In his final state of the city address, Mayor Bob Freeman praised the many partnerships Van Buren has formed over the years, making the city a “great place to live.”
“I want to thank all of you for what you have done for Van Buren,” said Freeman, who is not seeking re-election as he serves the final year of his third four-year term.
“With everything that is going on in the world, I also encourage you to continue to remember the four freedoms,” he said during Monday night’s city council meeting.
Often during his years in office Freeman has referred to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s message to Congress on Jan. 6, 1941. He recited FDR’s words again Monday.
“We look forward to a world founded upon essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way - everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want - everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear - everywhere in the world.”
Freeman said police department calls decreased 2.9 percent in 2017 while code enforcement issued 13 cleanup notices and 417 warnings. He said the department investigated 10 internet crimes against children while presenting 20 internet safety classes to 2,460 students and adults.
VBPD purchases four new police cars, one of which will be used as Cpl. Chris Arnold’s K-9 patrol unit. The dog is currently undergoing training.
He said the department provided 405 car seats through a STEP grant, graduated 27 through the Citizens Police Academy, provided 256 children with Christmas gifts through the Fraternal Order of Police’s Shop With a Cop and continued the partnerships with the Almost Home Shelter and Rescue.
Freeman said fire department calls increased by 9.2 percent.
VBFD acquired the Darrel Thomas building to be used as a training facility and upgraded its communication system from analog to digital. Of the 49 personnel, 40 are hazmat certified and 43 EMT certified.
Freeman said the planning department was involved in 15 variances, eight rezones, 16 filed plats, three conditional use permits and 10 historic district COAs.
The building department issued nine commercial building permits totaling $13,257,630, 47 residential permits for $6,770,130 and 31 for duplex and multi-family for $2,510,000.
In 2017, the street department completed 48 work order, 33 of which were drainage related, installed 307 tons of asphalt patching and continued upgrades of traffic signals and control systems, Freeman said. The department also contributed about 2,700 man hours to the limb and yard waste curbside pickup.
“There also is a lot of cool stuff that is going on with capital improvements,” Freeman said. “The Rena Road sidewalk project was completed and Freedom Park was dedicated. The city also partnered with the Van Buren School District for paved paths at the Freshman Academy and Central Elementary School.”
Freeman also broke down the city’s 2017 budget which included revenues of $17,555,176.09 and expenditures of $16,819,376.77.
He also outlined major projects for 2018, including Veterans Memorial Plaza, Lee Creek Park, Chad Colley Wilderness Park, Mike Meyer Park, Pointer Trail sidewalks, Wayfinding signage, Jefferson Street bridge, King Elementary School walking trail and sidewalks from the Drennen-Scott Historic Site to the Waldorf House.