By ANDY MCCAMMON
Mayor Tom Arthur delivered his annual State of the City address to the Brazil Chamber of Commerce at the Brazil Family Restaurant Tuesday.
Budget issues and the improvement of the city's deteriorating roads topped the mayor's agenda for 2006. Arthur also reaffirmed plans to attract industry to the area and pledged to improve the city's appearance along with its economy.
While admitting the city's cash balance "isn't very healthy," Arthur praised the efforts of city officials to keep close tabs on the spending of taxpayer money. For the first time, he said, heads of the numerous boards and commissions which comprise Brazil's government will have access to preliminary budget information and "worksheets" to help officials track spending and stay within their long-term budgets.
Arthur cited the favorable findings of state-conducted audits of city finances for 2004 and 2005 as evidence that city officials are handling tax dollars responsibly.
"For the year 2006, we will have the opportunity to stay within our appropriations and operate with a balanced budget. This has been a top priority for me, and this year I believe it will be a reality," he said.
The City of Brazil repaved six blocks of city streets in 2005, at a cost of nearly $100,000. While it may not seem like much, Arthur said the limited improvements were a step in the right direction. He indicated the city's recent purchase of a Dura Patcher machine, which patches streets more effectively and at one-third of the cost of traditional "cold patch" methods, would allow the city to control the costs of future improvements to city streets.
"As we continue to use this new patching machine, we will see a citywide benefit to the overall condition of our streets until they can be permanently repaved," he said.
But the Dura Patcher only provides a quick fix, circumventing more permanent-- and much more costly-- solutions. In his address, Arthur suggested the establishment of a building corporation, an administrative entity which would control city spending on construction and improvement projects "with a major emphasis on repaving a large portion of our city streets" over time. He said he plans to present a formal proposal to the city council this spring.
"Early estimates indicate that we are hoping to spend $500,000 to $1 million on street paving under this plan," he said.
Arthur also stressed the importance of bringing new jobs to the area. He cited the expansion in 2005 of the Brazil Economic Development Commission from three to five members as a step forward, charging the commission with "marketing Brazil" to industries shopping for sites for new facilities.
Arthur noted that opportunities to attract industry present themselves regularly, and pledged to continue to pursue potential employers.
"We sent off another proposal yesterday that would bring another hundred jobs," he said. "We could apply for 100 of these and only land one, but the one we land will be the most important one."
Arthur also touched on plans to improve the city's aesthetic properties. He announced the formation of a Mayor's Task Force to address the problem of fire-damaged homes in the city ("They create an eyesore and are not safe for children," he said) and vowed to do something about Brazil's water tower.
"Now is the time to eliminate the eyesore and make it a landmark we will all be proud of," he said.
Arthur paused to recognize the service of the city's police and fire departments and thank city employees. He also announced plans for a quarterly, inter-faith Mayor's Prayer Service, the first of which will be staged in March.
"(We will) pray for children, for the future," he said. "It's time that we come together as a community. The denomination doesn't matter."