Feb. 2, 2019 — 2018 has seen the City of Florence take a number of significant steps in achieving goals set over the past years. Florence Mayor Joe Henry shared those accomplishments during the annual State of the City Address Wednesday.
City Manager Erin Reynolds welcomed approximately 100 community members to the Florence Events Center (FEC) that evening, which featured catered hors d’oeuvres and the mayor’s address.
“Tonight’s State of the City Address is a celebration of the accomplishments of 2018 and a look ahead to what’s in store for 2019,” Henry said. “As I review the achievements of the last year, it will be apparent that 2018 was a one-of-a-kind year that will be hard to beat, but we plan to do just that in 2019.”
Henry listed achievements such as the late January completion of Florence City Hall at 250 Highway 101, which will reopen to the public next Wednesday; continued work on the upcoming ReVision Florence Streetscape and Highway 101 Paving Project; and a continued focus on economic development, increasing living wage jobs and solving Florence’s housing issue.
The mayor then turned to the primary responsibility of the city: providing excellent services to residents.
“Our day-to-day delivery of city services are the foundation of our city operations. Without these, all of our other activities would not be possible,” Henry said. “We estimate that over 90 percent of the city’s budget goes towards operating our various city services. It would therefore be appropriate to spend most of my time talking about these activities. Mostly though, we all expect for these services to just be there and to function as we expect.”
He went on to recap the work done by Public Works Director Mike Miller, listing a number of high-profile projects Miller had overseen in 2018.
The most notable of these was the completion of the new Public Works Department building on Kingwood Drive, but Henry also cited other important projects. These included the installation of three new lighted crosswalks on Highways 101 and 126, newly installed and upgraded utility meters — which reduced the time needed to read meters from three days to three hours — and the completion of a wastewater utility project for Harbor Vista Park.
Henry also spoke of how Public Works employees perform other activities around town.
“They keep our city functioning and the work they perform is vital to keep Florence an amazing place to live, work and play. But did you know that our crews also get to exercise their creativity and take pride in decorating Florence?” he asked. “Have you taken a photo of the seasonal light displays at the Siuslaw River Bridge Interpretive Center, envied the amazing flower baskets, enjoyed a city-hosted event or strolled through the holiday light displays on Bay Street? Our dedicated crew makes it possible for us to have those great experiences in our community.”
Another of Florence’s achievements was the highly successful Florence Night Out, which was held last summer and coordinated by The Florence Police Department.
“We were amazed by the attendance and honored that the Florence Police Department received the Rookie of the Year Award for their efforts from the National Association of Town Watch,” he said.
This award was bestowed at the Florence City Council meeting on Jan. 28.
The address also looked ahead to city service projects on-tap for 2019, including Highway 101 utility system improvements to the north of the city and continued reconstruction and realignment of the roadway along Rhododendron Drive from Wild Winds to 35th Street. Part of that project will be an extension of the multi-use path along Rhododendron Drive.
The mayor then turned to the work done by the Planning Department whose projects in 2018, under the supervision of City Planner Wendy Farley Campbell, have included significant amendments to address housing and economic development opportunities.
Campbell also coordinated the work done by the Environmental Management Advisory Committee, which initiated the abolition of Styrofoam take-out containers within city limits.
The arts also got a mention as Henry talked of both the new state-of-the-art light and sound systems for the FEC and the work done by the Public Arts Committee.
Henry also added that major improvements were coming for two area parks.
“We are looking forward to significant updates at Miller Park that will add a new snack shack and restroom facility, update the baseball and softball fields, and add a new soccer field,” he said. “… The planning phase for the Gallagher Park expansion will also begin this year. These additional amenities will add to our park network and enhance the recreation access on the east side of Highway 101.”
Economic development was the next item on the agenda and Henry was clear that city leaders are working diligently to increase opportunities for business owners and their employees. He reported that the Florence City Council, made up of Henry and councilors Joshua Greene, Geraldine Lucio, Ron Preisler and Woody Woodbury, had already begun to set goals and meet in 2019.
“For economic development, housing and job creation are some of our top priorities. In the case of housing, our staff has worked hard to make our codes more user friendly as well as to provide better service to our customers, in this case builders and developers,” Henry said. “I am pleased that we built 48 new housing units in 2018 and I expect substantially more in 2019 as we focus on affordable housing. Hats off to our staff, our builders and the community for supporting our housing efforts.”
Communication was the next city goal discussed and the work done by Project Manager and Public Information Officer Megan Messmer was recognized and applauded by Henry.
“Our goal is for the public to be able to find the answers to the questions they have about what’s going on. We are all curious about our community and the more we know, the more we can contribute to our shared vision of becoming Oregon’s Premier Coastal Community,” Henry said.
He gave two examples of how Florence is living up to that theme.
“This summer, I was proud to have Florence host the Oregon Mayor’s Association Conference, where mayors from across the state were able to tour the many projects we are working on. They were also able to join us for the Florence’s 125th Year Anniversary Block Party in July,” Henry said. “We hope that many of you were also able to join in on this amazing event. It was more fun than we could have ever imagined!”
At the end of his address, Henry thanked those in attendance and challenged the community at large to connect with the city on social media, via ci.florence.or.us and by planning to attend the City Hall Grand Re-Opening on Tuesday, Feb. 19.