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Mayor Phil Fisher's State of the City Update

Promises Made, Promises Kept, A Promising Future

My 2020 State of the City address is focused on promises made, promises kept, and a promising future. In July 2013, I ran on a platform to increase public safety, grow the street paving budget to $1,000,000, improve quality of life, create Economic Development and make Clinton a “Go to City” in the Metro area and Statewide. Our community has made great strides since July of 2013 in those and many other areas and we need to review our success as we plan our future.

Five topics were covered:

Public Safety

As Mayor my first request to the Board of Alderman was to increase the Clinton Police Force by five paid positions immediately. Over the next four years we grew the force from 40 paid slots with 35 officers to 60 paid slots and 56 officers. With that increase in manning, a traffic division was formed - increasing our ability to enforce violations on our streets while allowing other units to focus solely on neighborhood patrolling.

House watch was reinstituted to protect your homes when you travel. We purchased 60 M4 rifles and constructed a pistol range with money contributed by the generosity of the community. Protective vest, with camera’s, were purchased. Vehicles were leased vs. purchased, allowing a constant fleet upgrade of reliable cruisers. Passive policing tools were deployed.

We hired a full time Judge, allowing the police department to utilize the latest technology in conjunction with a streamlined warrants process - resulting in a quick and efficient warrant service. The full-time Judge position allows a more efficient process from “crime to jail-time” and a more accountable process of collections. Since his start in April 2019 and running through Dec. 2019 or nine months, the Judge’s new court policies increased collections by $172,161 over the previous twelve months  ($666,254 (2019) vs. $494,092 (2018)).

So how did we do?

2013 – 2019 Crime Numbers;

Offense

2013 Totals

2019 Totals

% Change

Auto Burglary

116

78

-32%

Residential Burglary

174

24

-86%

Business Burglary

18

3

-83%

Grand Larceny

65

20

-69%

 

373

125

-67%

Offense

2013 Totals

2019 Totals

% Change

Armed Robbery

12

2

-83%

Strong Armed Robbery

5

1

-80%

Total Robbery

17

3

-82%

 

 

 

 

 

These reductions in crime prove the value of our strategy to face crime head-on and aggressively. The safety of our City went from unranked in 2013 to the 3rd safest City in the State of Mississippi in 2019. No small feat considering our location to one of the highest crime areas in the nation.

Street Paving

We started building the paving budget by $100,000 p/y in FY2015. Realizing it would take the city 10 years to reach $1,000,000 I began lobbying the Legislature for an increase in the City tax rebate from 18.5% to 21%.

When that failed, I worked with other Mayor’s, to get a yearly - and permanent - allotment from the Legislature. During this time, the current Board of Alderman, in response to repeated citizen calls, increased taxes for street paving, generating $610,00. They also agreed to a sunset clause I proposed at the end of this term – June 2021. As promised, the street paving increased and a reduction in your taxes will occur when the Board votes on the FY 2021 budget next September.

Thanks, to the dogged efforts and bold leadership of Speaker Phillip Gunn in the House, and then his example to the rest of State government, a special session bill was passed addressing a permanent solution assisting cities and counties with infrastructure. Clinton will benefit with $661,937 p/y of infrastructure money and we will use it on street paving beginning in FY 2021.

In the FY 2021 Budget, the $661,937 from the Legislature will replace the $610,000 from the sunset tax increase. When added to the $600,000 we will budget from City tax dollars in the FY 2021 budget, the City street paving budget will increase to $1,261,937.

However, I recognized we needed to accelerate street paving even more and deal with the new issue of failing bridges. So, I sought additional funding at other levels of government to address both issues.

From FY16 through FY19, previous Supervisor’s Mike Morgan and Darrel McQuirter stepped up and joined “Long, Lean, Lanky, Speaker Gunn and sent an additional $4,367,421 in monies for the repair of bridges and street paving. Added to the accumulated $1,000,000 in City budgeting for street paving from FY2015 to FY2019, the City has paved 30.3 miles of streets and replaced 3 bridges over those budget years. I hope the new Supervisors, David Archie and Vern Gavin are equally as generous with Clinton as they begin their time in office.

Quality of Life

A very important part of any community is the quality of life enjoyed by its citizens. A City must have a balance and leadership must provide more than infrastructure if a community is to thrive.

For years our children have grown up with excellent parks and outstanding opportunities in softball, soccer, and baseball. But competition is hard and other cities were catching up and, in some areas, surpassing us.

For the first five years of this administration, we did not have the money to do much and our parks showed it. This year we begin the process of revitalizing our parks.

Work completed, underway or scheduled include:

a.       Constructed the Bark Park

b.      Will construct a concession stand (Spring 2020)

c.       Making baseball field improvements in fencing, backstops and dugouts

d.      Planning is underway for a re-work of Robinson Park

$200,000 was doubled by a grant from a playground equipment company and the now $400,000 used to purchase;

a.       New playground equipment for Kid’s Towne Park

b.      New playground equipment at Robinson Park

Northside Park was addressed with $142,333 from “slow walking Speaker Gunn” and the Legislature to make improvements to Northside Park:

a.       Resurfacing of basketball courts

b.      New backboards for basketball courts

c.       Security fencing at entrance of the park

d.      Fencing around basketball court

e.       New playground and swings

f.           New picnic tables

g.      New water fountain

h.      Park rules sign

We are using a $250,000 grant from MDA to construct new bathrooms at Traceway, Robinson, and Northside Parks this spring.

Under planning, is a 15.1-mile bike and walking trail throughout the City, starting behind the schools on Arrow Drive and ending at Butts Park.

Phase 1, behind the Arrow Drive schools is ready to begin when the weather cooperates. Phase 2, from the Natchez Trace bridge to Traceway along Arrow Drive, and paid for by a $750,000 federal grant, will bid this spring. We will begin gathering the easements for Phase 3, from Brighton Park to Butts Park at the completion of Phase 1.

In March of 2018, we planned and built Towne Springs to recognize the historic beginning of our City with money coming from outside the City budget - totaling $20,000. I negotiated a land swap with MC to take City ownership of the Train Depot land and in April 2018, and we constructed the Train Depot - receiving $225,000 from the County and at no cost to the City. In calendar year 2019, 190 events were held at the Train Depot – up from 120 events in 2018 - demonstrating the need for that meeting facility.

Finally, I am negotiating a land swap with MC to take City ownership of the Lion’s Club Park property as we built a new Lion’s Club Park. The park is designed so that every child can play, regardless of limitations. $400,000 was donated from various generous sources to save the City just under half of the total cost.

Finally – and this will be huge - the City is working with MC, CPSD, and CCA, to build two archery ranges - an outdoor archery range and a 3D archery range. Our goal is to use these ranges to draw archery tournaments at the high school and community college level to Clinton. These tournaments bring in a number of people and will increase spending within our community. It will serve as the home range for MC, CPSD, and CCA. I hope bowhunter’s will use the targets to sharpen their aim for bow season. And what a fun date night this would be.

I have talked about the money drawn from sources other than the City budget to increase upgrades in safety, infrastructure, and quality of life. Let me show you a bigger picture of money received from sources outside the City budget since July 2013 and where it was spent. 

Breakdown of Money given to Clinton outside the City Budget by Contributors – July 2013 to December 2019

State/Leg. /Homeland - $9,429,090

Federal Gov’t - $1,728,802

Hinds County - $1,483,000

MDOT/CMPDD - $1,020,661

Citizen Contribution - $500,332

Private Companies - $357,540

TOTAL - $14,519,425

Breakdown of how that money was spent by Department from July 2013 – December 2019

Streets/Bridge – $4,861,623 (not included, an additional 1,000,000 in paving from City budget (FY 2015 – FY 2019)

Water/Sewer - $4,650,309

Parks and Rec/Train Depot - $3,023,200

Public Safety - $1,832,438

Historic signage/designation - $87,000

LED Lighting conversion - $64,855

TOTAL - $14,519,425

 

Economic Development

The volatility in big box retail continues. Today I learned that Kirkland’s, Pier One, and Bed Bath and Beyond are closing 500 stores combined in 2020. But things are looking brighter in Clinton.

Hillman Commons is under construction building 91 lofts at a project cost of $12,300,000.  

Continental Tire is up and running with an eventual hiring of 2,500 new jobs. This is a major win for the City and we are already benefiting from their presence.

I negotiated the payment of the required water/sewer lines for Continental be made by the State of Mississippi. The additional lines constructed led to an increase of fire protection and a decrease in your fire rating from a five to a four, saving you money on both residential and commercial insurance.

Our hotels enjoy an 85% occupancy rate and since the City adds a 3% tourism tax to hotel bills, promotion of Clinton – from New Orleans to St. Louis/Atlanta to Dallas - has increased from $200,000 to $300,000. Most important, sales tax receipts are up and while I cannot give a specific number influenced by of Continental, I know it has been significant.

The City created an Economic Development Position and while the position is less than a year old, Gabriel Prado is working multiple areas for the growth of Clinton’s retail possibilities. He is already making great headway with local, state, and national businesses showing positive results. He facilitated a sale of 54 acres to a serious development company. He brought in Steak and Shake. He is traveling to retail companies throughout the United States, introducing them to Clinton. Those travels have already resulted in a contact and possible site visit from a national company. We hope to have more announcements between now and this summer as he gains momentum.

 

Recognition at the Region, State, National, and International Level

In order to promote the City, we are advertising on-line, in magazines, and with billboards from Atlanta to Dallas/New Orleans to St. Louis to encourage tourism and make Clinton the place to stop on I-20.

We are promoting the legitimate history of our community for tourism and will add our names to the Civil Rights Trail and Blues Trail in 2020. Clinton’s Historic On-Line Trail or HOLT has registered  29,519 unique visits with an average stay- 27 minutes 52 seconds

We continue to host the only national championship in the Mississippi - the Women’s Junior College Division II Softball National Championship. This tournament generates $300,000 in sales over a five-day period as softball teams from all over America compete.

We have bid on the men and women’s National Junior College Soccer Championship to expand the economic opportunity in our City and continue our status as the only Mississippi City hosting national championships in the state (winner announced in April 2020).

Over the last three years, the City has hosted a Professional Bicycle race. First in April and August 2018, then in August 2019, the 2020 race will occur the last weekend in March and include a Saturday short course race and Sunday long course race.

We are in contact with representatives of the Little League World Series. With the work underway on the Traceway Park baseball fields I hope to get a play up tournament to the Little League World Series in Clinton. This will bring more visitors to our community, spending money and enjoying our City.

The by-line for any information sent to the world by Continental Tire has Clinton Mississippi on it. This allows those that have never heard of Clinton to take note of a community that is ready to compete in the world market place.

Clinton joined the State of MS, the MS National Guard, and Sister City International to sign a Sister City agreement with Zarafshan, Uzbekistan. I made a trip in May 2019 and hosted a return trip in Oct. 2019 to grow this relationship. This is an effort to gain international recognition and show that our City can run with the big boys.

All of the topics above - and it is not the complete list - are a result of innovative, “out of the box thinking”. They are the result of leadership willing to take risk in order to succeed. They are a result of the generosity of this community. They are the result of a Clinton Next effort with members willing to dream big and set a course to 2050.

We are not at a crossroads looking for a direction. We are moving forward with a plan and a bright future.

Together We Can Do Anything