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WJBD - Local News - Centralia Mayor Focuses on Budget, Projects, and Murray Center During State of the City Address Wednesday

City of Centralia Staff.

Centralia Mayor Focuses on Budget, Projects, and Murray Center During State of the City Address Wednesday

By Will Doolin, WJBD News

The future of the City of Centralia is in the improving phase as Centralia Mayor Tom Ashby addressed the city.  Mayor Ashby gave his State of the City Address Wednesday at the Centralia Chamber of Commerce Luncheon.

Mayor Ashby says many difficult choices were made in 2012 concerning the city budget with union contract negotiations and layoffs.  However living within their own means paid off with a significant decrease in the budget over the past few years.  "Approximately over 25-percent of reductions, 26-percent cut by ten-million-dollars in two-years; so we did put our fiscal house in order and we continue to do this as a constant struggle, but with efforts with the staff and employees, we're able to obtain that", said Ashby.  

Ashby states the city is still addressing the situation in trying to lower the city's property tax rate, with a 4.5-percent reduction over the past two-years.  The city's municipal debt has also decreased significantly over the past few years, dropping from $11 million in 2010 to $7.9 million in 2013.  

Ashby also discussed the Murray Center Coalition and everything that has been done to save the Murray Center and to protect the interest of the 276 residents of the facility.  He says they have been fighting for the past year to save the facility.  "We went through hearings.  We went through meetings legislatively and administratively without much proven result and it's very said to think about and I'm very concerned about this.  I think the governor is going to be committed to this without changing this and the only thing we can do with effectiveness is to outlast him.  We're working with the Parents' Association", said Ashby.  

He states the city's first priority is to protect the residents of the Murray Center and discussed the growth of the regional coalition and the support they have received.  "With the coalition we have, we started with five-counties basically.  We have county board members and mayors.  We've been able to make this coalition in southern Illinois which has included fifteen to sixteen county board chairs that have signed off.  Forty mayors have signed off besides our community.  When we went to Springfield, this was a coalition effort of all of southern Illinois.  We've had every legislator from southern Illinois standing there and they all stood for the same thing.  Unfortunately they went ahead and still denied the funding for it, but we will continue to fight", said Ashby.

He also thanked Centralia High School and Centralia City Schools for their support and participation during the December 5th rally in Springfield.  

Ashby touched base on several city projects that are currently ongoing, such as the Wabash Avenue Project.  The Wabash Avenue Project is over fifty-percent completed and is to be completed by July 1st, 2013.  Anticipated bid opening for the Calumet Street project is expected in June.  

Ashby also discussed job retention, with the expansion of the Country Bob's facility and the relocation and expansion of Mid Am to the Centralia Industrial Park.  He states Big Lots is expected to open at the old JC Penny's location next month, creating 25 new jobs.  Mayor Ashby concluded the address by thanking his staff for their support, and for the work they have done for the city.

Monken Chrysler and Nissan was the community business spotlight at this month's Chamber meeting.  The community business spotlight for February's luncheon will be DePew and Owen.

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