PERU – Peru Mayor Gabe Greer touted lower crime statistics and progress on major projects like the new YMCA facility during his last State of the City address before facing off against a Republican candidate in the November election.

As in past speeches, the Democratic mayor, now in the middle of seeking his second term in office, used his address on Thursday to highlight major projects and partnerships that he says are moving the city forward. 

That includes clearing a former railroad property along the Wabash River to make way for a new $12.4-million YMCA, which has nearly completed its fundraising goals.

Another major project includes renovating a dilapidated downtown building at 1 S. Broadway that formerly contained an illegal pill mill operated by former pain doctor.

The city purchased the building 2017 and is now working with developers to potentially bring millions of dollars of new investment to the structure, including downtown apartments and new businesses, Greer said.

He also highlighted a number of small businesses which have recently opened in the city, including restaurants, retail stores and a message therapy business.

Greer said other major employers such as Progress Rail and Heraeus Electro-Nite are adding new manufacturing lines and expanding their facilities.

However, the mayor did not bring up one of the biggest business developments to hit the city this year: the announcement that Schneider Electric is closing its facility.

The company, which opened in the city in the early 1900s, currently employs 306 workers at its plant at 252 N. Tippecanoe St., making it one of the largest employers in Miami County.

The company shocked employees and union leaders in February with the surprise announcement that it was transferring all production from the Peru plant by the end of the year to other facilities in response to “competitive market dynamics and to meet the needs of Schneider Electric’s customers.”

That announcement, coupled with the closure in March of the Kmart store, which was one of the largest retail options in Peru, has left many residents sour on the city’s economic outlook.

But Greer countered that outlook by pointing to other major improvements in the city, including expanding the hiking and biking trails through town and winning a $500,000 state grant to fund major paving projects.

The city’s building department has cleaned up and removed blighted homes all over the city, opening up the lots for new development.

“Through the efforts of our building department, most of our out-of-town slum lords have left and vowed to never return,” Greer said.

The city is now working to launch a new program which would give rundown properties to developers or others willing to renovate the homes to either sell or move into. 

Another new program will provide $55,000 in total to residents and businesses to repair sidewalks throughout neighborhoods and the downtown.

Greer also cited new crime statistics as an example of the city moving in the right direction.

He said the police department has increased its patrols, which has led to an overall reduction in the calls for service, along with fewer traffic accidents, crimes and drunk-driving incidents.

He said although officers seized more marijuana, they seized 73 percent less heroin and 15 percent less meth last year compared to the previous year, indicating the use of hard drugs is down.

Add it all up, and the city is on the right track, Greer said.

“We have made many improvements that we were only talking about for years,” he said. “ … But we are doing it now. We’re doing it as a community and we’re doing this together. As long as we continue to work together, Peru will see many more great things happen.”

The speech comes about a month before three Republicans will vie for a chance during the primary to face Greer in the General Election. All three candidates have cited economic development as a major part of their platform in the face of Schneider Electric closing.

Greer launched his re-election campaign in January.

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