There are those who hate change and fight ideas of even looking at something different while others thrive in it.”

During Mayor Chad Frank’s State of the City Address Thursday evening, Frank touched on many topics, including how life is a constant change, just as a city is.

“I am one who does not settle for the norm and constantly evaluate myself for change and improvement. Even though stagnant water appears to be the same day after day, it is changing, just in the wrong direction creating undesirable consequences. We as a city have been stagnant going in the wrong direction for many years and now left with many undesirable consequences that will take years and for some generations to change.”

Frank mentioned some things that needed to change were Fayette County’s health outcome ranking and health factor ranking.

“Out of 92 counties our health outcome ranking is 90 and health factor rating is 91. Even though we have improved, those numbers are still not good at all.

“The County Health Rankings are based on a model of community health that emphasizes the many factors that influence how long and how well we live. The Rankings use more than 30 measures that help communities understand how healthy their residents are today (health outcomes) and what will impact their health in the future (health factors). An example of an undesirable consequence that is generational is from our peak in 1980 to the most recent data in 2020 we have lost over 17 percent of our population. Since 1990, we have lost 12 percent which is over 3,000 people. This did not happen overnight and changing this will also take time, if not generations. These are just two examples of many, but ones that we can improve on with change.”

Frank said the process of change began during his first two years by evaluating and fine tuning a focused management strategy which is still ongoing and will be one that never stops.

He went on to say that some departments have never had a formal management review or structure put in place which also produced an undesirable consequence.

“There are still problems to be solved and we continually look at the process to see how we can improve. Some of the changes needed require a mindset change that only time will fix. The process does not always mean reducing or eliminating positions, but rather identifying the issues and needs and providing solutions to them.”

Frank stated that each city department has underwent changes and there have been areas that have improved tremendously and some areas that still need work. Overall, Frank feels things are looking up.

“The city has around 74 miles of roads which is an estimated cost of $35-40 million to pave. Since the Community Crossing grant, starting in 2016, the city has averaged around $600,000 a year in paving which would put us on a 60-to-75-year cycle. The problem is exacerbated by the already dilapidated road conditions and poor ratings of many of the streets do to not having a maintenance program developed. We have researched, talked with other communities, and spoken with specialists to develop our own asphalt maintenance program that will begin this year. The purchase of the hot box and asphalt tools was a major step in this process because without the right tools the job cannot be properly completed. Crack sealing, mastic, and rejuvenator are now part of the long-term maintenance plan. Potholes will no longer just be filled, which is a short-term band aid, but rather will be properly fixed for a longer-term solution.”

Each City department has underwent changes, including the Fire Department which received new and updated software.

“Re-instating the Assistant Chief position allowed for completed inspections and increased training, so when emergency services are required, highly trained professionals are taking care of the crisis and are aware of yours and their own safety. Another area of focus for the Fire Department is our Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating. The ISO scores fire departments on how they are doing against its organization’s standards to determine property insurance costs which affects your insurance premiums and businesses alike. When businesses look for a place to locate, the ISO is a determining factor of whether some business can even look at a community. Our goal is to constantly find ways to improve our rating in order to make the community safer, more attractive, and a cost-effective place to be for businesses to locate.”

The Police Department has been taking a large number of fentanyl off the streets, enough that could have killed 20,400 to 34,000 people.

“That is significant and could have been detrimental to our community. We have also focused on a vehicle replacement program since a formal plan has never been in place. Past practices were doing the best they could and mostly purchased used equipment since there was not enough funding to purchase new. Normally, two vehicles were purchased at a time, which put the department on a 15-year cycle with used equipment. We are working to develop a vehicle replacement program so our police department can operate efficiently and effectively. Body cameras for the officers were purchased with a grant and will go online this year after waiting on the cameras for several months due to supply chain issues and now trainer availability from the company Policing across the country has been negatively impacted by Mayors who are soft on crime choosing not to arrest criminals. I have not and will not take that approach so our businesses can operate, and residents feel safe knowing that criminals are not welcome here and will be dealt with appropriately.”

EMS had a record-breaking year answering 4,419 calls.

“This is not necessarily a good thing but does establish the need for their services and the need to make sure we are able to provide this service in the future. Last year was a particularly challenging year, not just for our department, but across the entire country with increased call volumes and staffing issues. The number of paramedics needed in Indiana alone has made if extremely difficult to staff our ambulances which causes multiple other issues within the department that must be dealt with. It takes two years of schooling to become a paramedic and very few places that offer the program. The billing rates were also an area that were evaluated and updated making sure the income stream is protected. Once again, a vehicle replacement program is being established outlining replacement plans and payment strategies. Fortunately, the EMS has a non-reverting fund established that puts money aside for repairs and vehicle purchases, but there is not a formal plan in place outlining timelines and funding for replacement.”

Frank stated the Parks Department was thriving and there were many plans in the works.

“The Parks Department has done a phenomenal job raising funds, $457,000, to repair dilapidated facilities and to build new projects promoting and creating placemaking. 2nd Street Park will be under construction shortly converting an old playground into a wonderful new park for all to enjoy. The Longwood Bridge has been in a state of decline for many years and is now on schedule to be repaired in part due to a generous donor who funded more than half of the cost. The baseball complex has been a project we have been working on from day one. We have some issues with the work that was previously completed by not meeting all of the requirements making us ineligible to apply for more grants from the DNR. Fixing it will be expensive and we still won’t have any baseball fields. The first step was to determine what kind of facility we really need so a study, paid for by the Lions Club, was done to see what our community and surrounding areas would support. This study has been completed and a preliminary design was created which included fixing all the issues so we could see what the cost would be, which is well over $4 million. We have a lot of work to do and are currently working with Stone Municipal on ways to accomplish the goal of moving our current fields out of the flood plain.”

Grants have been a key asset to going forward with improvements in Connersville, including placemaking projects and equipment needs for city departments.

“We received a grant to build a marketing program for our Rural Opportunity Zone on the north end of the city. The Opportunity Zones was a Trump initiative incentivizing developers to invest in underserved areas that typically do not see investments with savings in capital gains. Because of this we now have one development taking place in the Opportunity Zone with others being worked on. We were awarded $250,000 to help businesses impacted by Covid-19 and to supply high speed Wi-Fi internet at Roberts Park and in the City lot by the courthouse so kids that did not have internet could complete their schoolwork when they were not able to be at school. We received $60,000 from OCRA to develop our comprehensive plan which will be a roadmap to shape and guide the future of our city along with an implementation plan so it is not just another book sitting on the shelf collecting dust. For many years groups have met to come up with ideas and projects to improve our community. The last comprehensive plan was in 2011 which is now outdated and didn’t establish a plan for implementation. Early last year we engaged a consultant to help the City apply for a grant to help fund a comprehensive plan, which we were awarded. We received a $250,000 Housing Rehabilitation grant to help 12-15 homeowners rehabilitate or install ADA items in their home with most, if not all of those projects starting this year. There was $77,826.50 awarded for bullet proof vests, a defibrillator for the Parks Department, and EMS equipment. The Community Crossing grant which is a 50-50 match for paving was awarded at $593.580.73 allowing us to utilize around $1.1 million for paving. Lastly, we were awarded the HELP grant which will give us a million-dollar match when we are done. This was an initiative by OCRA to help communities develop plans and strategies to help with the ARPA funds each community received. We had to commit one million of the funds to receive the extra million, but now we will have 2 million dollars to designate to placemaking projects.”

Mayor Chad Frank touched on many other topics, including future plans of the Visteon building which was bought by Phoenix Investors, Market Street Plaza downtown, a new paved walking trail that will allow people to walk to the new Wal-Mart, Celebration in the Ville in May, Farm to table Dinner in August, and more.

“Positive change is starting to happen, but we cannot let up. It will take a continual community wide effort of making personal choices for positive change to show everyone that this is the place to invest, work, and live . {/span}My personal goal is when people who live in the surrounding communities are looking for something to do, they choose Connersville because we provide better placemaking opportunities. This will require participation form everyone, but together, we as a community can change the current undesirable consequences to desirable opportunities, building a bright and successful future for generations to come.”
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