Good evening. I would like to take a few moments to share with you some of the accomplishments our Town has made over the past year and address some of the issues I would like for us to focus on in 2012.
First, I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to serve as your Mayor. It has been, and continues to be, truly an honor for me to have the privilege to serve you.
I thank my fellow Council members for their cooperation, dedication, time and hard work in serving you as well. I would also like to thank my wife Angela and my family and the families of my fellow Council members for their support and sacrifices in allowing us to fulfill our elected duties.
In an effort to keep this address brief, I will highlight just a few of the top accomplishments from the past year:
The Town takes pride in being a safe community for our residents. To further ensure we stand by our mission, we are excited to announce the Police Department was awarded a Department of Public Safety Grant which has added TWO additional officers on the road for traffic safety and includes the purchase of equipment and vehicles. The grant will provide 100% funding, totaling $500,000 to the department during its three year period. This is quite significant as no additional funding supplement will be required from the Town's General Fund.
Let me take a moment to express our heartfelt sympathy to the Aiken community on the senseless murder of two public safety officers in the past two months. These two dastardly acts of crime is a microcosm of the violent society we have become. I want to thank our Police Department, especially those officers out on the roadways every day for their valor in protecting the safety and well being of our citizenry. Not only do they personally sacrifice much in their 24/7 schedule, but they put their lives in harm's way, protecting each of us. We thank each and everyone for their commitment and sacrifices to ensure our Town is safe as we go about our daily routines.
A great town has a strong, vibrant economy. People want to live close to jobs and the goods and services needed for daily living. The Town of Lexington is such a place. Along with growth in population and housing, the Town has also experienced a remarkable increase in new businesses. Since the implementation of the Business and Development Services Center, we have added a new business license inspector's position. In the two months since this position was filled, the inspector has made nearly 300 community contacts and been directly responsible for the collection of over $35,000 of business license and permit revenue.
It is a proven fact that our Town continues to grow by leaps and bounds. We have been in the Top 5 as one of the fastest growing municipalities in the state for almost a decade. The 2010 United States Census Bureau showed The Town of Lexington expanded by 83% since 2000. With this growth, comes an increased need for water and sewer infrastructure. In 2010, the Town's water accounts increased by 250 (3.3%); sewer accounts increased by 500 (4.3%). The primary increase in 2010 was due to residential growth. One year later, in 2011, water accounts increased by 300 (3.8%) and sewer increased by 420 (3.5%). The primary growth in 2011 was due to commercial growth. Even though growth rates are well below those experienced in the middle of the last decade, due to the weak economy, it represents solid, sustainable growth for both water and sewer. This sustainable growth bodes well for our future. I have said on many occasions, once we break out of the great recession, our Town and surrounding communities will be on the verge of exploding. This brings me to possibly the biggest infrastructure project in our Town's history – the Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility, which serves 11,000 of our customers and is a partnership with the City of Cayce and the Lexington Joint Water and Sewer Commission. The Town was recently honored at the National League of Cities for this project where we were one of only 24 municipalities, out of thousands, who are members of NLC, selected for our achievement. It speaks to our Town's "building partnership" culture in leveraging limited resources for the benefit of the public health and continued economic prosperity.
Our fiscal responsibility has also led to national recognition. The Finance Department recently received – for the 13th consecutive year – the Governmental Finance Officers Association Comprehensive Annual Finance Report Award and their Budget Award. Staff of the Finance Department are the core of what keeps the Town financially sound, staying mindful of how we spend tax payers' money.
The Town also worked extremely hard on efforts to extend and build new sidewalks, answering the call of our residents to help facilitate a "healthier" lifestyle. With the assistance of grant money, we have installed new sidewalks on Gibson Road (100% funded), George Street (100% funded). Additional sidewalks were installed along Augusta Hwy. and Sunset Blvd by SC DOT. These improvements also add to the safety of our citizens as they walk along our busy roadways.
Another way we have showcased our community was the inaugural Farmers Market, which ran from May – October, opening the 2nd and 4th Saturday's of each month. Citizens had an opportunity to purchase goods such as produce, plants, baked goods, seafood, organic meat and crafts. More than 20 vendors participated throughout the season, creating a source for downtown activity. Stay tuned for details regarding the 2012 Market. This year will bring us a new location. The market will transform into an INDOOR market, located at 206 North Church St, know too many as the old shoebox. Plans are for it to open every Saturday from May-October, giving our citizens more opportunities to purchase fresh produce and local goods. Stay tuned in the coming months for more information and details!
We've had some wonderful accomplishments in the past year – but, there's always more work to be done. Here are a few of the efforts we should focus on in 2012:
The top priority for our Town to ensure the safety of the motoring public and to continue its economic viability is to reign in the traffic congestion we currently face and will continue to face. Our Unified Traffic Improvement Plan is currently in Phase I. Council and staff has worked diligently with SCDOT on this challenging and difficult task. Believe me, it has not been easy. We still face uphill challenges. SCDOT has just announced the second postponement of Phase I of the plan, which includes improvements along Columbia Avenue at Park Road, W. Main St., and W. Butler St. to relieve congestion along this busy corridor. The project is now slated to begin in November 2012. Postponing the long overdue and fully funded project from last November to this November is just not acceptable. Since finding out about this delay, I have reached out to the County Council, The Lexington County Delegation and the Governor's Office for help. Our Town can no longer wait for these long overdue road improvements. We will continue to keep you abreast of this project status.
As many of you know, we have spent the last 18 months working on our Vision Plan. To make certain the Town of Lexington grows responsibly and maintains the culture we all enjoy and endear; we enlisted the assistance of the Boudreaux Group to help develop this long range "crystal balling" initiative. The Vision Plan is in its final draft and will help guide us on what we want our Town to become over the next 20-30 years.
It will focus on such topics as:
Infrastructure – water, sewer, transportation
Public Safety and Community Focused Policing
Quality of Life – especially Green Space and Park Development
Building and Construction Standards
Entrepreneurial, Incubator and Technology Opportunities
We only have limited opportunities as our Town and community grows to do it right. I'm convinced now is the time. Many of the recommendations in the plan will need to be vetted. I feel our Advisory Committee is best suited to help with some of these recommended proposals and I look forward to their engagement.
One of the first phases that will be implemented from the Vision Plan is a beautification project. The Town was fortunate to receive a SC DOT Interchange and Gateway Beautification grant, transforming the Interstate 20/Sunset Blvd corridor into the "front porch" of Lexington. The project was awarded $620,000, collectively, and will include landscaping and signage welcoming visitors and residents to our wonderful Town.
As Mayor, my efforts have been to foster and encourage partnerships. We can accomplish so much more when we work together to leverage our resources. This is more critical now than ever before. The Town continues to partner with many organizations to host such events as Lexington Wine Walk on Main and Oktoberfest. We are also working with Lexington County and the Town's Beautification Foundation to develop a "Courthouse Square" which will include a Law Enforcement Memorial. This project will begin to transform our downtown area into a pedestrian friendly environment. These programs not only help to showcase the heart and soul of our downtown, but promote partnerships to instill a sense of belonging to everyone, that Lexington is YOUR community, YOUR home.
We haven't forgotten about our four-legged friends. Staff is currently putting together proposals to present to Council regarding the construction of a Dog Park. That's right, a Doggie Park! I along with members of Council have seen the impact other jurisdictions in South Carolina had by providing such a facility. It once again has come to the forefront by many of our citizens, who have approached me expressing such a need and desire to add this to the Town of Lexington amenities. This service would help accommodate residents who are restrained by small yards and leash ordinances in place for public safety. I feel it is now time to pursue this avenue as it is viewed by many as a quality of life issue and I wholeheartedly agree.
Council must continue to support ways for the Town to grow strategically, communicate and Build Partnerships, so we remain viable and provide the necessary public information and services without additional burdens on our tax payers.
The Town actively engages in communication efforts such as the ever evolving and expanding social media medium allowing for instant interface between two parties, such as the Town with our citizens. We continuously update our Social Media sites of Facebook, Twitter and You Tube. Communications through traditional media, such as radio, newspaper and TV, are still alive and well. Currently, I do a weekly radio program with one of our newest local stations on the airwaves, community radio 107.9 WLXM, who is actually broadcasting live tonight the State of the Town Address. "Monday with the Mayor" airs most Monday mornings between 10am-10:30am and allows me the opportunity to share with citizen's current events and happenings going on with our Town. Also, I pen a column in Lexington Woman's Magazine "Talk of the Town"; to help readers stay abreast of current issues and events in the Town. I thank them all for providing opportunities for me to share the Town's activities and programs of community interest, at no cost to you.
Tonight, I hope you take from my remarks the theme of growth, partnerships and planning. Growth can be handled responsibly. It is necessary to have a town that is willing to plan, manage and facilitate growth. We don't just talk about Building Partnerships in Lexington – we do it! We find partners, leverage resources and build teams to accomplish what many others only think about. We are here for you and we hope we demonstrate it daily by making Lexington a place you want to live, work, learn, play, worship and raise your family.
On a final note, none of this can be done without your support and assistance. We count on our citizens to be the eyes and ears of our Town. Fostering our relationship will help guide the Town's mission of efficiently and effectively providing essential public services to our citizens, businesses and visitors. The Town further strives to preserve its identity and character, promote recreation and the arts and support excellence in education – ensuring a vibrant future for our Town.
In closing, we have had a successful beginning to our New Year and I wish you all a continued healthy, happy and prosperous 2012. God bless you. God bless our Town, the State of South Carolina and our great nation, the United States of America.