Welcome to 2020! This year, we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of our Borough’s creation in 1920, while also embarking on a new vision for Wilson’s future. I’m looking forward to this New Year, as we have a lot of work to do in and for our borough. We have many plans but first I want to take this opportunity to update you on the state of the Borough and recap what we have accomplished in 2019.
I still walk around this Borough every day with the passion, energy and desire to continue to work to make where we live, the best community in Pennsylvania. It can be frustrating at times, and regardless of where you fall in your opinion, we can all agree that change is both difficult and inevitable. It’s how we decide to address it that will define us. We can choose to ignore change, and let circumstances drive our outcome, or we can accept, embrace and plan for it to help ensure that we control our own destiny. I need to continually need to remind myself that improving our community is a marathon and not a sprint. I get frustrated as much as all of you, but the process is there and we need to follow it and keep focus on what is important. Our Council Members have many goals and objectives, but they can never anticipate all events and issues that need to be addressed. They have made solid progress to date on multiple fronts. I’m looking forward to the year to come, because we do have a lot of work to do in this borough. Starting this third year of my term, we are slowly seeing change. I feel that most of council has gelled well and is working hard to make Wilson a better place. For those worried about the state of our borough, change hasn’t been happening fast enough. Last year, we laid the groundwork for a lot of great things to come. We can no longer choose to ignore change, and let circumstances drive our outcome, or we can accept, welcome and prepare for it to help ensure that we control our own destiny.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world, nothing can be certain except death and taxes”. Taxes are always at the forefront of concerns in the Borough and an easy target to criticize. I love when I am sitting somewhere and people don’t know who I am and I listen to them discuss the Borough and what is going on. Sometimes I smile because it is positive feedback, and other times I sit biting my tongue and cringing at the honesty of the criticism, but most importantly, I am listening. We have raised taxes the last two years which is never a popular thing to do, but was absolutely necessary. I will be sending out a breakdown shortly of where your money is going, but I will say that we cannot solely rely on raising Property Taxes to deliver the change we want and deserve. Any plan must include new and creative sources of revenue to diversify our tax base and reduce our over-reliance on residential property taxes. In 2019 we came in under budget by $210,000. We ran lean and tried to focus on basics and making our Critical Service Departments run more efficiently. For example, our Public Works recycled scrap sitting around the Borough garage for $693 and put old trailers and machinery up for bid and sold them for a profit of about $14,687 adding to the savings. We have started installing LED streetlights and this will result in an estimated savings of $13,000. Little things add up and we will endeavor to continue that trend.
So why raise taxes if we came in under budget? We need to look forward and work to bring businesses back to our town, maintain what we have and build new infrastructure. In 2019 I was able to cut the ribbon on two new businesses on Washington Boulevard and would like to the same for many more in 2020. We also need a new police station desperately, which is something I would like to see us begin to plan in earnest in 2020. We are working with our engineers as well to work on a 20 year plan that we can revisit and will allow us to prepare and be more efficient in the future. Planning like this will help us get to where we want and need to be in 2020 and beyond. Everything we do is published through the Borough website (wilsonborough.org) or our borough Facebook page. I continue to broadcast the meetings to promote full disclosure and transparency.
2019 saw the Northampton County District Attorney’s office designate Spanky’s as a nuisance bar. This process took some time and I want to thank our police for making this happen. While it is true that, according to the nuisance bar ordnance, they may be reopening in 2020 we will be working to minimize the impact. We are doing our best to avoid this occurrence, especially since we realized an even greater drop in crime with this location closed. We may be calling on our residents to help keep them closed.
We have added money to the Police Department budget to outfit our officers with body cams as well as car cameras. We are one of the only departments still without cameras. This could potentially open us up for issues if not addressed, and in our changing times this will not only protect our Officers, but our Borough as well. It is yet another tool in our arsenal against Crime. We are also providing our Officers with more technology so they can be more efficient and help them be safer on the streets. In 2018 and 2019, we have seen a marked drop in crime in Wilson. We have been working on establishing concentrated traffic enforcement in key problem locations, but we need you to call the non-emergency number so we are aware of any other issues. Police Chief Meehan and I are in constant communication and work very well together. If an issue is brought to our attention, we work proactively to get it resolved. For those of you that don’t know the number, it is: (610) 759-2200. In the Budget that was just approved, we will be putting out mechanical speed signs. This will allow us to better monitor speed on the streets. Body Cams, iPads, and speed signs are just a few ways we are updating out our police officers with the latest technology so they can communicate, receive and respond to information faster, and keep you safer in the end.
Public works has been working hard in 2019 and will be busier in 2020. We have seen several streets repaved in 2019. In 2020, after UGI has completed redoing gas lines, you will see more repaved streets. I know this is a headache, and I ask that you bear with us during this process. We had minimal impact snow storms in 2019, and I was really proud to see how our roads were compared to the other municipalities as I travel a lot for my job. I have no complaints on that point - they simply do a great job. If you walk to Meuser Pool, and take a look, you will see our borough crew over working on and removing the concrete surrounding the pools. They are currently doing as much as they can so we can revisit fixing and reopening the pool as soon as possible. Initial estimates were very high, so we are hoping this ongoing effort will keep the cost in a more affordable range. We want the pool but also don’t want to break the bank. This fits into our plan for a better revitalized Wilson Borough.
The new Code Committee was formed and starting working in 2019 to oversee and work on updating our town codes and ordinances. Councilmen Burke and Woodring, Code Officers, both chiefs and our front office staff have enacted and adjusted several codes in 2019 and are looking to revisit many more in 2020. They have also been working diligently to update our rental program to improve our properties for 2020. We have a new Code Officer to help with the workload and we are looking to enact a program known as Quality of Life in 2020.
Our Firefighters often act as first responders in emergency situations and play a vital role in our community. In 2019 they answered 956 calls of which 571 were EMS. The relationship between the Fire Department and our community is critical. We need to support each other, imagine the impact if our fire department is underfunded and understaffed. Right now we are operating at about four minutes response time where the average time for the arrival of EMS personnel to an emergency scene is seven minutes.
Finally, we look to hold our Centennial birthday celebration on July 16, 17, and 18 of this year. We will be celebrating our 100th year as a Borough with a festival at Meuser Park. We also want to build on the tree lighting and do a complete Winter Festival. How will these be funded, you ask? The first part will come from fundraising. Currently our committee has raised close to $12,000.00 through donations and fundraisers. We have several fundraisers going on right now. We have a Comedy Night planned for February 1 at 8pm as well as “Super Bowl Squares”. For details go to celebratewilson.org or visit the Wilson Borough Centennial Celebration page on Facebook. The other part of it comes from a $15,000 grant awarded to us from Northampton County to add to the money already raised for this event. We will be having bands, vendors, food, rides and much more. This Grant was a big boost to this event and festivities already planned. We are currently looking for vendors and food trucks and would like to welcome all of you and strongly encourage all to attend.
These are exciting times for our community. Thank you for the honor of being your Mayor, and I look forward to seeing you in 2020!