2021 OUTLOOK

Southside mayors discuss 2020 challenges and accomplishments and goals for 2021

Compiled by Nancy Price

2020 was a year unlike anything the Southside, including the entire world, had seen since the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. On March 6, Indiana confirmed its first case of COVID-19, and on March 20, Roberta June “Birdie” Shelton of Beech Grove passed away. Pandemic restrictions closed 15 percent of Indiana businesses, according to CNHI News, which was below the national average. Yet, through the worst, the Southside community stepped up to help others. From local heroes, including healthcare workers, first responders, police officers and firefighters, to Southside business owners and the community donating personal protective equipment and patrons supporting locally owned businesses, Southsiders proved their loyalty to help those in need.

Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley

Q: What were the city’s greatest accomplishments of 2020?

BUCKLEY: Keeping our workforce healthy; staying solvent financially; maintaining all employee jobs (no one lost their job); continuing to pave local roads; continuing to make stormwater drainage improvements; continuing to make wastewater system improvements; replacing our entire telephone system citywide; updating our computer network, including servers and computers; constructing a roundabout at Arlington Avenue and Churchman Bypass; beginning construction of the Franciscan Trail greenway; continuing work on the Thompson Road Trail project; continuing work on the roundabout at Churchman and 25th avenues; receiving funding from the Community Crossing Grant ($350,000); receiving funding from the Cares Act ($211,000); receiving funding from OCRA for sewer upgrades ($600,000); and starting the process to construct a new police station.

Volunteers with Beech Grove City Schools and Chartwells K-12 Food Service Program
continued to assist during COVID-19 by adhering to CDC guidelines with the Grab and Go program, which allows community members in need to pick up a free meal to take home.(Submitted photo)

Q: What is the biggest challenge the city overcame in 2020?

BUCKLEY:  COVID-19 (by far); maintaining local small business; operating a city when revenues are not coming in while balancing everything; continuing to provide services.

Q: What do you feel is the greatest strength of your city, going into the new year?

BUCKLEY: We are solid financially. Our workforce is healthy, and hopefully will be vaccinated very soon. We are prepared to welcome more businesses into our city. Our crime rate has dropped by almost 10 percent. We will welcome LED lighting upgrades to all of our streetlights (775). We are a very clean city, and we look forward to providing more excellent services.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add, summarizing 2020 or looking forward to 2021?

BUCKLEY: The year 2020 was a really bad year for most, but I liked the challenge. It’s very easy to be mayor when things are good, but as it was when I was fire chief, I want to be mayor when things are bad and you can roll up your sleeves and go to work. Our beautiful city is in a really good position as we enter the new year; we just have to keep going. The Franciscan Trail greenway is a game changer; it will change the way the entire city looks, and people who live here will see parts of Beech Grove that they have never seen before. It is a wonderful asset to our city and I so look forward to it. We will have to take a walk on it when it’s finished.

A 21-foot stainless steel hornet was installed in October 2020 at the roundabout at Churchman Bypass and Arlington Avenue in Beech Grove. (Photo by Neal Smith)

Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers

Q: What were the city’s greatest accomplishments of 2020?

MYERS: Despite the global pandemic, the city of Greenwood was able to accomplish many notable initiatives. Great progress was made on several transformative quality of life projects including the completion of the reimagined Old City Park. Old City Park is once again a cornerstone of downtown, and most importantly, a COVID-friendly asset that increases walkability, connectivity and quality of life throughout the city.

The Greenwood Parks & Recreation Department was able to continue programming through new and innovative ways. To help with social distancing, this year’s summer camp, along with other park initiatives, took on a whole new structure. Campers were separated into five pods of 20 campers and three camp counselors. All participants and workers were screened daily and temperature checks were taken at the arrival of camp. By providing safe, in-person events, as well as virtual options, the parks department continued to provide valuable programming to the city and our visitors.

Progress also continued on the redevelopment of the former Greenwood Middle School. The anchor public amenity for that development is a new fieldhouse redeveloped from the old middle school gym. Plans include an elevated indoor running and walking track, two multi-purpose turf fields – which can be used for soccer, lacrosse and several other sports – basketball/volleyball courts and several indoor pickle ball courts. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2021.

The city of Greenwood thanked local healthcare providers, the heroes during COVID-19. (Submitted photo)

Earlier this year, the Indiana State Police (ISP) solidified their expanded presence at Indy South Greenwood Airport. ISP’s Aviation Section, Strategic Planning Section and command staff for its Special Operations Section are all now stationed at Indy South Greenwood. This expansion confirms the airport’s continued growth, relevance and driver of economic development in both Greenwood and throughout Johnson County.

Finally, Greenwood remains deeply committed to improving infrastructure for residents and visitors. Construction continued on the Western Regional Interceptor project, enhancement of Madison Avenue and the expansion of Worthsville Road. All projects will continue in 2021.

Q: What is the biggest challenge the city overcame in 2020?

MYERS: Battling the unknowns of COVID-19 has certainly been a challenge. We worked tirelessly to ensure that all city buildings and public amenities were safe for visitors and residents. Each visitor at the Greenwood City Center and Greenwood Community Center has been required to check in and complete a temperature check and health questionnaire. On occasion, we have closed the city center building due to rising cases.

Throughout 2020, our top priority has been the health and safety of our community, residents and visitors. As the pandemic continues into 2021, we encourage our community to stay safe, wear masks and practice social distancing.

Progress continued on construction of the future Greenwood fieldhouse, expected to be completed this year. (Submitted photo)

Q: What is the greatest strength of your city, going into the new year?

MYERS: With a balanced budget, significant financial reserves and Indiana’s fourth-lowest tax rate, Greenwood is well-positioned to continue leading the Southside’s resurgence. Earlier this year, IndyStar reported that Greenwood is the latest hot real estate market in central Indiana.

Greenwood will continue to provide high-performing schools, dynamic community events and a thriving local restaurant and retail environment that will continue to drive new families to make Greenwood their home. Greenwood plans to continue building on this momentum in the new year and beyond.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add, summarizing 2020 or looking forward to 2021?

MYERS: The city of Greenwood looks forward to 2021 bringing continued pride and progress. Stay tuned for updates and more great news!

Southport Mayor James Cooney

Q: What were the city’s greatest accomplishments in 2020?

COONEY: In July Southport welcomed a new clerk-treasurer, Alissa Newhouse. Alissa has done a great job learning the tasks of her office. Jane Vaughn, deputy clerk treasurer, has also done a tremendous job of learning new tasks and educating us with the operation of the clerk-treasurer’s office. Five streets in Southport were repaved in August/September as well as numerous small paving projects completed to improve streets and the parking lot at the Community Center. We replaced the Christmas lights with 17 new Christmas lights along Southport Road. The Christmas lights use the new LED lights and are in various Christmas shapes such as a nutcracker, candle, star and Christmas tree.

Southport welcomed a new mayor, James Cooney, as well as a new clerk-treasurer, Alissa Newhouse. (Submitted photo)

Q: What is the biggest challenge the city overcame in 2020?

COONEY: Handling our response to COVID-19. There were many mixed messages in the beginning, as no one had much accurate information upon which to make decisions. We exercised caution and patience while finding our way through the first few months. The challenge to hold public meetings was overcome through virtual meetings. Even in difficult circumstances of COVID we were able to conduct our meetings with a quorum. A spirit of cooperation and understanding helped Southport conduct business.

IMPD Officer and Southport High School graduate Breann Leath was shot and killed while on duty April 9, 2020. (Submitted photo)

Q: What do you feel is the greatest strength of your city, going into the new year?

COONEY: The city’s greatest strength going into 2021 is the spirit of cooperation and understanding. All branches of government continue to work together to conduct business. We also created a viable budget for 2021, which will provide flexibility to get through what may continue to be a difficult time. Hopefully with the distribution of the vaccine the latter half of 2021 will be an easier environment within which to conduct the business of Southport.