2012 proved to be yet another year of continued growth, significant challenges, and outstanding accomplishments for the Johnston community.
In January, the Johnston Parks and Recreation Department received two funding grants from the state of Iowa. One helped pay for the costs of the new interpretive signs and benches installed along the recreational trail in the Beaver Creek Natural Resource Area. The other will be used to start construction of the NW Beaver Drive Trail, scheduled to begin in 2013.
In February, Vice President Xi Jinping of China visited Iowa and was the guest of Governor Terry Branstad at a dinner at the State Capitol. In his remarks before a crowd of nearly 700, Vice President Xi Jinping expressed his desire to continue to build relationships with Iowa businesses, and he specifically named DuPont Pioneer. What a great shout out to one of our great local companies.
In March, the City Council approved a budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 that included funding to construct two new facilities for our Police and Fire Departments and to increase the number of firefighters and police we have to keep Johnston residents and businesses safe. At the same time, the Council reduced the city’s operating budget by over a half million dollars by eliminating unnecessary staff positions and cutting travel, office supplies and equipment across all city departments.
In April, DuPont Pioneer celebrated the opening of its new Beaver Creek Facility with remarks by public officials and a ribbon cutting that included Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, Senator Chuck Grassley and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. The new $40 million research facility is expected to create over 400 new, high quality jobs in the next 5 years.
In May, several events were held to recognize May as Bike Month. The Johnston Parks and Recreation Department held its annual Bike Rodeo. The Johnston Police Department partnered with Van Dee’s Ice Cream Shop in awarding “tickets” redeemable for ice cream to kids demonstrating safe bike practices. Also this year, the first annual Mayor’s Bike Ride was held with a healthy lunch provided by Johnston Hy-Vee.
In June, a dedication ceremony was held for the new Veterans Memorial erected near the Johnston Public Library as a lasting tribute to Iowa’s veterans. Adjutant Larry Sheesley, Commander Skip Boysen and other members of American Legion Post No. 728 raised the money needed to construct the memorial. Johnston youth, Jacob Mentele, helped design and install the memorial as his Eagle Scout project.
Also in June, the City joined the Iowa National Guard in hosting a reception for the President of Kosovo, President Atifete Jahjaga, at the Gold Star Museum at Camp Dodge. Community leaders representing the city, schools and businesses attended the event. President Jahjaga was in Iowa as part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program.
In July, we broke ground for Fire Station No. 2 located at the corner of 103th Street and 62nd Avenue. When completed, Fire Station No. 2 will significantly improve the response times for fire and emergency calls on Johnston’s west side. The successful bid to construct the facility came in 20 percent below the architect’s estimates. Construction is expected to be completed in February of 2013.
In August, the City cooperated with the Des Moines Water Works in implementing the utility’s water conservation plan. The prolonged summer drought had taken its toll on the water levels in our local area rivers and streams. Residents were asked to voluntarily cut back on lawn irrigation to ensure adequate supplies would be available for drinking water.
In September, several Johnston neighborhoods welcomed city officials and staff to spend the evening with them as part of the second annual “Night with the Neighbors.” The event allows residents to learn more about city services and projects, and to ask questions of city representatives first hand.
Also in September, we were joined by over 70 Johnston residents at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Public Safety Building on Merle Hay Road. The Public Safety Building will serve as the main facility for both the Johnston Police and Fire Departments and, when completed, will enhance their ability to provide protection to our community. Construction of the building will take about 18 months with completion expected at the end of 2013.
In October, at the invitation of Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga, I attended the International Women’s Conference in Pristina, Kosovo. As the only Mayor at the conference, I had the opportunity to share a unique perspective about participation by women in the political process and as leaders in our communities and states. While in Kosovo, I also met with the Mayor of Peja, Ali Berisha, to discuss our cities’ mutual interests in becoming Sister Cities.
In November, we celebrated the expansion of the Code 411 program with local businesses and organizations that stepped forward and generously contributed funding to make it possible. The Code 411 program is a collaborative program between the Johnston Police Department and Johnston School District that teaches fifth graders about the dangers of drug use and the importance of making good decisions. The contributions will allow us to offer the program in the seventh and ninth grades where the temptation of at-risk behavior is even greater.
Also in November, we held an official ribbon cutting for the reconstruction of NW 62nd Avenue. Joining us at the event were Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino. Among the improvements to 62nd Avenue are four roundabouts that are designed to keep the traffic moving at all times and are much safer than traffic lights. Also new recreational trails were constructed on both sides of 62nd Avenue, which served as the course for the first annual Mayor’s 5k Run.
In December, over 700 residents participated in Holidays in Johnston, the largest number of ever to attend the event. The record turnout shows how popular this event, held at Johnston Public Library, has become for Johnston families.
Also in December, Iowa’s first winter snowstorm, named Draco by the weather stations, dumped nearly 13 inches of snow on Johnston in a 24 hour period. Ice under the snow, cold temperatures and strong winds made the storm particularly hazardous. It wasn’t too much for the Johnston Public Works Department though, who as usual, did a great job plowing through all that Mother Nature had left behind.
2012 was a great year. Together we can make 2013 even better. Thanks to the Johnston City Council, City Staff, and all of our residents and businesses for making Johnston such a special place to live and work. Happy New Year!