In her second State of the City address, Mayor Chris Schmenk told city council members Thursday night that millions of dollars are needed to update Marysville's "woefully inadequate" safety facilities.

In her second State of the City address, Mayor Chris Schmenk told city council members Thursday night that millions of dollars are needed to update Marysville's "woefully inadequate" safety facilities.

Schmenk said the city is financially stable - at least for the time being.

"This has been a tough year for all, and our city is no exception," she said.

As of Dec. 31, the unreserved general fund balance was $3.9-million, down approximately $850,000 from the unreserved cash balance last year, she said.

"This was a planned use of cash reserves to help fund the 2008 general fund operations, but we cannot keep using cash reserves like this for long," Schmenk said.

While city officials have been studying ways to minimize expenditures and increase revenue, Schmenk said they will seek public input on those issues later this year.

Schmenk said the city successfully paid down nearly $3-million of debt in 2008.

"The city needs to maintain an aggressive position regarding debt reduction," she said. "During 2008 we paid down $1.7-million on the long-term debt and $1.15-million on the short-term notes. Of the total $2.85-million that was paid down, only $1.25-million was paid from the general fund and the balance was from water, sewer and tax increment financing funds."

The city budget will be monitored closely this year, Schmenk said.

"I won't mince words," she said. "We are concerned. Our concern is not fueled by our actions necessarily. We are managing our resources well, and we are not overspending. However, as James Carville said, 'It's the economy, stupid.' The economy continues to worry us all. Locally, we know that some of our largest employers are decreasing production. Eventually, that may affect payroll, and decreased payroll means decreased income taxes for us. We have not seen a decrease yet, but we will carefully monitor income, and if we need to, we will cut expenses."

Schmenk said the city must now turn its attention to safety services - the fire and police departments and municipal court. She said continued growth is stretching the limits of all three.
"In 2008, our police department's calls for service increased by 6 percent over the prior year," Schmenk said.

Because of budget constraints, the city had to defer the scheduled replacement of a police cruiser in 2009, she said.

"We realize that we are not always able to provide our police department with all of the resources it needs, and we deeply appreciate the fact that our police are still able to provide our citizens with an extremely high level of public service and professionalism," she said.

Schmenk said the fire department experienced a 9 percent increase in calls for service in 2008.

"The fire department continues to be challenged by budget constraints," she said. "As we looked at equipment for the upcoming year, we were forced to postpone the scheduled replacement of two staff cars for the third year in a row, due to budget constraints."

Schmenk said the time has come to upgrade what she called "woefully inadequate" safety facilities.

"This past year, we began the process to assess our facilities for these areas," she said. "Unfortunately, I must report to you that these facilities are woefully inadequate. For example, when we assessed the police department, we found that while the typical police department for a city our size is about 25,000 square feet, our department occupies 3,500 square feet. That is one-seventh the size of a facility that it needs to accomplish its duties efficiently."
The situation for the fire department isn't any better, she said.

"As to the fire department, as council knows, we have been concerned with the current location for some time," she said. "Their building is very old, and it needs repairs exceeding $100,000. However, we simply cannot in good conscience invest that much money into an old building in a less than optimal location. We have been advised by outside experts that in order to maintain satisfactory response times, we need a fire station north of town or with quicker access to Route 33."

Schmenk said the facilities for municipal court also are substandard.

"They do not have proper space for holding criminal defendants, conducting probation activities or simply storing records," she said. "They also could benefit from increased security screening protocols, although in the current location, it is impractical."

The city will turn to its residents for help developing solutions for those problems, Schmenk said.

"In the next few weeks, the city will kick off a public planning process to gather citizen input as to what the public wants, in terms of facilities for our police, fire and municipal court," she said. "This is not an effort by your city administration; rather, as city council knows, this is a joint effort of both council and the administration. Working together, we will gather public input. If the public tells us that they want different facilities, then we will also ask them to advise us of the funding mechanism they prefer. We will need additional revenues if we are to do anything, but you have my pledge, that we are committed to fiscal conservatism."

Information about the planning process will be available soon on the city's Web site, www.marysvilleohio.org.