HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said during his annual State of the City address Friday that the city is on better financial footing, has seen a drop in crime and has some key projects planned, including the demolition of dilapidated properties.
Williams said the city has had financial success, including a $6 million budget surplus. Williams said for the first time, an annual audit had zero findings. Williams said city employees deserve a pay raise and the health care plan will not change for the next three years. The public safety pension payments went from seven months in arrears to only one month. He said the city's Finance Department has tightened its expenses and has worked to collect all taxes and fees owed.
The Public Works Department has been designing and building its own equipment to save money. Williams said millions have been spent to repave and repair roads and sidewalks since 2013 with additional work scheduled for the fall.
In the coming year, the city plans to tear down 100 dilapidated buildings. About $400,000 has been donated by private individuals and companies to pay for the demolition, including $8,000 from a realty company challenging other companies to do the same.
Williams said crime has gone down including murder, robberies, burglaries and violent crime. The Huntington Police Department is budgeted for 108 officers in the coming years with plans for five new vehicles.
Plans to rebuild two fire stations and an overhaul of a third is in the works. Williams said the city has allotted the largest budget for the fire department in its history. The city plans to replace vehicles each year and they plan to buy new firefighter gear. The department is fully staffed with 95 firefighters.
Williams said the goal is to purchase the old pigment plant property in the Highlawn area to allow Marshall University to build a new baseball stadium.
The City Planning and Zoning is applying for a safety grant to install between 165 and 204 lights along Hal Greer Boulevard. The cost for the project would range from $550,000 to $687,000.
Williams said the city is poised to be the first to deploy 5G internet, depending on the passage of state legislation.
“What is the state of our city? It’s strong. A city of solutions,” Williams said as he wrapped up his speech.
Below is the text of the mayor's speech:
Below is the city's proposed budget: