Development was a common theme in 2012
The City of Washington completed a few major projects in 2012, and had time to start a few time.
Among the most significant accomplishments of the city this year was the construction of the wastewater treatment plant. The plant cost about $15 million, one of the most costly projects in Washington’s history. The plant began treating some waste over the summer and by the fall it was treating all the city’s waste.
The wastewater treatment plant was originally planned to be done by 2013. However, last year’s warm summer allowed construction crews to work year-round and complete the project a full year ahead of schedule.
Development was a common theme this year on the city council. The council is negotiating a land-swap with Duane Redlinger whereby the city would receive 46 acres near West Fifth Street for a wellness park. Earlier this year, the wellness park committee presented a proposal to the council for a 46-acre wellness park costing $4.3 million, which would use city land but be funded through grants and donations.
In addition to expanded recreation, the council also sought to enhance business climate in the city. The council created an industrial development fund which will be used for preparing land to attract new industry. The council also approved tax abatement for building owners who wish to improve their properties. It also approved a TIF agreement with Vogel Construction concerning its Oakwood Village Subdivision north of the golf course.
City Administrator Brent Hinson said the completion of the comprehensive plan was another major feat for the city. One of the ideas from the comprehensive plan was the creation of a task force to study the quality of rental housing in the city. That task force was formally created at a council meeting earlier this month.
One of the issues that occupied the council early in the year was the city’s finances. At a work session in January, Hinson warned the council it could be a few hundred thousand dollars if not $500,000 in debt by the end of the fiscal year 2012-2013. After working on the problem heavily in the spring and summer, Hinson was able to report to the council that his newest projection was a slight surplus for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
Hinson expects the housing task force and industrial development will play a major role in council discussions in 2013. He hopes to be able to start moving dirt on new industrial lots by next fall.
Mayor Sandra Johnson said that while the capital projects are the most visible city expenditures, she’s proud of the council funding less obvious but equally impactful projects such as the Oakwood Village subdivision TIF agreement and the tax abatement for residential and commercial sectors.
Johnson sees on the horizon a few projects for 2013, which include the new sidewalk to the Mercy Medical Clinic, water infrastructure improvements, the new crosswind runway at the airport and the control of stormwater infiltration into the sanitary sewer.
Councilor Bob Shepherd mentioned that he looks forward to incremental street improvements in 2013 and the years to come.
“We do a little bit every year to avoid the big project all at once,” he said.
Shepherd echoed Johnson’s concern about water infrastructure.
“We need to address the underground piping,” he said. “It’s not just the water plant that needs work.”
Councilor Fred Stark said another development in 2012 was that the square looks nicer after the collapsed buildings on South Marion Avenue were demolished and that block was cleaned up. He said the downtown looks much better than when he came on as a councilor in 2002.
Stark said he hopes that RAGBRAI takes a southerly route in 2013 and that it comes through Washington.
Councilor Bob Shellmyer said his major concern in 2012 was the city’s finances. He said he doesn’t want the city to focus just on the big budget items. He said the city needs to be responsive to anyone in town with a concern, no matter how small.
For 2013, Shellmyer expects to talk about the airport and the proposal to move the runway. He said he’s not sure enough people will benefit from moving the runway to justify the expense.