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Montpelier Mayor Kathy Bantz

I’m sure we have all heard the saying “Time flies when you’re having fun.” If that is true, I must be having a blast because it seems like only yesterday that I was working on the 2018 State of the City address.

I recently received a copy of a newspaper article from the March 8, 1979 edition of the Montpelier Journal. The title of the article is “Montpelier Council accepts proposed sewer package.”  It states the council received a report from their engineering firm that they had been working with for two years to analyze their sewage treatment plant and how they were handling storm water.  The firm provided council with seven alternative plans they could choose from to be in compliance.  Cost for these projects would be around $2.5 million.

This is what I found most interesting, Councilman Glen Reasoner (my father) asked what would happen if they refused to comply with federal requirements.  (Way to go Dad!)

Their response was no action could result in court action and a possible fine to the city.  To which my father replied “Then, we are between a rock and a hard spot.”

Fast forward forty years, we are still battling the same issues with IDEM. My first eight years in office have been consumed with ongoing utility problems so unfortunately a lot of the money we’ve spent is “underground” and you can’t see where we have accomplished much of anything.  The cost of these projects has increased dramatically over the past 40 years and we have fewer customers today to share in those costs.

We saw a lot of progress in 2019 on several of our projects.  We are currently working on a $5.5 million project to have our interceptor lined, the lagoons dredged and the treatment plant upgraded. This project will be completed this spring and should help us to be substantially compliant with the 2008 agreed order from IDEM. 

We received grants of $19,600 from the USDA Rural Development for a police vehicle, and $5,000 from the Department of Justice for the Bullet Proof Vest Program.  We utilized our $600,000 OCRA grant for the storm water project on Warren Avenue and the $420,000 INDOT grant to finish the Jefferson Street Project this year.

In January 2012, my first year in office, we had $22,488 in our general fund and a cash balance of $329,000. Fast forward to January 2020, we have $249,000 in the general fund and a cash balance of $2.7 million in the bank.

I remind you of where we were and where we are currently to assure you that we are moving in the right direction and that the city is in a much healthier financial condition today. We have made a lot of tough decisions and policy changes over the past eight years but the end result proves we are moving in the right direction. I have been blessed with excellent department heads and employees who have supported me and trusted my judgement.  They make my job easier.

I don’t have to micro-manage my department heads, they know what they need to do and they do it.  And by the way, a thank you from time to time is appreciated for our police, fire and city workers, they are out in all kinds of weather and at all hours of night working to keep us safe.

Some of you may have heard about the areas throughout Indiana that have been declared as Opportunity Zones (OZ) and the New Market Tax Incentive Program.  An Opportunity Zone is an economically distressed community (area)where new investments may be eligible for preferential tax treatment which is used to spur economic development and job creation.

In 2018, we submitted an application to be considered as an OZ and we were selected as one of the 83 cities and towns in the state to participate in the program.  This designation has resulted in inquiries and visits from investors and entrepreneurs from California, New York, Michigan and Georgia. Thanks to Governor Holcombe, Montpelier has a renewed opportunity for industrial growth now it is up to us to market and promote Montpelier. We have assembled an economic development team consisting of  Blackford County Economic Development Corporation (Warren Brown), ms Consultants (Dax Norton),  East Central Indiana Regional Planning District (Bill Walters and Brad Bookout), Innovation Connector (Ted Baker) and Indiana Economic Development Corporation(Linda Walzcek) to help us make something happen in this area.

When our population started to decline and our businesses started leaving, we should have tried to re-invent ourselves, but it’s not too late. We just have to give people a reason to come here.

We are a loving, caring, safe community.  We have made upgrades to our water and sewer systems, we have a very low crime rate, we have State Road 18 which serves as a connector to I69 and I75, and we have a very active rail service going through our town and we have high speed fiber available. Big city life isn’t for everyone so we need to let people know we are here – let’s work together to tell our story.

I recently brought someone into our community to give us an unbiased view of our community. His assessment of our downtown went something like this – what’s the first thing you do when you start bleeding? Answer: you try to stop it. He asked “where’s your band-aid - what have you done to stop the bleeding?” Our downtown buildings, infrastructure, parks, and housing have been neglected far too long.  I plan to spend the next four years in office concentrating on things above ground.

By the time you read this we will have submitted an application to HGTV for a chance to win a “Hometown Takeover”.  Cities throughout the United States with a population of less than 40,000 can enter the contest.  We had about three weeks to gather all of our data, make the video and submit it to them. I want to thank Bryon Maddox for helping us to put this project together. I think the fact that we have been designated as an Opportunity Zone to attract investors for industrial growth coupled with this possibility for an “extreme makeover” of our residential and commercial district is just what this city needs!

I know it is a long shot but if you don’t enter you can’t win!