Mayor Martin's First State Of The City Of Angola
By: Beth Swary - Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Angola Mayor Dave Martin during the Angola Common Council meeting at City Hall. // WLKI Beth Swary

ANGOLA - Mayor Dave Martin gave his first State of the City on Monday, February 19 during the Common Council meeting.

Full Angola Common Council Meeting: Angola Common Council 2.19.2024


State of the City 2024

February 19, 2024

First, let me express how excited I am to be working without new city council. It’s a fantastic group of people with diverse backgrounds and knowledge base and I am confident that they all deeply care about the future of Angola.

Since taking office I’ve had the opportunity to visit all our departments and watch them perform their jobs firsthand. I have always been impressed by their hard work and dedication. Our employees are the ones that truly make this a great city.

I’d like to thank the former administration and previous city council for all the work they did leaving Angola in a sound and strong position.

Our Clerk Treasurer, Ryan Herbert tells me the city is financially strong. Ryan maintains more than 30 different funds; all have adequate operating balances to see our needs into the future. I look forward to working with Ryan and the council to keep us in a fiscally sound and sustainable position.

I am pleased to tell you we have zero debt leveraging our tax base. We do have debt backed by our utility revenue, fortunately these notes carry extremely low interest rates.

Over the last several years, the higher inflation rates have had a negative impact on our finances. Conversely, the higher interest rates have had a positive effect on the city’s finances. As I said, we have borrowed at vary low rates, but we enjoy higher rates on our cash balance investment income. In 2023 we earned over $1 million in interest income.

Our building commissioner Scott Lehman tells me we saw $55 million dollars in new construction last year, this has been a relatively consistent number year over year. We saw several large projects either started or completed in 2023. Including the addition to Best Hall on the Trine campus and two new private apartment complexes that started construction last year. We also saw the start of a large addition to Cameron Hospital. I am pleased those investments have been made in our community despite the struggles we have had with energy. I’ll discuss more on that later.

The Economic Development and Planning Director, Jennifer Barclay,will soon be filing paperwork to expand our tax incremental financing district.

We will be adding the area that we annexed this evening. We will also modify the district language to include the ability to provide funding for utilities, including natural gas.

Street commissioner Chad Ritter will be busy again this year. The city has again received a community crossing grant. These funds along with local dollars will be used to rebuild portions of North Washington, East Gilmore, West Prospect, and West Pleasant streets. We will also rebuild the southern two blocks of Williams Street. I have always believed rebuilding streets, curbs, and sidewalks is the best investment city government can make. I would also like to add sidewalks to connect some of our neighborhoods to the bike path.

Fire Chief (Doug) Call and Police Chief (Ken) Whitmire have both hired new employees to fill their ranks. As for the police department there is an ideal ratio between police officers and the population of the city. As our community grows, we will be looking at staffing for police and fire protection.

Our fire department responded to 1,600 calls last year. That is nearly five calls per day. We did have discussions with Pleasant Lake Township last year regarding forming a fire territory. This would provide more equitable sharing of costs for all the taxpayers that receive fire and emergency response protection from the department. I would like to continue those talks into 2024. The goal is to reach an equal cost sharing structure.

Fire Chief Call has also started a Steuben County Fire Academy. Angola firefighters are training Steuben County high school students to develop the next generation of firefighters. I would like to thank Steuben County government for making a generous contribution to provide turnout gear for the students.

As previously mentioned, water Superintendent Tom Selman and waste water Superintendent Jeff Gaff along with city Engineer Amanda Cope are moving forward with plans for extending city water and sewer lines to connect Pokagon State Park. Because of the benefit to the park of having municipal water and wastewater services, this project will be 100% funded by the state of Indiana. This will also open significant areas of the State Road 127 corridor for further development.

We have not enacted any water or wastewater utility rate increases in several years. Due to the effects of inflation the city administration has been having conversations about the rate structures moving forward. We have considered issuing bonds to handle rate increases. Because of our work with Pokagon State Park, I am pleased to announce the State of Indiana has generously offered to provide us with 0% loans to fund these long-term projects. This should enable us to keep any potential rate increases as affordable as possible.

We have been working with environmental agencies regarding chloride levels in our wastewater discharge. These compounds cannot be removed or treated at our waste water facility. One of the sources of chlorides is the water softening process. I would encourage all our residents who are operating softening units in their home to bypass them. The water from our plants only contains one to four grains of hardness, this is the ideal range. Our residents can save money by not operating their softeners, and it also helps the city be more environmentally friendly.

I recently signed a contract for a 1.5 million dollar grant, this and local money will be used to complete our portion of the bike trail to our southern city limits. Steuben County also received a significant grant that will enable them to build the trail from Angola to Pleasant Lake. I appreciate the work of our council member (Jennifer) Sharkey, and the trails group. We can all look forward to Angola and Steuben County building out the local portion of the Poka-bache trail.

In a few months spring will be here and our parks superintendent Matt Hanna along with his staff will be gearing up for their outdoor activities. They have a full slate planned again this year. I have observed the park board and all the park staff’s dedication and excitement as they grow the park programs. Fundraising for the Sheets Family Park is at the halfway mark. I know our park board is excited to be working with the community partners to see this facility come to reality.

As the new mayor of the City of Angola the most common question that I receive is “what is the biggest challenge Angola has going forward?” My answer has been one word. Energy. Natural gas is a critical energy source for us, not only for heating but also for industrial processes. Our supplier NIPSCO had been telling us that we had ample gas availability for 10 years of growth.

We have since found that statement to be inaccurate. Trine University and Steuben County along with private developers have had to spend significant amounts of money to increase capacity into the city just to handle their needs.

We also know we have lost business and job growth opportunities because of limited energy availability. We are now starting to see the possibility of some of our local businesses expanding their operations or moving their entire operation to other locations.

I find this totally unacceptable. We must find a long-term solution to this problem without negatively impacting our taxpayers and citizens. I am grateful that the City of Angola has many partners vested in solving this problem. They include Steuben County, our industrial partners, local businesses and institutions. Also, the Steuben County Economic Development Corporation is aggressively working the solve the issue.

One more concern I’d like to share with you this evening. We’re starting to see some slowdown and reluctance from builders and developers. The common reasons they give are increases in cost due to inflation and higher interest rates.

What they are not vocalizing, but I am sensing is an uncertainty due to the national election this year. Despite these headwinds I pledge everyone in my administration will go all out to move our community forward.

Lastly, I would like to thank and express my appreciation to all the city department leaders and employees. As we have worked through the transition to a new administration, they have made this a simple and painless process for me and for that I am very grateful.


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