Good evening. On behalf of the Wilmington City Council, I come before you tonight to report
on the state of our city.
I want to thank this council for its work on implementing our city’s goals and initiatives. I know
that the entire council joins me in thanking our families for their patience, support and sacrifice. I
especially want to thank my wife, Renee, for her support and all the elected officials that are here
We would like thank our City Manager, Sterling Cheatham, his leadership team, and 981
employees of the City of Wilmington for their hard work and dedication this past year.
The accomplishments we will talk about tonight could not have happened without them or the
many volunteers who worked together to fulfill the goals and objectives of this council.
And speaking of volunteers, this year we will name the second person ever selected for Council’s
new Volunteer Service Award.
We as a council feel strongly that the volunteers such as Johnnie Henegan, the first winner of this
award, who give of their time by serving on the various city boards and commissions should be
recognized for their time and efforts.
As we gather here tonight, the city faced its share of challenges as a result of this tough
But I can also tell you that we met those challenges and I am proud to say that we have:
Ø a balanced budget
Ø a double A+ bond rating
Ø and money in our savings account for a rainy day..which in our case would be a hurricane
Our first priority as a council is and will always be a balanced budget.
The city also completed a number of projects this past year that we were working on. And that
was not easy to do. So I want to thank the city staff for their hard work to make this happen.
One of the largest projects that was completed and just opened was our Convention Center. I am
proud to say that Steve Bridges and the City of Wilmington did a tremendous job.
It was built 4 million dollars under budget and has been well received.
There are already 99
events booked and will be an economic engine for tourism for many years to come.
This is also a green building which will help us save on energy use.
But something I am most proud of is the fact that we created hundreds of jobs while this center
was being built in an era when jobs are precious to our community.
I had the opportunity to come down here and see people going to work.
There were electricians, and heating and air conditioning folks and tile contractors.
There were carpet installers, and painters, and plumbers.
I saw landscapers putting in the grass, people putting in the gravel, people cleaning up.
It is great for tourism yes. But it was a project that put people to work.
The construction of the convention center has also paved the way for progress on the northern
end of our river front.
We have completed another 900-foot section of the riverwalk in front of the convention center,
along with a vast amount of public infrastructure improvements that include the realignment of
Nutt Street as well as significant drainage improvements.
We have also completed a two-block transformation of Front Street. This project was a joint
effort between the City of Wilmington and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority. These
enhancements replaced water and sewer lines which were over 100 years old.
It also improved the look of our downtown:
Ø wider side-walks for outdoor cafes
Ø new street signage
Ø underground utilities
Ø and new curbing
I want to thank all the folks that participated in this project and all the citizens that were
inconvenienced by this project. It was long over due and finally done.
We continue to make significant improvements to our stormwater system. We recently finished
restoring a section of the Doctor’s Branch Stream located just off St. Andrews Drive.
This project helped fix erosion problems that were threatening the property of nearby residents
and also make water in nearby streams cleaner and healthier.
Even while focused on infrastructure improvements, we’ve continued to make tremendous
progress on our parks bond and other construction projects.
I’m proud to report that we have worked with New Hanover County to complete two joint park
projects that were voter approved in 2006 with the parks bond.
At Empie Park, we completed storm water improvements, added ten additional tennis courts and
a 1,500 square foot club house, making the center large enough now for major tennis
Already there are 15 tournaments booked at this facility and will bring thousands of people to the
At Olsen Park, a joint project with New Hanover County which encompasses 87 acres and
opened this past August, we installed five new softball fields, bathroom facilities and concession
This park will not only be used for softball play but for tournament play. With 40 tournaments
booked, this is another example of how we can use our recreational facilities as an economic
driver to bring people to our community who will spend money.
[CG :2-Line with Snipe LIVE\State of the City\Cross City Trail Progress\ ] We have also continued to make progress on our Cross City Trail, completed almost four miles
this year in two different projects.
The first is a mile long section that runs from John D Barry Drive to Halyburton Park to the
Cameron Art Museum and up Independence Blvd.
The second section which is almost 3 miles long stretches from Randall Parkway to
Independence Blvd and Converse Road. It’s named for former Parks and Rec Director Gary
Shell, a leader in the creation of a Cross City Trail concept.
When completed this will be a 20 mile multi-use trail throughout our community and will give
our citizens a safe place for families to ride bikes, take a walk or go for a jog.
A project that we completed this year which was not part of the parks bond but was a great
partnership and addressed a key need in our area was the renovation of Dram Tree Park at the
foot of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge.
This park offers one of the few public places on the river that you can launch a boat. And I can
tell you that this is a very busy park.
I want to thank Progress Energy for cleaning up the surrounding area which had been the site of
a former gas plant while the city repaired the boat ramp and built a floating dock and kayak
In the area of public safety we have seen significant progress this year. Police Chief
Evangelous’ innovative efforts are making our community safer. The year 2010 was an
excellent year for crime reduction in the City of Wilmington.
In 2010, the City had the lowest
level of violent crime since 1998 and further, the City recorded the lowest level of burglaries
Overall violent crime was down -10% and property crime was down -8% from the year 2009.
I want to thank the Chief and all the police officers that work very hard for this community.
Fire Chief Buddy Martinette continues work to modernize the fire department on a number of
fronts while maintaining some of the best response times in the nation. The major fire at
Corning earlier this year could have been much worse if not for the quick work of our fire
department in helping Corning and others respond to that fire.
In the area of transportation, we’ve completed two major projects this year and will begin work
on another one, all of them funded by the voter approved transportation bond in 2006.
First I’m very proud to say we’ve completed an upgrade to our long-awaited traffic signal
system. This project was built ahead of schedule and under budget.
We have put in a whole new infrastructure to replace old equipment dating back to the early 90s,
including new traffic signals at more than 200 intersections.
This new system will help improve traffic flow around the city, which will mean less waiting at
I want to thank the North Carolina Dept of Transportation for partnering with the City to make
this project happen.
We’ve also completed the widening of Independence Blvd from Shipyard Blvd to Carolina
Beach Road, which will give us a much needed alternative route to driving on busy South
College Rd. I’m happy to say that as part of that project we also installed bike lanes.
In the coming year, we will begin the widening of Randall Parkway from College Road to
Independence Blvd. This will help to alleviate traffic on College Road.
We will also be improving and resurfacing Third Street from Market Street to the Isabell Holmes
Bridge. This street needs major work and we are committed to doing it this year.
But even with all of these successes and:
Ø a balanced budget
Ø a double A+ bond rating
Ø and money in our savings account
Wilmington, like many other cities in our nation, is facing challenging times. The City of
Wilmington, like other cities in the state, receives a significant amount of money from the state
We have asked our state delegation not to cut funding for the city to balance their shortfall.
This is the City of Wilmington’s strategic plan……….a road map if you will outlining the
priorities for our city created by city council.
Like a homeowner who needs to put some improvement projects on hold…..we….. the City of
Wilmington….. may also have to put certain capital improvement projects on hold or eliminate
projects that we feel are no longer practical for our community.
Some things that we are doing differently in government are:
Ø We have eliminated 60+ positions since 2008
Ø While paying more for health insurance, employees benefits have been cut and they have
had no raises in two years…this amounts to a pay cut of 10% for each worker
Ø We have moved to paperless agendas for boards and commissions
Ø We are using more hybrid vehicles which saves when gas is over $3 a gallon
Ø We rely on the use of more technology such as websites and Facebook to share
information and interact with citizens
Ø We changed trash pick up days for more than 60% of our customers resulting in a
$260,000 savings to our citizens. I want to thank Richard King and Bill Reed in our public
services department for their hard work in making this happen.
Ø We have had a reduction in all City Departments of up to 3, 5 and 10% in each of the last 3
Ø We have eliminated or reduced 34 services
Although we are doing more with less people, our city employees continue to provide a standard
of service that our citizens have come to expect and want.
From picking up the trash, to responding to an emergency, to maintaining our streets and
infrastructure, the employees have met those challenges and continue to adhere to our City’s
standard for excellence. And they will continue to do so!
And we have some exciting things that are happening only here in our city……… the City of
In November, we had the privilege of hosting the commissioning of the United States warship
Gravely with over a 200 member crew. This marks the second commissioning in our area in just
over 2 years.
This historic event brought folks to our area from all over the country.
My thanks to Ms. Louise McColl and Captain Dave Scheu who headed up the volunteer
committee that got the ship here.
My thanks to them and all the volunteers who gave of their time and did all the hard work to
make this such a successful event.
This was a proud day not just for our city, but for the entire state and nation.
We have also seen a continued future for our film industry.
As of today, I’m proud to say that we have four productions currently working in Wilmington.
A fifth production will begin working on February 14.
And during the first 3 months of 2011, the production currently on the ground will spend
approximately $30 million locally, equal to the total expenditures by the industry during 2009.
These four productions are employing approximately 350 local individuals in well paying jobs.
I want to thank our legislative delegation and especially Rep. McComas for all of his hard work
in making North Carolina competitive again in the film industry.
And on May 18, 2010, the City’s continued its investment in the arts as witnessed with the reopening
of Thalian Hall after months of renovations.
This historic theater which represents the heart and soul of our community will continue to thrive
and shine as our crown jewel because of the investment of our citizens.
I want to thank Tony Rivenbark and his committee for their over-site in restoring this
As our economy heals, I can tell you that this city council and I will continue to look for
opportunities to help our local economy and to improve upon our quality of life.
We will continue to look for ways to make government more effective and efficient.
This recession has taught all of us a valuable lesson but I also believe that it has given us an
opportunity to re-evaluate and prioritize what we feel is important to our community.
The important things in life are not always what you want…..but what you need.
This council and I will work hard and long.
The decisions will not be easy but I know that as a group we will debate the issues, work
together where we can, and make this community a better place to live and work!
May God bless you and may God bless the Great City of Wilmington, NC.