Representatives recap 2015 and look to future during City, County and Village meeting

By Ryne Turke on January 13, 2016 at 9:33pm

Not to be outdone by President Barack Obama, a State of the City, County and Village was held at the Jacksonville Municipal Building Wednesday night.

Hosted by the League of Women Voters, Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard, Morgan County Commissioner Bill Meier and South Jacksonville Mayor Steve Waltrip took the stage to review the highlights of 2015 and what to look forward to this year.

Construction dominated Jacksonville in 2015. Mayor Ezard stated $18-million was spent on projects like the third phase of the Downtown Square, improving North Main Street and the Jacksonville Pavilion, sidewalk replacements and new bathhouses at Lake Jacksonville.

Ezard said the biggest moment for Jacksonville in 2015 was breaking ground on the new water treatment plant last fall.

“And at this time we are 17 percent complete on that. We got a late start, however if you had driven by Hardin Avenue and saw the big hole, there is now a lot of steel and concrete in that hole. We are making very good progress. We anticipate for that to open in the fall of 2017”.

Ezard also looks forward to a potential resurfacing of Morton Avenue over the summer.

Ezard provided some safety statistics for 2015. Jacksonville firemen responded to 1,901 incidents in 2015, which was a 23 percent increase from the previous year.  The total value of property involved in fire incidents totaled $8.5 million, but only five-percent of that property was lost.

The Jacksonville Police Department responded to 26,666 calls last year, an eight percent increase from 2014. Ezard added that the newly hired school resource officer will make his first full time appearance at Turner Jr. High in 2016.

Ezard says the city budget “is balanced” with six to seven months of reserves in the bank.

Leaving the city in 2015 was long time Parks and Lakes supervisor Bruce Surratt. Community Development Director Kelly Hall has taken over the reins of that department.

Ezard complemented the community for their role in winning two major competitions: the PetSafe $100,000 dog park and the $25,000 Levitt Amp Concert Series.

Construction was a focal point of Morgan County Commissioner Meier’s speech as well. Morgan County began a capital improvement fund a decade ago, which was used to build a new roof at the Morgan County Jail and purchase digital radios for deputies.

Meier was thrilled to finally see progress made on the joint dispatch center in 2015.

“Right now we have three dispatch centers: the county, city and Passavant Area Hospital. We are going to combine that and put them all in one spot. When I got on the board that was one of the big things, so this has been ten years.”

The Franklin and Nortonville road district were consolidated in 2015. Meier says Concord and Chapin are being targeted for consolidation in the near future.

Meier also welcomed Gray Noll to his new role as Morgan County State’s Attorney.

South Jacksonville Mayor Waltrip was the final speaker of the night. Waltrip addressed that there were some “bumps in the road” in 2015, but his staff has continued to work hard and make the village as strong as possible.

“Lets put together a proactive plan for some direction moving forward. The trustees never had an idea of what direction to go, because we weren’t really informed. This is going to be an active board and I think that is positive. So we are going to address issues.”

The village saw a revolving door of police chiefs in 2015. Richard Evans retired in the spring when allegations from an ISP investigation began heating up. Mike Broaddus served as an interim chief for several months before stepping down, being re-hired the next day, and then once again returning to his original role with the police force. Current chief, Josh Hallock, took over the role near the end of 2015.

Looking forward, Waltrip would like to see a new water tower constructed in the village to better serve the community. Waltrip hopes the village grows in 2016 and become a bigger part of Morgan County.

Members of the audience raised a variety of questions after the meeting about the Jacksonville Developmental Center, Grierson Days and if any major companies are coming to the county.

Listen to the full event below: