Jack Ronald – Publisher
The Commercial Review
The way Dan Watson sees it, progress is all about working together.
“As a part-time mayor, I realize the need for a great supporting staff,” Dunkirk’s mayor said in his annual State of the City address to the Jay County Chamber of Commerce this morning.
“We try to utilize all the tools we have,” Watson said at the chamber’s networking breakfast at West Jay Community Center, crediting Dunkirk City Council, city employees, county government and Jay County Development Corporation for providing assistance and support.
“There are numerous people I rely on every day,” he said. “I truly believe that when Dunkirk prospers, Jay County prospers and the State of Indiana prospers.”
Watson cited a number of positive developments over the past 12 months including upgrades to Dunkirk’s water and wastewater treatment systems, renovations to the police department, stabilizing the structure of the Stewart Brothers building, restoration of the exterior of the Dunkirk railroad depot, a blight eradication grant and the launching today of the city’s new website (http://www.cityofdunkirkin.com).
“Am I satisfied? Heck, no. I’m never satisfied,” said Watson. “But we have the people. It’s up to us to keep moving forward.”
On the horizon is a proposed senior housing project on the north side of downtown.
“We’ve secured ownership of all those properties,” said Watson.
Now it’s a matter of waiting for word on a grant application that will set the project into motion.
Also on the agenda for the year ahead are plans for converting the former Stewart Brothers building into a new home for Dunkirk Public Library and The Glass Museum.
“In the past year, we’ve spent $180,000 in EDIT (Economic Development Income Tax) funds to secure that building,” the mayor said. “Now we’re trying to come up with the funding to finish it.”
Work has already begun on the blight eradication project, which will involve the demolition of at least nine abandoned houses in Dunkirk.
“These are the worst of the worst,” Watson said. “It’s nice to be able to do that all at one time.”
Watson added that he is especially pleased about improvements to the water and sewage utilities in the past few years.
“If we don’t have good utilities, we can’t grow,” he said.
Though some have expressed concern over the city’s utility rates, Watson pointed out that no other projects are on the horizon. Dunkirk, for example, does not have any combined sewer overflows (CSOs), a problem that has plagued both Portland and Redkey.
“We’re done (with utility improvements),” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to retain our rates.”
Ahead in 2015 will be a number of street paving projects and efforts to attract new industry to Dunkirk Industrial Park.
“We have available ground,” the mayor said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting it marketed.”
Watson noted that the disappearance of Dunkirk resident Brianna DiBattiste, whose body was later found in Jay County, cast a dark cloud over the Dunkirk community for much of 2014. But even that sad event could bring positive events.
“It just brought this community together in a way I’ve never seen before,” said Watson.
Efforts by Pastor Randy Davis to establish Brianna’s Hope, a support group for individuals and families dealing with addiction, continue to expand.
“When God calls, Randy jumps,” said Watson. With Brianna’s Hope, “out of one tragedy comes something good.”