Portland Progressing

Mayor touts improvements, Notes there is more work to do

Ray Cooney – Managing Editor
The Commercial Review

That was Mayor Randy Geesaman’s message at Tuesday’s state of the city address hosted by Jay County Chamber of Commerce at Jay County Hospital.

Geesaman touted positive economic development news and a variety of public works projects in recent years while putting the focus for the future on downtown revitalization.

“As a community we’ve tackled many important issues and come up with solutions,” said Geesaman. “There’s some that would say, ‘Gosh mayor, you’ve spent a lot of money.’ Well, I would simply say that we’ve invested in our community for a great place to live for our children and grandchildren.”

The mayor praised the quality of the Lafayette Street extension and said that he plans to continue a program that provides funding to replace sidewalks. He also noted improvements that have been made to the restrooms and horseshoe pits at Haynes Park.

He’s looking forward to the northwest sewer, Indiana 26 East (Water Street) and Portland Water Park projects, which are scheduled for this year.

The sewer project is designed to help alleviate flooding on the west side of Portland, while the Indiana 26 work will include new water and sewer lines, paving, sidewalks and lighting from Meridian Street to the eastern city limits.

And the $3.3 million water park project will result in the construction of a new facility, which will replace the 54-year-old Portland Pool and include zero entry, a slide, a lazy river, a lily pad walk and a competition pool.

“This beautiful Portland Water Park will have something for everyone,” said Geesaman of the project, which is being funded 68.4 percent (up to $2.25 million) by the city and the remaining 31.6 percent by private donations. “No matter what your age group is, there will be something for everyone to enjoy.”

Geesaman noted a variety of local business, including FCC Indiana, Motherson Sumi, Fort Recovery Industries, IOM Grain and Berne Ready Mix, that have expanded or moved to the community. And he said there is availability for continued growth in the industrial park.

He added that it’s important to continue developing initiatives like the manufacturing academy at Jay County High School in order to make sure local businesses and industries have a strong workforce.

“We will be able to improve, over time, and do a much better job of providing employees for the job opportunities that employers will have available as we continue to grow our community,” he said.

In looking toward the future, Geesaman mentioned the possible runway extension at Portland Municipal Airport, improving flooding issues throughout the city and working to continue to comply with an agreed order that requires the city to eliminate combined sewer overflows by 2025.

And his focus for the future, he said, will be on working to continue to breathe life into the downtown area. He mentioned problem properties like the McClurg, Bailey and Tom and Rods buildings on West Main Street and the need for the community to come together in order to spur revitalization.

“We have to have a concerted effort between the property owners and the city to come up with a plan,” said Geesaman, mentioning successful ventures in Bluffton, Farmland and Daleville. “Unfortunately, some of these buildings are already a public hazard, so me must take action.”