Mayor Gives His 11th State Of The City Address

Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer (R) poses for a photo with Main Street Warsaw Executive Director and Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Rob Parker after Thallemer gave his State of the City address in the Center Lake Pavilion Wednesday. Main Street Warsaw, formerly Warsaw Community Development Corporation, hosted the address. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

Numbers can tell the story of where a people have been and where they’re going.

Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer used that theme in his 11th State of the City address Wednesday at Center Lake Pavilion, hosted by Main Street Warsaw.

He noted that it was almost two years ago to the day – March 11, 2020 – that he gave his ninth address “at the doorstep of a very uncertain global health crisis” and it was the last public event held in the Pavilion for over a year.


Since 2019, the city has used 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, he said.

“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,’” Thallemer said. “Our cash reserves continued to meet the levels established by our financial policies. Investment growth continued in our community as our tax base grew $44 million in 2021. The 2021 city tax rate was the lowest it’s been since 2015, and all the while continuing to provide the services our residents and businesses expect.”

He said Warsaw’s tax rate, outstanding debt and debt per capita are all significantly below the average when compared to other similar-sized Indiana communities. He talked about how the city saw a census population increase, which will increase the city’s revenue from road, alcohol and cigarette taxes for the next 10 years. That growth, though, will impact the city’s expense side as the demand for services increases. In 2021, the Common Council approved a 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,” Thallemer said. “A current wage study has been completed and will be used to identify and seek solutions for the impacted job categories.”

Looking forward to 2022, the mayor said the city will continue to anticipate modest assessed valuation growth as it nurtures continued development opportunities. Also this year, a portion of over $3.4 million 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,” he said.

“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 to 60% above original estimates, seriously affecting our ability to commit adequate resources to a project.”

Thallemer talked about the city’s communication capabilities and how its importance has never been more evident than the past two years. With a social media presence of almost 18,000 followers, the city’s Facebook page has become “an extremely effective means of disseminating timely information. Our posts reached 1.6 million people in 2021.”

U.S. 30

On U.S. 30, he said, “Advocating for a full freeway option for the last 10 years, the seven-county U.S. 30 coalition saw significant progress in 2021. In March, the state committed to a Planning and Environmental Linkages Study that will evaluate options to improve traffic safety along the entire existing U.S. 30 corridor.”

Set to begin in the spring, the study will take two years to complete and will evaluate all options. Back in February 2021, after the study was announced, the city began consulting with an engineering team to draft a professional design of how U.S. 30 might look if kept on the existing route in Kosciusko County. The plan was presented to many stakeholder groups and at a large public meeting in November. Most agreed that the existing route was the preferred one, but the Indiana Department of Transportation will consider all options.

“There is late breaking progress to report on from INDOT and the governor’s office,” Thallemer said. “INDOT is in the process of assigning a group of U.S. 30 projects to its Transportation Improvement Plan. 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.

Housing & Developments

A 2019 local study of market potential showed that over the next five years, the city will need to accommodate the demand for up to 750 new residential housing units. he said. He then mentioned several local housing projects, including Gateway Grove, 802 Center, redevelopment of the Arnolt property into a 62-unit multi-family complex, Greenbriar, Alta Vista, Granite Ridge and the 40 units at the Northwest Townhomes off Sheldon Street. Several mixed-use projects in development include The Gatke Lofts, the old Owen’s grocery store and on North Buffalo Street.

Some of the economic development projects Thallemer listed included the leasing of the second Warsaw Technology Park shell building to Nextremity Solutions; the renovation of the Wishbone Medical headquarters on Capital Drive; Paragon Medical’s investment for a manufacturing facility; Razor Medical’s relocation to Warsaw; and AutoCam Medical’s plans to lease space at the Medtronic facility as Medtronic phases out by 2025.

The Redevelopment Commission is finalizing an agreement with the new owner of the MarketPlace of Warsaw for their renewal of a longtime retail space in the community. Rural King is set to open a store at the former Kmart location, across from the recently opened Popeyes.


Going into accomplishments of each of the city’s departments, Thallemer talked about the $30 million expansion of the wastewater treatment plant that recently was completed. The storm water utility completed a 1,700-foot shoreline stabilization of Pike Lake, with a similar project on Center Lake set for this year. They also completed a stormline project along McKinley Street recently 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, while the Anchorage Road reconstruction project is scheduled to start in 2023.

The Department of Public Works realigned city trash routes last spring. Two new full intersection traffic signal projects were completed on Center at Indiana and Lake streets. Plans are underway to replace and redesign the Public Works’ operations and maintenance facilities, with a construction date tentatively in 2023.

Warsaw Police Department has been faced with a shortage of sworn police officers in large part by the competition created by the wage and salary inflation and the oversupply of jobs at all levels, Thallemer said. 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,” he said.

Looking ahead to 2022, school zone safety and the increase in traffic on U.S. 30 will continue to be major focus areas of enforcement for the department, he said.

Thallemer paid tribute to Capt. Clay Layne, who died in October, and honorary WPD officer Drake Price, 16, who died in January.

Moving on to the Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory, Thallemer said the department responded to 3,100 calls in 2021, with 65% of those emergency-medical related. Staff now has the Autopulse resuscitation device, thanks to a gift from the K21 Health Foundation, and 28 advanced EMTs or paramedics.

“Looking ahead to 2022, the CARES initiative will assist with dispatched calls involving acute mental health issues to help coordinate CARES solutions,” Thallemer said.

Mike Wilson announced his retirement in the fall effective June 1. He has been replaced as chief by Garrett Holderman from Arizona.

City engineer James Emans also recently retired and was replaced by Aaron Ott.

At the Parks and Recreation Department, Thallemer said the department celebrated the opening of a revitalized Ker Park, completed their five-year master plan and will revitalize Beyer Park in 2022. Construction on the new park office and maintenance facility at Indiana and Fort Wayne streets is anticipated.

The Warsaw Airport is in the midst of significant capital improvement projects, Thallemer said. The north-south runway reconstruction was completed in 2021, as was the massive bi-fold door improvement to the Zimmer Biomet hangar.

“Most critical, the design phase of the high voltage power line lowering was completed in 2021. Expected to begin construction in 2022, these lines will be lowered as they currently limit approaches from the east on our largest runway,” Thallemer said.


Wrapping up his half-hour address, he said 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 afternoon’s talk. How have we changed in the past 10 years? The numbers tell the story.”

As of April 1, 2020, the city added 2,205 new residents, a 16.7% growth. In the same period, the state grew 4.7%.

“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 census,” Thallemer said.

Of the 2,205 new residents, he said, the largest growth occurred in four groups: 588 new residents were Asian, 561 were Latino, the white population increased 434 and there were 111 new Black residents.

“The expansion of our population is a clear indicator of the opportunity that exists in Warsaw for everyone, and we embrace it,” he said.

There were 2.42 residents per residential dwelling in the city. “That means our 2,205 new residents required 911 additional housing units,” he said.

The city’s tax base expanded 34% during the census period. The numbers, Thallemer said, “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.”

He also said the average age of a city resident decreased 5.2 years since 2010 to the age of 31.3. Ten years ago, it was 36.

“How does that happen and what does that mean? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you what I think it means. I think the numbers say that the city of Warsaw continues to attract those beginning their search for meaningful career paths and opportunity. That’s what I think it means,” Thallemer said.

“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.”

He concluded by saying, “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 a story. Thank you.”

A video of Thallemer’s speech can be found at WIOE.COM for the next week.