SILVER LAKE — After singing the praises of many of his employees, the Munroe Falls mayor said the state of the city he leads is “strong.”
Mayor James Armstrong on Tuesday afternoon delivered his fifth overall State of the City address and his first speech since being re-elected to a second term in November 2019.
In a 14-minute speech to about 100 people at the Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce lunch meeting at Silver Lake Country Club, Armstrong highlighted the city’s improved financial status, multiple road and water projects, as well as the work of safety forces and other council members.
When he first took office in 2016, Armstrong said he was concerned about the city’s fiscal status and its police department, but noted improvement had occurred in both of these areas during the past four years.
He recalled that he “was obligated” in his first State of the City speech to “warn everyone” about the city’s “serious financial condition.”
“In the past four years we have been aggressively rebuilding our financial foundation and today, thanks to our residents and excellent city hall staff, I am proud to announce the city … for the first time in many years in their general fund received more money in revenue than was spent,” said Armstrong.
That announcement was met with a round of applause. He estimated the city has a $350,000 general fund surplus.
The city is now part of the Ohio Treasurer’s Open Checkbook program, where city expenditures are reported online. Armstrong added the city received the Auditor of State’s Excellence in Financial Reporting Award for the second consecutive year.
When he first became the city’s leader, Armstrong said he was “most concerned” about the police department because it was “underfunded and the morale was poor.”
Armstrong said he’s seen the police department make large strides in the past four years.
“The morale, training, and overall professionalism of the Munroe Falls Police Department has greatly improved,” stated Armstrong. “I am proud of the improved culture of the police department and the work they perform. Since we now have at least one full-time officer scheduled on every shift, community policing has increased and our accidents are down.”
The mayor credited the police department’s improvement to Police Chief Jerry Hughes, who was recently chosen by his peers as president of the Summit County Chiefs of Police Association.
Economic development will be a challenge with Kyocera SGS Tools planning to move 84 employees, equipment and inventory from two buildings on Main Street in Munroe Falls to a pair of structures on Marc Drive in Cuyahoga Falls some time this year.
Armstrong said the city is “fortunate” that Kyocera is relocating to a neighboring community rather than out of state, and is keeping its human resources and global technology divisions in Munroe Falls. Thanks to the county’s tax revenue sharing program, Armstrong said he expects the city will collect a percentage of income tax money generated by those 84 jobs for the next few years.
“We have already met with our friends from the city of Cuyahoga Falls and the county, who have offered their support in attracting business and our Community and Economic Director Anne Dicola and I are pursuing all leads to bring business to our city,” said Armstrong.
The mayor said the improved fiscal outlook is occurring as officials embark on a long-term plan to upgrade the city’s infrastructure. In 2019, the north water tower was refurbished, the booster station on Munroe Falls Avenue was improved, concrete work happened in the Steeplechase and River Park Allotments, half of Oakhurst Drive was resurfaced, all of Silver Valley Boulevard was resurfaced, and a better storm water drain was installed to alleviate flooding problems in condominiums on state Route 91.
In 2020, Armstrong said, concrete work will be completed on Oakhurst and in River Park, and preparations will be made for projects on North River Road and Munroe Falls Avenue that are slated for 2022 and 2023, respectively. The mayor said the city received state grants for these projects that will cover 80 percent of the expense.
“I believe it is my role to look not only at the current fiscal year, but the next coming years to see how better to improve the city,” said Armstrong.
The mayor also praised Fire Chief Lee Chafin and his staff for their “proactive approach to saving lives and property in our community.”
The fire department has garnered outside funding to provide more than $29,000 worth of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, “File of Life” medical cards, address markers and key security boxes. As the number of requests for service increased, the fire department set up 24-hour staffing in 2019, and logged an average response time of 2 minutes and 25 seconds, which is more than 75% better than the national average.
Long-range planning is continuing to address staffing and capital needs for the fire department, including replacing a fire engine that is a quarter of a century old.
The mayor also praised the work of Service Director Jim Bowery, Law Director Tom Kostoff and all council members.
“The administration is committed to work with council for a better Munroe Falls,” said Armstrong. “The city is blessed that so many people are willing to use their time, talent, and knowledge to make Munroe Falls a better place.”
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.