Good Afternoon and welcome back to the Center Lake Pavillon for the
2022 Warsaw State of our City. I welcome all of you this afternoon and
thank you for your interest and involvement in our city.
March 11, 2020, almost two years ago to the day, I stood on this very spot
for my 9th the State of the City Address, at the doorstep of a very
uncertain global health crisis. That was the last public event held in this
building for over a year. Before I get started, a thank you to Rob Parker and the Chamber staff for planning today’s event. Their involvement demonstrates the critical
importance of our business community.
On behalf of all City of Warsaw elected officials, department heads, and
employees, I am here, as Indiana State Code 36-4-5-3 instructs me, to
provide an annual statement of the finances and general conditions of the
city. So, here we go.
Since 2019, the city has utilized a comprehensive financial analysis to
guide current year budgets. Going into 2021, the city had many concerns with Covid’s impact on expenses, staffing, operational disruptions, and
lost revenue. Despite those concerns, and to quote the 2022 Financial
Plan/ executive summary, the city “remained resilient and finished the
year in a strong financial position.”
Our cash reserves continued to meet the levels established by our
financial policies. Investment growth continued in our community as our
tax base grew 44Million in 2021. The 2021 city tax rate was the lowest it’s
been since 2015! And, all while we continue to provide the services our
residents and businesses expect.
Compared to other similar sized Hoosier communities, our tax rate,
outstanding debt, and debt per capita are all significantly below the
average of the cohort. But we also remain vigilant that disruptive
changes can and do occur. For example, proposed legislative changes that
would eliminate the business personal property tax were on the table.
While the 2022 Indiana General Assembly failed to agree on the issue this
session, it has clearly signaled a future shift that could eliminate 29% of
our property tax revenue. With the census population increase we saw in the city, road, alcohol, and cigarette taxes will increase city revenue for
the next ten years. But the growth also impacts the expense side, as the
demand for services increases. In 2021, the city council approved a very
modest trash fee to help offset the rising expenses for curbside pickup of
trash, recycling and yard-waste. Wage inflation and labor shortages
continue to affect hiring in all departments across the city. Wage and
benefits simply must be adjusted to remain competitive. A current wage
study has been completed and will be used to identify and seek solutions
for the impacted job categories. In March, Standard and Poors affirmed
the City of Warsaw’s’ AA- rating, designated from previously issued
bonds. Based in part on the the City’s formalized reserve and debt limit
policies, the preferred rating provides for lower interest payments on
future bond obligations. Last fall, the State Board of Accounts performed
a federal and non-federal compliance audits on fiscal year 2020 and
2019 records. There were zero material findings on either audit. Our
Clerk Treasurer, Lynne Christiansen, and her entire staff were given high
marks by the audit team for their process and preparations.
As we look forward into 2022, we will continue to anticipate modest AV
growth as we nurture continued development opportunities. Also, in
2022, a portion of over 3.4 Million dollars of American Rescue Plan
funding will be deployed by the city to offset revenue loss experienced
during the pandemic. However, revenue will also be challenged. We will
see a modest $150,000 reduction in our local income tax revenue in 2022
due to the COVID shutdown. Our losses from the property tax caps are
also expected to increase. The pandemic related inflation and supply
chain challenges will continue to have a broad impact on all budget
categories. A serious emerging challenge that could significantly delay
our progress is the rapid inflation of construction costs, aggravated now
more by the current situation in the Ukraine. We’ve seen some bids come
in 40-60% above original estimates, seriously affecting our ability to
commit adequate resources to a project. We will be watching all projects
in various stages of development and continue to explore opportunities
to leverage public dollars.
The disease burden from COVID 19 continued to impact our City as we
enter the third year of the pandemic. To put its impact in perspective,
2020 saw a 1.8 year drop in the average US life expectancy, from age 78.8
to 77 years. Largely due to COVID related deaths, it was the biggest drop
since World War 2. Aided by the availability of three different vaccines,
case counts during the first half of 2021 were relatively flat.
Unfortunately, by last August, the emergence of the Delta and Omicron
variants, created two waves that in early January 2022, saw the worst
weekly number of confirmed Covid infections since the pandemic began.
Locally, the city and county continued to provide shared resources and
collaborate with key community organizations to establish public
vaccination and testing facilities, support visiting state clinics, and
disseminate public health information in an effort to improve community
access. Public health measures are designed to protect the well-being of
the entire community. Hopefully we all take that into consideration when
weighing our own personal health decisions.
Our city-wide communication capabilities have continued to be more
effective as its reach has broadened, and its importance has never been
more evident than the past two years. Our citizens came to rely on the
critical, up to date information during the pandemic that we were able to
provide. With a strong social media presence of almost 18,000 followers,
our city Facebook page has become an extremely effective means of
disseminating timely information, (our posts reached 1.6M people in
Advocating for a full freeway option for the last ten years, the seven
county US 30 coalition saw significant progress in 2021. In March, the
state committed to a Planning and Environmental Linkages Study (PEL)
that will evaluate options to improve traffic safety along the entire
existing US 30 corridor. Set to begin this spring and take two years to
complete, the PEL is a comprehensive study to evaluate all options. In
February, as soon as the PEL was announced, the city began consulting
with an engineering team to draft a professional design of how US 30
might look if kept on the existing route in Kosciusko County. The plan was presented to many stakeholder groups and a large public meeting in
November. A significant majority of comments acknowledged their
perception that this plan significantly improved the safety of our local
traffic and became the preferred public option. INDOT will consider all
options. Local stakeholders and citizens should be encouraged to attend
the INDOT listening sessions to provide input for those local option
There is late breaking progress to report on from INDOT and the
Governor’s Office. INDOT is in the process of assigning a group of US 30
projects to its Transportation Improvement Program. These projects will
most likely center around the new Amazon interchange in Allen County,
set for construction in 2024. Recently available federal transportation
dollars are being considered for these projects and could accelerate
construction to as early as 2025. A very special thank you to State
Senator Ryan Mishler and Representative Dave Heine for their leadership.
They have long advocated to allocate state transportation dollars to
improve to the US 30 corridor.
Addressing the shortage of workforce housing, a 2019 local study of
market potential showed that over the next five years, the City of Warsaw
will need to accommodate the demand for up to 750 new residential
housing units. 2021 saw significant progress towards meeting that need.
Last year, the first three units in Gateway Grove, on the old Madison
School site, were completed. The City is most appreciative of the
investment of the Groninger family into this 62-lot subdivision that will
be transformational for the city’s westside neighborhoods.
Seniors are beginning to move into the 72 unit “802 Center”. This
recently completed project provides a much-needed option for affordable senior living. A 1.1 million-dollar IHCDA housing grant and a half million-
dollar EPA environmental clean-up grant were both awarded to the city partnership with Real America, to remediate and redevelop the Arnolt
Property into a 62-unit multi-family complex. Construction is expected to
begin this summer. Recent annexations have been completed with sewer
extensions and improvements now underway for three more residential
developments. Greenbrier is a 42-acre single-family residential subdivision off 300 N with 124 residential lots. Alta Vista is a 94-lot
subdivision annexed late last year on 70 acres of land off of old US 30
East. A third annexation was approved just two days ago. Granite Ridge
developers petitioned to annex another 40 acres adjacent to Park Ridge
Subdivision on the south edge of the city. In all, these three annexations
are over 150 acres and expected to add 300 single family, market rate
homesites to the local inventory. All three developments anticipate that
construction will begin in 2022. In addition, construction is also expected
to begin this year on 40 units at the Northwest Townhomes off Sheldon
Several mixed-use projects are also in development that would generate
several hundred market rate apartment units. Also, earlier this week, the
Warsaw Redevelopment Commission approved an MOU to partner with a
developer for The Gatke Lofts. This is a transformative mixed-use project
at the old industrial site along the McKinley Street ride-walk corridor
includes a 70-unit freestanding loft apartment building and refurbished
mixed-use warehouse. Last year, the City acquired the entire block that the old Owens grocery store abandoned several years ago. Pre-
development work is underway on a mixed-use apartment building.
Plans also continue for a mixed-use apartment building at the North
Buffalo Street site where the Regional Cities funded Buffalo Street Plaza,
was dedicated last May. Other Economic Development projects include
the leasing of the second Warsaw Technology Park shell building to
Nextremity Solutions, celebrated with a ribbon cutting in July. In June, a
similar celebration was held for the renovation of the Wishbone Medical headquarters on Capital Drive. The City supported both of these home-
grown orthopedic businesses with performance-based incentives tied to job growth. The support quickly paid off . Two days ago, Nextremity was
acquired by Swiss Manufacturer Medartis who will base their extremities
business, including Research and Development, US operations in Warsaw.
In addition, another member of the local orthopedic community, Paragon
Medical, made significant investment for a manufacturing facility that will
feature additive (or 3D printing) manufacturing that represents a new
frontier in medical device manufacturing. Razor Medical completed relocation of its headquarters to Warsaw in 2021. Just two weeks ago,
AutoCam Medical announced plans to lease space at the Medtronic
facility, set to close in 2025, and eventually occupy the entire facility and
as Medtronic phases out. Autocam will also have the opportunity to
rehire those employees.
The Redevelopment Commission is also finalizing an agreement with the
new owner of the MarketPlace of Warsaw for their renewal of a longtime
retail space in our community. Also set to open soon is the Rural King
store that has taken over the old Kmart, just across from the recently
opened Popeye’s Chicken.
A $30 Million expansion of the Wastewater Treatment plant was recently
completed that increased capacity for growth. In an MOU approved last
August, the City of Warsaw agreed to treat and collect sewage from the
new Tippecanoe-Chapman sewer district. Similarly, two lift stations have
been designed to handle additional residential demand for sanitary
The storm water utility completed a 1700-foot shoreline stabilization of
Pike Lake, with a similar project on Center Lake set for this year. They
also just completed a storm line project along McKinley Street that will
filter harmful pollutants from entering Winona Lake.
City Planner Justin Taylor is overseeing the final stages of the Lincoln
School sidewalk project design that will go to construction in 2022. The
Anchorage Road reconstruction project will also be finalizing pre-
construction and is scheduled to start in 2023.
The Department of Public Works led by Commissioner Dustin Dillon has
had a very productive 2021. Last Spring, city trash routes were realigned
to be more compact and efficient, to reduce labor costs and wear and tear
on equipment. Our in-house asphalt crews continued to save the city
significant dollars by paving 12 different road segments, and were also
very busy extending the life of more than 40 segments of roads with
micro and crack sealing, while also constructing over 4,000 feet of
sidewalk, updating ADA ramps along the way. Two new full intersection traffic signal projects were completed on Center Street at Indiana and
Lake streets. The Public Works campus on the west end of the Center Street has served
our community well for many years. Plans are underway to replace and
redesign the aging operations and maintenance facilities We are looking
at a construction date of 2023.
Warsaw Police Department has been faced with a shortage of sworn
police officers in large part by the competition created by the previously
mentioned wage and salary inflation and the oversupply of jobs at all
levels. In 2021, the Council passed a mid-year 10% increase to the base
patrolman’s salary. This important action resulted in the hiring of seven
new officers in 2021. Looking ahead to 2022, school zone safety and the
increase in traffic on US 30 will continue to be major focus areas of
enforcement for the department.
WPD was shocked and saddened by the loss of Captain Clay Layne last
October. Serving our City for 26 years, the outpouring of sympathy for
him by our community was most fitting. Our community also lost a courageous young man who was also an honorary WPD police officer in
January. Drake Price was a shining example of the maturity and courage
seen in someone far older than his 16 years of age. God Bless Clay and
Drake and their loving families.
The Warsaw Wayne Township Fire Territory responded to 3,100 calls in
2021. 65% of those were emergency medical related. Thanks to a
gracious gift from the K21 Foundation, 2021 saw full implementation of
the Autopulse resuscitation device, an automated compression device
that significantly improves the survival rate of cardiac arrest. Our staff
now has 28 advanced EMTs or paramedics on our roster. Emergency
medical response is clearly the predominant volume of our calls for
service and direction of the department. 2021 also demonstrated the
critical excellence of our response to fire calls. Our firemen continue to
prove that along with their quick response, their actions, guided by
strong preparation and training, are saving lives and property. Looking
ahead to 2022, the CARES initiative will assist with dispatched calls
involving acute mental health issues and coordinating care solutions. Last Fall, the search for a new territory fire chief began, with the
announcement of Chief Michael Wilson’s 2022 retirement. Chief Wilson
provided excellent administrative skills to the department in his seven
years as chief, overseeing the construction of Fire station #3 among his
accomplishments. He will be working to establish CARES until he retires
at the end of May. Wilson is being replaced by a 17-year veteran of Rural
Metro Fire Service in Phoenix, Garret Holderman.
City Engineer James Emans recently retired and will be replaced by Aaron
Ott. James served all city departments as a knowledgeable engineering
resource and experienced problem solver.
The City Parks and Recreation Department celebrated the opening of a
revitalized Ker Park, completed their 5-year master plan, and continued
to provide innovative recreational programming to the community in
challenging times. 2022 will see Beyer Park revitalization and all eyes
will be anticipating starting construction of the new Park Office and
Maintenance Facility at Indiana and Fort Wayne.
Building and Plan has played a significant role of all the projects
discussed here today. City Planner Justin Taylor oversaw a very busy
office in 2021. Despite a modest slowdown in construction from COVID,
they focused on code enforcement, building inspections, and continued to
make significant progress to remedy substandard housing. 2022 will be
busier, managing housing projects, redesigning our streetscapes, and the
implementation of a new permitting software.
Finally, the Warsaw Airport is in the midst of significant capital
improvement projects. The North-South runway reconstruction was
completed in 2021, as was a massive bifold door improvement to the
Zimmer Biomet Hangar. The hangar door was a very complex project
that now improves access to accommodate their largest aircraft. Most
critical, the design phase of the high voltage power line lowering was
completed in 2021. Expected to begin construction in late 2022, these
lines will be lowered as they currently limit approaches from the east on
our largest runway.
As is obvious from the preceding review of accomplishments, our
progress is the result of quality leadership at the department level and
dedicated, hard-working employees. Guided by a 2019 study, ongoing
operational and organizational initiatives are improving our service
levels. Harnessing technology, looking for improved efficiencies,
providing proper facilities, and improving capital planning strategies will
all strengthen our departments’ ability to serve the city.
The 2020 census results told us in a nutshell what we are seeing today in
this community. Let’s let the numbers tell the story as we finish this
afternoons talk. How have we changed in the past ten years? The
numbers tell the story. So, as of April 1, 2020:
1. We have added 2,205 new residents to the city. That represents a
16.7% growth in population. Just for comparison, the state grew 4.7% in
the same period. The numbers tell us that The City of Warsaw continues
to show significant, steady population growth. Very few rural cities and
towns in Indiana enjoyed that level of positive growth in the most recent
2. Of the 2,205 new residents added to the city, the largest growth
occurred in four groups. 588 new residents were Asian. The Latinx
population grew a total of 561. The white population increased 434, and
there were 111 new African American residents. The expansion of our
population is a clear indicator of the opportunity that exists in Warsaw
for everyone, and we embrace it.
3. There were 2.42 residents per residential dwelling in the city. That
means our 2,205 new residents required 911 additional housing units.
4. Our tax base has expanded 34% during the census period. The
numbers tell us that the City of Warsaw continues to create and attract
opportunity for investment and growth – investment and growth that
continues to benefit our taxpayers, strengthen economic development,
and promote quality of life.
5. The average age of a city resident has decreased 5.2 years since 2010.
to the age of 31.3. How does that happen, and what does it mean? I think
the numbers say that The City of Warsaw continues to attract those
beginning their search for meaningful career paths and opportunity.
Growth and success don’t just happen. We are a very hard-working
community. We are a God-fearing community and we care for each other.
We collaborate for the common good, and have been richly blessed with a
strong foundation of entrepreneurship and opportunity.
But those numbers only tell us where we were on April 1,2020. The
future requires vision. The path we take is up to us. Growth requires
expansion of essential public services, more housing units, better
transportation, public safety, and broadening the private sector to
provide more goods and services. I am honored and privileged to be your
mayor, and I couldn’t be any more honored to face the challenges of our
future, than together, with this community. It’s a whole lot better than
looking at our future from a different trajectory. The numbers certainly
do tell the story! Thank You Warsaw!!