In the State of the City address Tuesday, Mayor Richard Kopczick highlighted Morris' numerous accomplishments in the last fiscal year, ranging from newly annexed property to the promises kept to citizens.
"When we look back on the numerous projects that the city has completed, sometimes the history of how we arrived here today is often forgotten," Kopczick said during his address. "The hard work, tenacity and dedication necessary to plan for a major project and then see it through to completion is a long and arduous process."
Tuesday was May 1, the first day of the city's new fiscal year. So the last council meeting of the 2011-12 fiscal year was held Tuesday morning, and it was followed by the first council meeting of fiscal year 2012-13.
The budget for the new fiscal year was approved at the last meeting, and the mayor's appointments were announced at the first meeting. The first meeting of the fiscal year ended with the mayor's address.
The first example Kopczick shared of hard work is the Brisbin Road interchange, which is becoming a reality.
"Though the Illinois Department of Transportation project broke ground last year, the efforts actually began more than 10 years ago by the city," he said. "Shortly after I became mayor in 2001, the city looked at the many benefits of an interchange and the potential for economic development, and began preparing for the new eastside sewage treatment plant."
The plant and its infrastructure were built to attract business and jobs, Kopczick said. It took several years to construct, but as a result of Morris' proactive planning, the city is ready today to serve any potential development in the Brisbin Road area.
The mayor noted the newly annexed property at 585 Gore Road, which is a nearly five-acre parcel where the AT&T building is located. AT&T has leased the building since 1971, but the property was not annexed into the city.
"This annexation, along with 31 one other annexations over the last 11 years, has brought thousands of acres into Morris city limits," Kopczick said. "As a result of these annexations and the developments that have occurred, the city has seen its equalized assessed value increase over 70 percent from $167 million in 2001 to $288 million in 2011.
"This is the type of progress that will ensure that your municipal tax rate will not increase in the city of Morris, which few other cities can claim. From 2001 through 2011, the city has held the line on taxes by maintaining a .65 cent tax multiplier for the city's property taxes. Limiting taxes is an important issue that I will continue to promote as we move forward, and I hope the city council will join me in maintaining the city's tax rate."
Mayor Kopczick also focused on some physical changes the city made in the last fiscal year.
He highlighted the completion of the first phase of the Morris Municipal Airport's snow removal equipment building and the groundbreaking of the Habitat for Humanity subdivision on part of the old Federal Paperboard property on the east side of town.
The interior of the equipment building is currently under construction. The building is a 4,800-square-foot structure attached to the airport's current corporate hangar. Half of the addition is a garage and the other half is an office area, including bathrooms and a pilot lounge.
"Upon the completion of the interior build out, we will demolish two more of the old buildings and continue to make our airport a desirable destination for corporate customers," Kopczick said.
The city also is in the process of acquiring property for the runway extension project to the north. The city has a state and federal grant of $3.5 million for the properties, and it has obtained three of the five parcels it needs. The city will be reimbursed 97.5 percent of the cost of the runway project.
Last month, the groundbreaking for the first of five homes was held for the future "Hancock-Page Subdivision," which is a project by the Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity.
"This too was years in the making and a first step in redeveloping (the old papermill) property into a viable tax base for our community," Kopczick said.
Another important issue the council faced this past fiscal year was the proposal of a host agreement with Republic Waste to expand Environtech Landfill. Numerous meetings, negotiations and public hearings were held on the matter.
"I'm proud of the way these procedures were conducted as it provided everyone an opportunity to be heard — a goal of any good government," Kopczick said. "This was an important issue that impacted both fiscal and environmental issues important to the people of the city.
"In the end, I felt it was my duty to keep my promise made nearly a dozen years ago to the citizens of Morris and cast the tie-breaking vote against expanding the landfill. As your mayor, I will continue to diligently work to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of this community."
MORE TO COME
In the new fiscal year, the city has plans for many more projects, including a mandated four-year construction project to eliminate the city's permitted sewer overflows. This is required by the state.
With that, the city also has applied for a grant to fund a detailed study of the city's areas that are designated as a flood plain, Kopczick said. With the grant and completion of the study, the city will have documentation on the boundaries of the flood plain areas, and the hope is to relieve some of the homeowners in this area from having to continue to pay for flood insurance.
This summer will bring a lot of road construction. In addition to its usual street maintenance, there will be widening to U.S. 6 west to three lanes between Lakewood and Edgewater streets and signalization of the Lakewood intersection. This will make the area safer and attract more retail development, he said.
In addition, IDOT will be working on Illinois 47 north, preparing for a future project to widen it to four lanes, including turn lanes. IDOT will also work on the Lisbon Road overpass for a future new bridge with a sidewalk.
"Even through these tough economic times, the city has been able to maintain revenues, limit spending all the while continuing to provide the services that our constituents expect. This success is due to a team effort of city employees and elected and appointed officials," the mayor said in closing.
"I would like to thank all of those who have worked in making this not just an attractive town, but a true home for so many people. It has taken many years of hard work, dedication and long hours by many, but I am proud of how we have successfully built a solid foundation for our future."