Mayor Mike Callis gave the annual State of the City speech at the virtual Portland Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday. President and CEO of the chamber Sherri Ferguson was moderator. Members were asked to pick up a lunch from a local restaurant and watch the speech live on Facebook from their work places.
Callis stated that the city was in a good financial situation. The 2020 budget came together without dipping into the “rainy day” funds, which was a fear because of the COVID pandemic. Revenues were better than expected.
The city received a higher bond rating for the $18 million bond issue than expected. According to Callis, Portland was one of around five cities in the country to get a higher bond rating.
Callis said he was pleased at the number of people who are receiving the vaccine for COVID. Several are almost ready for their second shot of the vaccine. He told the group that he had spent many late evenings at the office trying to organize a plan to keep the city running because of the pandemic.
The city developed a Ready to Respond (RTR) program to keep city departments open. The RTR program was designed to divide the employees of each department scheduled to work on different days, he said. There are departments like the water department that requires certified workers and the city couldn’t afford to have the entire department not able to work. Food and mattresses were brought in so the employees could stay there and not get exposed to COVID.
According to Callis, March is a goal date for getting into the renovated city hall. They have begun moving some office furniture into the building, and he said he was pleased with the money the city saved by buying nice used furniture from government sources.
He recognized the difficulty many small businesses had had during 2020, as they dealt with the pandemic. He praised individuals and industries who came forward to made donations to local businesses to keep them afloat.
In addressing the parks department, he praised the improvements at Meadowbrook Park. New playground equipment is being purchased and new lighting will be installed at the park. The mayor also said he was pleased with the improvements in the grounds at the golf course and the number of people playing golf.
He added future projects at the parks as possibly including new tennis courts, disc golf, and a volleyball court. He also announced there are plans for a 9/11 Memorial at one of the parks.
Work is continuing on Cold Springs School and the Robert Coleman Building at Richland Park. Plans for the museum at the Moye-Green House are on hold until the city offices in the building are moved into city hall. He is scheduling a meeting soon with the museum committee.
There are several grants in cue at this time. They are moving slowly because state offices are closed or employees are working from home.
The mayor did a question-and-answer period at the end of his speech. In answer to the question of how successful the city has been in recruiting new businesses, Callis said the city continues to work with a consultant and there are some businesses expressing an interest in coming to Portland.
In answering a question about road paving, he said that road paving would be done as money was available and expressed disappointment that the sales tax referendum didn’t pass because it was designated for street improvements.
The State of the City address is available on the Portland Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.