From the City Manager 12/16/16
Reprinted with permission of the Independence Daily Reporter
2016: A year of unique challenges and rising to the occasion
Typically, the year’s end signals a time for reflection on the happenings of the past 12 months and an opportunity to evaluate our accomplishments and even the challenges that tested our resolve.
At City Hall, we make it a practice annually to conduct a “year in review” exercise and capture the highlights of city operations and activities. As I have personally reflected on the events of 2016, I have found much for us to be proud of as an organization and, certainly, some experiences that put us to the test. I thought I would take this opportunity to share a high-level recap with you, month by month:
January rolled in with routine first-of-the-year business and some carryover loose ends related to the hospital closure and management of donated property. There were still some rather painful moments to come as the community watched the drawn-out demolition of the older hospital buildings. But there was some silver lining to be found in the influx of other health care providers and the heads-up transition work of our own Emergency Medical Service to accommodate a heightened demand for its services, including out-of-town patient transports.
In February, we officially launched our monthly recycling program with 125 vehicle loads of recyclables delivered by citizens. The long-awaited program has proven a tremendous success, with a total of approximately 90,000 pounds of recyclable material collected to date. What makes the program even more special is the enthusiastic support it has received from multiple volunteers who pitch in at the monthly collection and have helped the City hold average monthly expenses to approximately $140.
It was our good fortune in March to recruit Jerry Harrison to Independence as our new police chief. Jerry has integrated extremely well in both the community and the department, earning respect from peers, employees and citizens alike as he sharpens the PD’s focus on community oriented policing.
In March, we also observed the 100th anniversary of the opening of City Hall at 120 N. 6th. Despite its many age-related issues, we acknowledged the facility that had served our government well for many years.
April was a feel-good month as we celebrated the restoration and rededication of iconic Logan Fountain at Riverside Park with a huge crowd of community supporters. This was also the month Ralph Mitchell Zoo received its three new Syrian bear sisters, and the entire community – including City staff – united to observe the first “LOVE Independence” day by sharing random acts of kindness.
More new faces joined us at City Hall in the month of May, as Heather Bryant assumed the role of City Treasurer, and Don Cushing was hired as our new Building Inspector, and both hit the ground running.
Summer activities ramped up to full steam in June, and our City crews were there to help facilitate citizens’ enjoyment of the bi-annual Astra Arts Festival; downtown movie night; farmer’s market; Riverside Beach Aquatic Center and park rides and activities.
Also in June, the City welcomed new company Kelly Aerospace Thermal Systems, LLC to its new location at the Independence Municipal Airport.
July began in a relatively predictable fashion. There was yet another opportunity for celebration at the groundbreaking for the new Robert Augustus Wesley Park at Penn Avenue and Walnut Street, and the annual Fourth of July fireworks show went off without a hitch. But fittingly, I guess, for one of the hottest months of the year, Hates broke loose at month’s end as unexpected developments forced the relocation of staff from an unsafe environment at the 100-year-old City Hall and to temporary accommodations in the former hospital building at 811 W. Laurel.
August, as you might guess, was a bit of a blur as our folks scrambled on extremely short notice to evaluate the situation, plan and implement a complete relocation of all departments. Despite the stress of the circumstances and no small degree of chaos, my staff performed admirably to cover all the bases and work as a cohesive team to accomplish this monumental undertaking quickly and efficiently.
After settling into the new facility, another major achievement occurred in September with our conversion to the new Next Generation 911 system in our new dispatch center and a simultaneous physical merger with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office dispatch unit. Our IPD leaders, dispatchers and supervisors and MGSO staff demonstrated superior skill and professionalism in this effort.
As always, October brought its usual intense focus on preparations for and execution of Neewollah support operations in nearly every City department. And, as always, our crews delivered.
Unfortunately, October was also the month we bid farewell to retiring Fire/EMS Chief Rusty Baker, after 25 years of service to the City, along with his sidekick Remington.
November, of course, will forever be known as the month of the southeast Kansas water emergency. While it was a trying time for all involved, for me, it will go down as one of my proudest memories of 2016 because of the exceptional, professional and selfless response of our City team and the phenomenal cooperation of citizens, volunteers, businesses and neighbors.
Earlier this month, we celebrated the milestones of our long-term employees with our annual service awards event. While we conduct this ritual every year, it never ceases to amaze me what a committed and loyal staff we have working at City Hall. It is truly a privilege to work alongside them and an honor to give them much-deserved recognition.
While there are still a few days to go in 2016, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a peaceful wind-down as we turn our attention to our holiday celebrations, our families and our observance of this sacred time of year. On behalf of the City of Independence team, I wish you and your loved ones a blessed Christmas season.
City Manager Micky Webb