La Porte Mayor Tom Demondy speaks to the audience at the La Porte Civic Auditorium during the annual State of the City Address on Thursday. Staff photo by Amanda Haverstick
La Porte Mayor Tom Demondy speaks to the audience at the La Porte Civic Auditorium during the annual State of the City Address on Thursday. Staff photo by Amanda Haverstick
La PORTE — La Porte continued to move forward and grow in 2021, with projects that impacted infrastructure, economic development and quality of life.

“These first two years have been obviously interesting to say the least,” Mayor Tom Dermody said during the annual State of the City Address on Thursday.

“With a global pandemic and not a playbook to know how to handle it, it’s been interesting. Every day, despite that, our team went to work to make La Porte a better place for our residents.”

The address was conducted at the La Porte Civic Auditorium and broadcast on Facebook Live.

Dermody highlighted the year’s priorities, which included infrastructure, housing, public service, economic development and quality of life.

Infrastructure improvements included work to upgrade the city’s century old water and wastewater system.

“We have an old well system that if we don’t upgrade and replace, we could affect 65 percent of the water that our residents receive. Our wastewater system ... has issues causing water to back up under streets as well as basements in homes of our residents,” he said.

One sewer upgrade that saw progress in 2021 was the final phase of the Monroe Manor sewer separation project.

Dermody said they have also upgraded close to 50 percent of the city’s roads, but the city has what he calls a “$30 million road problem” and receives under $2 million a year for upgrades.

“That is why you see us every day in 2021 looking for new technology, new ways to do things, from companies that do it every day, because we will have quality roads across the city of La Porte,” he said.

One significant project remedied the issue of children walking in 18th Street on the way to Kesling Intermediate School and La Porte Middle School.

“Thanks to the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte and thanks to Tim Franke and the City Council, they came up with an 18th Street Greenway that students now safely walk to school and to home every day, and residents get to use it to exercise every day,” the mayor said.

Additionally, a $10 million infrastructure project that has been underway across the city is the installation of fiber optic cable by Surf Broadband Solutions.

The city continued to work on a long-time goal of reducing traffic congestion on Lincoln Way. The North-South Corridor is an estimated $100 million project that would route truck traffic to the east side of the city.

“We need an alternative route. We need a North-South Economic corridor. We need federal support to make that happen,” Dermody said. “We’re going to work with everybody to make sure that they understand our corridor is the number one priority for all of them and they need to help to invest in this.”

An economic development highlight was the 150,000-square-foot Qualls Spec Building being constructed by Quincy Development.

“We took a risk at the Thomas Rose Industrial Park. We said if you build it, they will come,” Dermody said.

In July, Patrick Industries Inc. of Elkhart signed a lease to locate in 60,000 square feet of the building.

Dermody added that they have also signed another manufacturer for the remaining 90,000 square feet.

Regarding public service, Dermody said in 2021 the majority of the La Porte Fire Department’s more than 2,300 calls for service were health-related.

“Moving forward you’re going to see a much different fire department than you did 20 and 30 years ago,” he said.

The La Porte Police Department in 2021 made more than 5,000 traffic stops, with many leading to criminal arrests for warrants or drug-related activity.

“We are going to continue to crack down on the drug traffickers that are in our community, and we will go house to house if we have to every day,” Dermody said.

How the city is addressing drug trafficking was also a question submitted by the public.

“We have a fentanyl problem. We see it coming all around. The first step is to get our department where it needs to be, where we have more than four officers at a shift,” Dermody said.

“We pay money up front to train these officers and for too long have watched them get their training in La Porte and then leave. We are now taking from other departments. We have a package and a culture these officers want to be a part of,” he added.

The city has also partnered with HealthLinc’s Mobile Response Team, a strike team of different groups that work with those who have a drug addiction.

“The police department, the fire department work with these individuals that have a drug problem and connect them to support,” Dermody said.

The pursuit of more housing, along with Dermody’s goal of 30,000 residents by 2030, has also continued.

The redevelopment project in the 700 block of Maple Avenue was one success story he cited. As part of his presentation, the mayor showed slides of the once-condemned apartment building at 701 Maple Ave., which included algae on the roof and unsanitary interior conditions.

“I’m a strong believer in the broken window theory, that one broken window leads to crime, vandalism and things that we no longer accept in La Porte,” he said.

The slides were followed up with renderings of how the building’s apartments will look once the project is completed.

“Thanks to Tommy Viere, a developer that cares and has been a great partner in La Porte, look at these renderings of what people will see when they begin to rent in 701 Maple at the beginning of next year,” Dermody said.

Quality of life success stories included the city’s Friday Night Live Events, the inaugural LakeFest in July, and improvements to city parks.

Park improvements included completion of the Stone Lake multi-use trail, upcoming work on the Clear Lake Loop, an ADA accessible kayak launch at Stone Lake Beach, and a disc golf course and upgraded tennis courts at Kesling Park.

Renovations are also in progress at the La Porte Civic Auditorium, where lighting upgrades have been made and a new roof is in the works.

“The civic needs to be a place that will generate events year long,” Dermody said.

The venue has a slate of concerts for 2022 and is hosting the U.S. Marines National High School Basketball Tournament, which will be aired on ESPN.

“We want not only our residents to believe La Porte is a special place, but we want statewide – everyone – to know that La Porte is the place to be,” Dermody said.
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