By Norm Yoder, Mayor, City of Auburn
Last night I gave my final State of the City address. I’ve been blessed to serve Auburn as Mayor for the past 19-plus years—though it seems like just yesterday when I took the oath of office on December 31, 1999, just before Y2K. My years as Mayor have been some of the most rewarding of my life.
As you can imagine, I’ve seen a lot of growth and change over my years in office, particularly with our city services and utilities that ensure residents receive many of their basic community needs.
Below are some of the highlights I shared last night about our city services and utilities and the changes shepherded in to enhance the quality of life in Auburn. None of these positive changes would be possible without such dedicated city employees.
- Street: Built Auburn Drive; completed Sixth & Main Revitalization Project; and extended it to South Main.
- Building, Planning and Development: Collaborated with DeKalb County to adopt extraterritorial jurisdiction; developed trail and downtown revitalization plans; and worked with City Council to adopt a New Unified Development Ordinance.
- Engineering: Adopted the use of GIS to be more accurate and efficient in its work.
- Clerk Treasurer: Consolidated information technology services to bring efficiency, attrition and fewer full-time employees.
- Police: Built a training center and outdoor shooting range used by virtually all law enforcement agencies in Northeast Indiana; developed a car take-home program.
- Fire: Created a fire territory with Union Township; built a state-certified training center that is used by most fire departments in Northeast Indiana; and elevated the city’s ISO rating from Class 5 to Class 3 (resulting in lower insurance premiums for all).
- Parks: Built Rieke Park, Courtyard Park, Thomas Dog Park, Disc Golf, the Pufferbelly Trail through town and Rieke Trail—and hopefully, a skate park soon, too.
- Electric: Built new substation on Co. Rd 34; installed automatic metering technology; and installed the fiber for Auburn Essential Services.
- Water Pollution Control: Completed 98% of the agreed order concerning Combined Sewer Overflows; implemented a SCADA System for plant and system automation; and extended the collection system in all directions out of the city.
- Water: Added the north water tower; implemented a SCADA System for plant and system automation; and extended service lines to the north, south and west of the city.
- Auburn Essential Services: Established new department of the city, providing phone, internet and TV for 3000+ business and residential customers.
That is a lot of change—and it wasn’t always easy and everyone didn’t always agree. But I think we can agree that we are a much better community because such progress was made over time. The State of the City is far more than just the services provided by all the city departments. The services and utilities are just the beginning. To really thrive as a community, we need a strong business community, a well-rounded education system, accessible healthcare and community support from faith-based, non-profit and service organizations.
A few points I shared on each include:
- The business sector is of high importance for the health of the community. Currently, with the economy humming along, we are seeing Team Quality Services new building being constructed, major upgrades at Metal X’s campus, and equipment upgrades at Shiloh and Tower Automotive. On the consumer side, Auburn Brewery opened; there’s ongoing downtown business revitalization; Culver’s is under construction; and many other projects are in the evaluation period.
- Another foundational piece is education. It is vital to the quality of life here in Auburn. Regardless of the result of the upcoming referendum on the ballot, it’s critical we move forward together to ensure we have a highly regarded public school in all aspects of education.
- Health is another foundational piece. We’ve all heard the news that Parkview may absorb DeKalb Health into their system. It’s a change that many have different views on, but whatever the outcome, I truly believe the services will be improved.
- And last but certainly not least, is the community support offered by local faith-based, service and non-profit organizations. Together, they are essential to the wellbeing of our community and, in my opinion, a real sign of community pride. We have a multitude of citizens involved in everything from Auburn Main Street to Kiwanis, Garden Club to Hearten House, YMCA to Catholic Charities, and the list goes on and on. Thank you to all who are involved with these organizations—you are a huge reason why Auburn is a great place to live, work and play. In fact, if I had one wish, it would be that everyone in Auburn—of all generations—is involved in one of these organizations.
Change in the Future
The future will be filled with as many exciting changes as the past has been. As Auburn continues to experience changes, I hope we can move forward together with integrity and understanding. I believe that, as a community, if we practice the touchstones of forgiveness, gratitude, care and love for one another, tolerance, helpfulness, hope, and an ethical grounding—just think what a wonderful community we would have. And because I have experienced the caring, love and passion the citizens of Auburn have for this city, I am confident we can. After all, we all want the same thing: a community that thrives!