mayors River efforts are connected to a federal mandate issues by the Environmental Protection Agency. The city is required to improve the rivers by 2025. The city has been working toward this for years. A city official says the reason the mayor included the rivers in his speech this year was to show his commitment to the mandatory project.
Abigail Frost, a local clean river activist and founder of Save Maumee, wants to see the city take more action. Frost says I see them bringing up the rivers as movement and progression, yes. I eagerly anticipate what the city has planned in addition to the mandatory EPA regulated long term controlled plan.
Frost says the city always has plans, but she wants to see more hands on projects.
Frank Suarez, with the City Utilities and Public Works, says Right now we have the upper Healy interceptor which is a pipe that 52 inch wide. It’s going in on the North side of Fort Wayne near DuPont and Leo Road, and it’s going to relieve the amount of overflow from storm sewers.
The city will start installing another sewer separation system in two weeks at the intersection of Woodrow and Vance.
Frost says the work the city is doing is progress, but to meet their goal by 2025 more needs to be done now.
Verbatim Excerpts: Fort Wayne State of the City address
Mayor Thomas C. Henry
…We are working hard to capture our fair share of stimulus funds because they bring jobs and new investment to our community. So far the City has secured more than $19 million in stimulus funds, not to mention the millions going to schools, non-profits and businesses. This year, $3 million of that money will pay for repaving key thoroughfares in our city Jefferson and Washington boulevards, Wayne and Berry streets, Rudisill Boulevard and East State Boulevard.
This new money will also improve our sewers, trails and airports, plus social service and law enforcement programs and mostly importantly create and retain jobs.
I am also working hard to create the necessary infrastructure for business growth and success of Fort Wayne residents and families.
This spring, construction will start on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge on Clinton Street, creating a new gateway into downtown. With about 80% of the cost coming from state and federal funds, this bridge is designed for all users: vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists, and will remind people every day of the legacy of America’s best-known civil rights leader.
I cannot overlook my commitment to investing in trails, including $3 million of stimulus funds going into their expansion and improvements. With the completion of Phase 4 of the Towpath Trail this year, you will be able to walk or bike across Allen County from Aboite Township to New Haven on 49 contiguous miles of multiuse trails.
This is a landmark achievement for our community and has happened only because the City worked with the County, New Haven, Aboite New Trails, Northwest Allen Trails and the Greenway Consortium.
In 2010 our City Utilities division will concentrate on providing the high-quality service and system enhancements that improve our quality of life, strengthen neighborhoods and support job growth through the increased capacity of our water and sewer systems.
Our rivers are Fort Wayne’s signature natural feature. They define us and unify us.
I am working hard to transform them into a landmark asset we all can enjoy. City Utilities will continue to comply with the federally mandated yet unfunded Consent Decree.
This year investments of nearly $82 million will go to projects that reduce the raw sewage that goes into our rivers and provide clean drinking water to our residents. Currently we have about one billion gallons of combined sewer overflow going into our local waterways. When this project is done, we will have reduced the untreated overflow by 90%.
Under the leadership of Bob Kennedy, 2009 Public Works Leader of the Year, we are reducing the threat of flooding to Fort Wayne families. This year, with a $1.5 million FEMA and Indiana Department of Homeland Security grant, we will purchase about 52 homes through voluntary buyouts in the Junk Ditch area. We will buy the homes at market value, restore the land to greenspace and forever end the concern about high water for these families.
In 2009 we protected about 150 homes from flooding on the St. Marys River with the flood-control projects in the Woodhurst, Southwood Park and Park-Thompson neighborhoods. With these buyouts and projects on our three rivers, we are closer than ever to the day when residential flooding is a thing of the past in Fort Wayne.
When I ran for mayor, I called for renewed attention to Fort Wayne’s rivers.
I am pleased to see that from Invent Tomorrow’s community visits and surveys the Number 1 request from our citizens was to use our waterways. As a result, a group called “Friends of the Rivers” was formed.
Working in conjunction with IPFW, a new event is coming to Fort Wayne on June 26th: the IPFW RiverFest.
Its purpose is to raise awareness and appreciation of the rivers and to use them for entertainment and fun. I think this event is an important kick-off as we look for ways to create riverfront development.
Infrastructure improvements aren’t just new pavement and sewer replacements.
I am also working hard to invest in neighborhoods and commercial corridors.
Last year, I launched the “Commercial Façade Grant” program that transformed $400,000 of City funds for exterior improvements into more than $1 million of private investment in targeted areas. This year I am pledging $260,000 from the City, which once again could result in more than $1 million of private money going into 13 projects. Additionally, I am committed to improvements that make our commercial corridors friendly for visitors and businesses.
The momentum of downtown revitalization must continue especially following the opening of Parkview Field. Cindy and I are already looking forward to another season of baseball this year.
I am particularly proud of the two-way conversion of Calhoun Street. I know it was a challenging project for some, but I am confident we are going to see it pay off by providing infrastructure that encourages store-front development while retaining the key features people like to see such as wide sidewalks, significant trees and outside dining.
While we celebrate the progress we have made in revitalizing downtown, the City will remain a driving force in fostering private investment in the heart of our city. Working in partnership with the Downtown Improvement District and the Alliance, we’re poised to give our downtown plan an update. I will want to hear from you about how we can make our downtown thriving and interesting every day, year-round.
Because of these successes, I am working hard to engage you in important community decisions. I have seen time and again that Fort Wayne residents have great ideas and want to be heard.
For instance, your input has been critical in our bike and sidewalk plans. I have also enlisted help from key stakeholders for the Social Service Summits, Tree Commission and the Southtown Advisory Committee…