Gottman delivers State of the City address

Many Vandalia residents clamor for economic growth, and Mayor Rick Gottman said last week that figures support his claim that Vandalia is in trend of growth.

A lot of communities are concerned about their growth, with whats going to happen, Gottman said during his State of the City address at last Wednesdays Vandalia Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Our tax base keeps climbing, while others are starting to fall, he said.

In making his case for recent growth, the mayor cited the construction of the Kaskaskia College Vandalia Center, Fast Stop Travel Center and Holiday Inn Express, as well as the construction of a new home for Vandalia Tractor & Equipment and the plans of Hosick Motors and First National Bank to build new facilities.

The city is experiencing such growth, Gottman said, because of long-standing commitments to economic development by himself and the Vandalia City Council.

Its one of the goals Ive had since first running for office, and its also been a goal of the council, the mayor said.

For such growth to occur, the city has to make ongoing enhancements to its existing infrastructure as well as take on new infrastructure improvements, he said.

Gottman said that infrastructure projects within the past year have included the oiling of two-thirds of city streets, having the water tower on the west side of town refurbished and the replacement of numerous water lines throughout the city.

Making infrastructure improvements is very important for economic development, Gottman said. Part of that effort is making water and sewer available in the area of the citys western Interstate 70 interchange, he said.

We have people looking at the west interchange on a daily basis, it seems, Gottman said.

In the near future, the city will be making a major upgrade to the water distribution equipment at Vandalia Lake. That will include new pumps and new water distribution lines.

Gottman also said the committee is committed to making enhancements to the water distribution system throughout the committee. We want to get the city looped, so all residents can have the same kind of water pressure, he said.

The infrastructure improvements on the west side, as well as an extension of the citys western boundaries, have been priorities, Gottman said, because thats the only direction in which we can grow.

But, he emphasized, those efforts are not coming at the expense of the downtown business district.

We all know that the downtown cant be what it was in the 1950s and 1960s, but we want to bring the downtown back as much as we can, because that it our heritage, Gottman said.

A major plan to enhance the downtown business district includes the downtown infrastructure and streetscape improvements. Once the city receives specifications for infrastructure work from its consulting engineers, HMG Engineers of Carlyle, it will put that work out for bid.

Then, once it sees how much the improvements to the water, storm sewer and sanitary sewer lines will cost, it will proceed with the streetscape facet of that project.

The mayor said the city will continue to use its TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District funds and Enterprise Zone benefits to support improvements to existing businesses and to lure new business to town.

For all of the good that the downtown improvements will bring, Gottman said, the work will have a dramatic effect on the citys financial picture.

We will be spending monies that were put back (some time ago), and well probably start seeing some deficits once we do this work, he said, adding that the city has worked to keep the citys finances in good shape.

The city has also made its commitment to economic development clear by adding the position of director of economic development and tourism.

We hired JoAnn Givens in November 2007, and since shes come on board, shes made a lot of contacts, Gottman said. Shes getting the word out about Vandalia.

Ive been pleased with what she has done so far, as far as working to retain the business we have and to bring more businesses to our community, he said.

Gottman said that while it is the job of city officials to take care of local residents, business and industry, they cant do the job alone.

He praised the members of the Chamber of Commerce for their help in economic development, and also noted the participation of other local business owners.

It takes all of us working as a team, Gottman said.

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