From fielding phone calls and speaking with residents to crunching numbers and brainstorming solutions, Mayor Tom Arthur has found that running a city is not exactly the typical eight-to-five job.
Managing to slip away from the bustle at City Hall as employees prepared to transition from old year to new, the mayor paused to ponder the events of 2004 and share his plans for 2005.
The former high school math teacher and City Councilman can also add one year as mayor to his list of credentials. Arthur laughed as he recalled discussing with his wife the advantages of moving from a teaching position, which in spite of the open summers left him grading papers and making lesson plans late into the evening, to a city government position with what he thought would be the occasional phone call and meeting outside his average work day.
"I figured out about Jan. 2 that wasn't going to work," he said. "There's a lot more involved than I thought there would be."
Mayor is like CEO
As mayor of Brazil, Arthur explained, his role is much like that of a CEO of a corporation. While he ensures daily operations are running smoothly, he must also make sure he is fulfilling campaign promises to his constituents by working toward the goals he set before taking office.
Mayor uses campaign goals as checklist
The mayor said his campaign goals have served as a kind of checklist over the course of 2004. That sizable to-do list includes establishing a plan to repave every street, improving employee pay and benefits, being fiscally responsible with the city's funds, creating jobs, cleaning up the city, eliminating burnt-out homes, making homeowners responsible for their lawns and fighting illegal drug use.
City Council experience was 'invaluable tool'
While his background in mathematics has been useful when it comes to budgeting municipal funds, Arthur said his experience on the Brazil City Council has been one of his greatest assets. Anyone considering running for mayor in the future should first consider a stint on the Council, he added.
"The reason I say that is it's such an invaluable tool," he said. "It's such an involved process. That has been knowledge that I use every day."
Fiscal responsbility is challenge
Being fiscally responsible with city funds has proven to be a challenge at a time when budgets are tight all over, but Arthur said until the state determines budget figures and passes them down in February, city spending will be conservative.
"It's a money management thing," he said. "It looks like every scenario we imagined-it looks like that's what's going to happen."
Residents want streets improved
The mayor said he's also sensed impatience in residents hoping to have their streets repaved in a short span of time.
"I said I was going to create a plan," Arthur said of the 50 miles of city streets. "I just wanted to start a pecking order."
City employees have conducted an inventory of the streets as well as a secondary priority list. While Wheeler Street is at the top, additional money left over can be used for less costly street repaving projects. Meanwhile, the city has applied for a federal grant worth $100 million for streets.
"It's been a great piece of information," he said of the inventory.
Mayor proud of water treatment plant
Infrastructure has been an oft-expressed concern throughout the year, but Arthur praised the seven-year-old water treatment plant.
"Our water treatment plant is one of the best in the area," he said in reference to its 98-99 percent consistency. "So we know we're releasing clean water back into the environment."
The next step is the water distribution system. The I-70 area is vital, he added.
"My goal for 2005 is that we've got to see what we have to do to make it happen."
Also discussed in recent City Council meetings is the issue of leakage, which is estimated at a 40 percent loss in treated water. At Harmony, 1.9 million gallons are stored to meet federal requirements for storage of a day's worth of water. A master meter may be implemented to ensure water customers are being billed the correct amounts, which are below the actual amount now.
Meanwhile, a brownfield study may be conducted on some industrial property in the area for future development. Brownfields are under-used, closed or abandoned industrial or commercial sites that are frequently overgrown or rundown. They are sometimes contaminated by hazardous waste, and can be cleaned up and returned to the tax rolls. The Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management can conduct a Brownfield Environmental Assessment.
City clean up has been a high priority
Frequent heavy trash pickup is one of the methods Arthur has implemented in efforts to clean up the city. Residents must sign up for heavy trash pickup, but those outside of Brazil may be taking advantage of the enhanced service. A fee may be added in the future.
Illegal drug clean up is also priority
Cutting illegal drug use and manufacture is another of Arthur's objectives for his term in office. Problems with methamphetamine in West Central Village have been reduced, and local residents have taken an active interest in that effort.
"The citizens have kind of taken this into their own hands, and the police have worked really hard with them," the mayor said.
City saves money while enhancing employee benefits
A cash incentive of $1,000 at the end of the year is one way Arthur has combined improvement of employee pay and benefits while reducing city costs. Employees with an alternate source of insurance coverage, like a spouse's plan, may opt not to take the city's insurance and instead will receive $1,000 with proof of coverage. This method, which the mayor estimates will save $4,000-$5,000 per employee per year, is sometimes used by private companies.
He may have left the classroom, but Arthur has found his role as mayor is one rich in learning experiences. Finished with grading papers and making lesson plans for now, Mayor Arthur, checklist in one hand and ringing phone in the other, seems to have found a few assignments of his own.