LIMA — Will 2021 be the year for a downtown renaissance, the formation of a rapid response network of mental health professionals and less stopped traffic at train crossings?
Mayor David Berger hinted that it could be. In his final “State of the City” address delivered Monday to the Rotary Club of Lima, Berger announced a few upcoming initiatives for 2021 and celebrated last year’s achievements.
Out of the many subjects discussed Monday, one of more newsworthy regarded an older initiative announced roughly 18 months ago. Back in 2018, Berger’s administration partnered with Spectrum and the Ohio Department of Transportation to explore how to use technology to help solve traffic backups caused by stopped trains, and he hinted that the results of that partnership could be announced as soon as today.
Berger said an $18 million grade separation project finished this past year illustrates how expensive and lengthy normal infrastructure fixes can be for such issues, and in comparison, the new initiative should “bring relief to many of those intersections around the city” without the need for substantial builds.
Outside of that announcement, the majority of Berger’s address largely dealt with 2020’s public initiatives, and he highlighted the downtown’s economic momentum pushed by private and public interests, the current healthy state of the city’s finances due to belt tightening during the pandemic, and the city-sponsored wraparound services for Lima students organized via its Youth Commission.
Relatedly, Berger also gave an update about the city’s efforts working toward racial equity, which was spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and formalized initiatives across the nation, including Lima. Out of the initiatives proposed by Lima, the city has been able to start tackling board diversity and was successful in changing civil service hiring rules, but the formation of a Human Rights Commission and widespread adoption of police body cameras has languished, partially due to cost concerns and some legal challenges.
To help curb such costs of wide-scale body camera adoption, Berger said he and the Ohio Mayor’s Alliance will be calling on Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration to make state funds available for such purchases.
“The state has responsibility to step up,” Berger said. “Cost is an issue, but the cost is worth the public’s investment.”
Related to policing issues, Berger also announced the city is working with mental health agencies in the region to better correlate mental health services with law enforcement with the goal to establish a “24-7 mental health dispatch” service. The mayor said strong agency collaboration arose out of the opioid response, and the agencies involved are still figuring out how to implement such an idea.
“We’re working out the details to see how that happens, but we’re very enthused about the reception we’re getting out of the involved parties,” Berger said.
Altogether, Berger celebrated the administration’s accomplishments over the last year and being able to meet the unexpected challenges that came with the coronavirus pandemic.
“For the city, that meant really having to rapidly reorganize ourselves, how to figure out how to keep things moving. In terms of city services, we had to do things such as new hygiene procedures, figure out ways how to remotely work, close city buildings for most purpooses in terms of public access, yet we had to continue to deliver services. I would say that, in large part, we were successful in that,“ Berger said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.