PITTSBURG, Kan. —
At the 2012 State of the City address at Memorial Auditorium Wednesday morning, it took Mayor John Ketterman 30 minutes to run through the laundry list of the city’s accomplishments in the past year.
But at least a few minutes were dedicated to the challenges the city still faces, including delinquent property taxes of almost $250,000, and being understaffed in the Police Department, he said.
While an additional police officer and dispatcher have been budgeted for 2013, the department still is down two positions, Ketterman said. This comes at a time when the crime rate index has decreased slightly nationwide.
“Pittsburg continues to struggle with high property crime rates, which is indicative of both the struggling economy and drug related problems,” he said.
The city is trying to work toward a long-term staffing solution.
Among the positives in the past year, Ketterman said, were the addition of 175 new jobs at existing Pittsburg businesses, and several new businesses opening in downtown Pittsburg.
The Public Utilities Department completed a major sanitary sewer upgrade along the U.S. Highway 69 Bypass to prevent the intrusion of water from a nearby mine shaft, reconstructed 300 manholes throughout the city, and completed an overhaul of the water treatment plant.
But the department continues to struggle with aging water lines, which during the drought and heat of the summer saw more than 200 breaks that necessitated emergency repairs. The city began a 10-year plan last month to begin a phased replacement of water lines, starting with the Turner Edition to the north.
The revenue generated by a sales tax approved by voters in 2010 is generating nearly twice what was estimated, at $900,000 annually. The Public Works Department completed almost five miles of street resurfacing projects this year using those funds.
Ketterman noted the city of Pittsburg is “not immune to current economic hardships facing today’s cities,” but said “we are preparing to meet those challenges head on.”
“Pittsburg is a busy, aggressive city with a bright future,” he said.
Blake Benson, Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce president, told the capacity crowd of business and civic leaders, city staff, and representatives from Pittsburg State University and Pittsburg schools, that his organization “stands ready to stand next to the city of Pittsburg in addressing these,” and encouraged others to get involved.
“We need everybody in this room as well, because there are a lot of issues that we all know about — cleaning up our community, increasing our curb appeal — that the city (government) is tackling, and we need to get behind them as we address this,” Benson said. “There is a really role for everybody to play as we do that.”
Mayor John Ketterman also noted last year’s sale of one of the largest commercial buildings in the state: Superior Industries. Closed in 2008, it was purchased last summer by locally owned Jake’s Fireworks.