Writer / Janelle Morrison
As we enter into the fourth quarter and companies begin to finalize their 2017 budgets, the town of Zionsville is wrapping up this year’s projects and well into its planning for next year’s projects. Mayor Tim Haak sat down with us to reflect upon what he is most proud to have achieved, along with his staff and the town council, during his first year as mayor.
“We’ve had a number of projects that are either coming online or coming to fruition, that were initiated when I was on the town council,” Haak said. “Creekside Corporate Park will be largely completed in October. Our tenant, DK Pierce and Associates, is under construction. Pierce will be relocating its business to Zionsville and investing $3.9 million to expand its operations at its new location at Creekside. Creekside evolved from an idea that started six years ago. Being able to see something germinate that long ago and then finally become complete has just been amazing. The staff, the council, and myself are really proud to get that one online. The town hall project is moving forward. It has been sorely needed for years as this building is continuing to deteriorate and become completely inefficient for today’s needs. Some of the short term wins that we’ve had and just completed this year are the funding programs for the roads and infrastructure. We knew we could receive up to $1 million through INDOT and when we applied for the Community Crossings Matching Grant, we thought it was probably a long shot. We were elated to be awarded the full funding.
We are developing our project priorities and the funding for those over the next couple of years. We are working on the short, mid and long-term construction goals. We have an enormous list and so we are prioritizing those in future budgets. Sewer and storm water projects in some areas of town, such as the village, will be happening next year. There’s a number of projects that will be coming online next year. Some are funded through the grants and others are through our normal budgetary process.”
According to Mayor Haak, the Zionsville Road will be starting in the next 18 months. The improvements to 96th Street and Zionsville Road will happen first and will begin in the early part of the year, if not sooner. Getting these improvements started on time and with minimal or no delays is important. The funding is in place and the town is currently in the design phase. The realignment of this intersection is fully funded by the county’s TIF district at the intersection’s northeast corner. There will also be intersection improvements to Oak Street and Kissel Road and Oak Street and Cooper Road, to name a few. Additionally, Ford Road and Mulberry Street will be a compact urban roundabout and will start next summer after school gets out.
Another major objective that the mayor has achieved is the hiring of a Director of Communications and Community Relations. Amanda Dorman has joined the staff at town hall and brings a wealth of experience to the position that is tasked with keeping the citizens updated with important messages and updates.
“We’ve moved to an age where communication is so important and there are so many channels of communication which is even more challenging for myself and staff,” Haak stated. “This
position was recognized as necessary a few years ago when we compared that other communities have 4-6 communications people and we had none at that time. Getting the message out to people about what is
happening and what is upcoming in town, is vitally important. Being able to be a champion of ourselves is important as well. There’s a lot of great things going on in town and not everybody knows about them. One of my goals was to not have people say that they ‘didn’t know about it.’ People are getting their information in many different ways and not just via the newspapers and websites anymore. Social media is a popular method of distributing information. Our office should function as the central location of information in some ways. People should feel that they can visit our website and/or use the town app if they want to find something out that is happening in town. If we don’t know or don’t have the information, we will guide the individual(s) in the right direction.
The app and web will be updated on a daily basis now. Before we hired Amanda, the updates would occur when the staff had the capability and it was second to other pressing tasks. Now, we have someone who can do it on a daily basis and the information posted to our website will feed the town app. It is the best tool for us to communicate and we encourage people to sign up for the newsletter online. Check out the website and download the app. We also encourage residents to use the Smart911 app. The Smart911 system is the best way for people to get weather, traffic and other public safety updates in addition to other free services aimed at assisting their households in the event of an emergency.”
When asked about how well the police, fire and sheriff’s departments collaborate and communicate with the mayor’s office, Mayor Haak replied, “The level of communication is very good. I am continually getting proactive updates from Chief Knox, Chief VanGorder and Sheriff Nielsen on everything that happens and the challenges that they face. They are incredibly open about communicating even when there are difficulties. It’s easy to make phone calls and report that everything is going well but they are just as open to call me and say that they’re struggling with an issue and need assistance. This open communication has enhanced our level of mutual trust. The communication throughout the county’s government offices and public safety agencies is really opening up, especially with the police and sheriff departments with the opiate and heroin epidemic that is sweeping across the nation and our very own state right now. It is an enormous challenge that we’re not sure that we are adequately prepared for.
The resources that the police and sheriff departments need to even try to be proactive on that issue is vitally important for them to have access to and is vitally important for all of us going forward.
Another of our goals for 2017 is getting our public safety online. If the Public Safety LIT proposal goes through, getting those funds and getting the right resources hired for public safety agencies will get them out in front of the challenges, making them proactive participants rather than reactive to the issues. We are regarded as one of the safest communities in the state and country and its important to stay that way.”