Portage mayor looks back on first two years in office
BY JOHN ROBBINS Post-Tribune correspondent February 20, 2014 10:56AM
Updated: February 21, 2014 2:02AM
PORTAGE — Portage Mayor James Snyder delivered the first of three state of the city addresses early Thursday morning to a group of Portage High School government students, whom he called his “most important group to speak before.”
Snyder recalled his first “two years and two months,” as packed with daunting challenges but overall, his goals were to move the city towards greater efficiency and aim for excellence in results.
He thanked the city council for their efforts to moving the city ahead and gave a shout-out to Portage clerk/treasurer Chris Stidham. Snyder said that Stidham’s assistance with city employee union contract negotiations, “went above and beyond his duty in helping make Portage a better city.”
Snyder called the completion of all union contracts last year the “single most important accomplishment of the administration.”
Snyder called his first year in office a “state of correction,” his second year a “state of communication,” and proposed making the year ahead a “state of construction and customer service.”
He vowed to transform the streets with a $7 million paving, sidewalk and drainage program, and told the students that in his first year in office the city could only afford to pave half a mile of road with the $90,000 budgeted.
A new Department of Community Development will oversee $30 million in public investment over the next two years that will allow “Portage to stay fresh, vibrant and sustainable.”
Among the many new projects to commence during 2014 are:
Founder’s Square, in downtown Portage, will see the start of construction of a new amphitheater and splash pad.
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, a joint facility shared with the National Park Service, will see major new construction and rejuvenation begin and a joint project with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers will be initiated.
The Portage Police department will be remodeled, a new fire station will be constructed and a new street and sanitation facility is already underway.
He called the recent remodeling of city hall that replaced drafty windows, repaired a leaking roof and made the building accessible to the disabled “a beacon” that sends a signal to local business to fix up their buildings.
Snyder urged the city council to “get off the fence and vote for a park department bond,” that was voted down in late 2013. “I was blindsided by the vote against the bond,” he said.
He joined his political adversary, council member Mark Oprisko in calling for an investment in parks and told critics of the bond issue to “tell residents what part of the bond is fluff.”
And despite the recent criticism of sending snowplows to Gary to help them dig out after a snowstorm, the mayor renewed his commitment to helping neighboring communities. “For many, regionalism is a lot of talk. For Portage and Gary, it is action.”
“We have achieved a better Portage in two short years,” the mayor said in closing. “We can only achieve greatness with your help.”