NAPPANEE — Nappanee Mayor Phil Jenkins took a look back at the history of Nappanee in his State of the City address Monday night before looking forward as Nappanee will be celebrating 150 years in 2024.

He thanked those who braved the “treacherous weather” to attend as he said, “2024 marks the 150th year since the beginning of the new railroad and the founding of our community. Looking back, I am grateful for the roots that were established, allowing Nappanee to not only survive, but to thrive. Many individuals and families took the opportunity provided to them and built successful businesses, provided necessary services and established a strong and willing spirit to work hard and care for one another.

“Looking forward, I am excited to see what we can accomplish together over the next 50 years,” he continued. “What will future generations say about us? Will we have the same entrepreneurial spirit and continue to improve the quality of life for all residents of Nappanee?

“As I begin my third term as your mayor, I would like to point back to all of the previous mayors and leaders that have laid the solid foundation for a promising today and a brighter tomorrow,” he said and also thanked the residents, businesses and churches in the community. “I am humbled and honored to lead this great city for another four years and look forward, with excitement, to what we are yet to accomplish.”

“The State of the City allows us to celebrate our collective successes, identify challenges and opportunities for improvement, and set a course for a better future,” he said as he thanked the elected officials, city employees, board and commission members as well as partners across the region and the state “that share in the vision of a stronger, safer, and more prosperous environment to start a business, raise a family and share in the joys and challenges of life.”

“Thanks to our Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Knight, his staff and the city council, we are pleased to report that we continue to be in a strong financial position. Through a history of balanced budgets, healthy cash reserves and conscientious spending, we are able to complete larger capital projects and provide necessary services to continue to enhance our quality of life,” he said.

The mayor added that “2023 was another successful year in Nappanee as we continue to improve our city through enhanced services, improved infrastructure and new growth.”

He said the largest project was the reconstruction of Woodview Drive and said once the weather warms up, they’ll hold a ribbon cutting. He pointed out the crowd-funding campaign the parks department completed that will bring pickleball to the community in the spring and said, “This is an example of residents identifying a need and us, collectively, implementing a way to make it a reality.”

Mayor Jenkins mentioned partnerships that brought about projects like the development of Wellfield subdivision and the Wellfield soccer complex. “Thanks to the cost-sharing between the city of Nappanee and the schools, the soccer complex is one of the best venues in northern Indiana.”

He spoke about the change to curbside recycling and the grant the city just secured to help with the costs. He also spoke of regional partnerships, like the one between the city and Elkhart County Regional Sewer District to eliminate septic systems in unincorporated areas.

“While 2023 did not see the number of permits and buildings increase as in years past, we continue to see modest growth and activity,” he said. “All sectors, including industrial, commercial and residential saw significant growth.

“2023 saw the retirement of longtime Utilities Superintendent and community volunteer Gale Gerber. Every community needs a Gale Gerber,” Jenkins said and wished him all the best in his retirement.

“As we moved from a contracted redevelopment director/chamber director the city of Nappanee hired Mark Collins as our new director of Development. Mark works with the planning department and oversees the redevelopment commission,” he said, adding that they look forward to his contributions working with new and existing businesses to locate or expand in Nappanee. He added that he looked forward to collaborating with new chamber director Bill Dutkowski and local business partners.


What will this year and beyond look like?

Jenkins said, “The city continues to work on several capital projects and looks forward to completing some master planning that will shape our future. Preliminary design and pricing on the new fire station is progressing as we hire additional full-time staff. We intend to have more details to share this spring and be able to secure funding to be able to start construction this fall or early next spring.”

He shared that roads and streets are looking at a few short- and long-term projects, including adding the center lane at U.S. 6 near the airport this spring/summer, prioritizing extending Jackson Street to C.R. 1350 as they look at potential financing and continuing to work with the Federal Railroad Association and CSX to improve railroad crossings.

He shared that the Redevelopment Commission has hired a consultant and is working on a master plan for downtown, which he said, “Continues to be a focus for my administration. Downtown is the heartbeat of our community, and we want to see that success continue for many generations,” and invited downtown businesses and community members to get involved.

Jenkins said that the city has also hired a consultant to assist the planning, streets and park departments conduct a feasibility study for “adding sidewalks and paths that will connect neighborhoods in a more efficient way. Our goal is that this process will move forward into a phased construction plan for creating better access to amenities and destinations around Nappanee and enabling greater physical fitness opportunities and a healthier lifestyle. We will also continue to partner with Wakarusa and Connect in Elkhart County to establish a trail between our two communities and tie into the network of other trails within the county.”

He said as the city continues to look at overall long-term growth, the Planning Department will work with Michiana Area Council of Governments for assistance with the overall master plan, looking at land use, zoning, utilities and transportation.

“While we focus on Nappanee, we recognize the various partners that share in our collective goal of embracing the place,” he said, mentioning the various organizations within the city, county, region, state and country that he said were “key to our success.”

The mayor said feedback and suggestions from residents and others in the community are valuable. “We continue to look for opportunities to engage and share information with our residents and businesses.”

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