Mayor delivers state of the city address

May 2, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Newcastle Mayor Rich Crispo assured residents that the city is in relatively good shape, with people clamoring to live in the quaint community, during his 2013 State of the City address.

“We are the most popular place on the Eastside right now to live,” he said. “You look around and you find houses for sale, there aren’t many.”

The speech, given before residents and the business community at the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce’s April 10 luncheon, addressed the city’s financial health, community events and the council’s new Community Activities Commission.

The city is in good financial shape, with a balanced operating fund and a healthy reserve fund, Crispo said. Newcastle will also spend about $3 million this year on capital projects, including sidewalks and road maintenance.

“Not too many cities can say that when you consider we’re a city of just under 10,500,” he said. “So, we’re doing really well from a financial perspective.”

A financially healthy city pays dividends for its residents in the form of fewer taxes, he said.

“That means we’re not jumping out raising taxes. We don’t have a utility tax. We don’t have a business and occupation tax,” he said. “That’s not only a good thing for us as residents, but also for the businesses, because you don’t have to deal with that and you don’t have to pass those costs on to your customers.”

The city has also become an attractive locale for developers, the mayor said, mentioning in particular the Mutual Materials site. In November, it was announced that AvalonBay Communities Inc. will purchase and redevelop the 52-acre site of the former brick plant.

The company’s website says it “is in the business of developing, redeveloping, acquiring and managing high-quality apartment communities in the high barrier-to-entry markets of the United States.”

Crispo did not have much of an update about the site’s development, since it is still in the very early planning stages, but he did note that the city will work closely with the developer.

“We have great hopes that they’re going to do something really well, and we’re working with them right along to make sure that they’re aware of what the residents here would like to see, and try to match that with whatever profit motives they may have,” he said.

While the increased development is mostly positive, Crispo mentioned that it does have its down side, likely resulting in increased public safety costs.

“When you have a lot more people coming in, the strains on your police force, the strains on your fire department go up and also your cost of doing it goes up, because frequently, our bill is based upon the number of people that they serve,” he said.

The mayor also took time to address the changes to the city’s former Parks Commission, now the Community Activities Commission, and encourage residents to volunteer for the advisory board.

“We’re always looking for people to participate and that’s tough,” he said. “I’m not sure if you realize this, but kind of over the years, the amount of volunteerism has kind of dropped.”

He encouraged residents and businesses to assist with city events, such as Newcastle Days and Concerts in the Park.

“We really could use help along that line, help with sponsorships, help with volunteerism to really make these things work very well for all of the residents that are here,” he said.

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