6/1/2018 2:46:00 PM Michigan City is drawing attention, mayor says in his State of the City
Doug Ross, Times of Northwest Indiana Senior Reporter
MICHIGAN CITY — This city is drawing a lot of attention downstate and visitors from throughout the Midwest, Mayor Ron Meer said Wednesday.
“On Memorial Day, I don’t think you could find a spot on the beach,” Meer said.
The city has put up wayfinding signage to direct visitors to the beach and other lakefront attractions, which has helped bring in visitors who used to pass by on their way to Michigan, he said.
The city also is spending money on a marketing campaign with its slogan, “Create. Play. Repeat.” The ads draw visitors from throughout the Midwest.
In his State of the City address at Holdcraft Performing Arts Center, Meer said the city’s economic strength, too, is drawing attention.
Since Meer took office in 2012, he said, Michigan City has seen more than $1 billion in public and private investment in the city, which has boosted values for residential and commercial properties.
In April, the city was prominently featured in Foreign Direct Investment Magazine as “an economically successful and resilient community ready for foreign direct investment.
“We were fortunate to have our name, our brand and many wonderful pictures of Michigan City in such a highly visible publication which is read across the world and especially Europe,” Meer said. “Our hard work is being noticed.”
In the Statehouse and elsewhere downstate, too, “Michigan City is in many conversations about what’s happening in this part of the state,” Meer said.
State and federal money is coming to the city.
In October, Michigan City was awarded $488,281 from the state’s Community Crossings grant to repave roads. This requires the city to spend the same amount.
“Leveraging almost half a million dollars of our own money to secure another half a million dollars in state money will allow us to fix more reads in need than we would have been able to do otherwise,” Meer said.
In February, the street department purchased an asphalt hot box which allows crews to use hot tar and hot asphalt to make it easier to patch potholes whenever the weather allows, he said.
A $718,468 federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant in late 2017 allowed the city to hire six new firefighters for three years, Meer said. The grant pays 75 percent of the cost for the first two years and 35 percent the third year.
The Michigan City Fire Department was one of four in Indiana to receive one of these grants.
These firefighters are attending the South Bend Fire Academy, with graduation in August.
The city’s police department is addressing the school shootings trend by training repeatedly and working with the Michigan City Area Schools administration.
“Every day, an on-duty officer stops at every single school in this community, spending time walking the halls while talking to the staff and students,” Meer said. “Purposely, this visit is not announced, and it doesn’t happen at the same time each day.”
“We should not live in fear, but we must be prepared,” he said.
Among highlights for 2018:
The city is spending $450,000 to improve crosswalks, sidewalks and signage at all schools and parks after a community study of safety concerns near parks and school playgrounds.
The Ohio Street reconstruction project will improve storm drainage for areas along south Ohio Street, including the Southgate subdivision. A second phase is planned for 2019.
The 10th running of the Great Lakes Grand Prix will happen in August. “This event has a tremendously positive impact on our community,” Meer said.
A tour boat will operate out of the Washington Park Marina, offering sightseeing tours and dinner cruises. “This community has a rich tradition and history with cruise ships which visited the city in the 1920s and 1930s,” Meer said. “Although there has been nothing like this in modern times outside of places such as Chicago, bringing this opportunity to our side of the lake would be an additional and unique attraction for the residents and visitors to our lakefront.”
Before the end of the year, the city will announce plans for the site of the old police station and News-Dispatch building, both razed to make way for redevelopment, Meer said.