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With a mere 52 days under his belt as mayor of Berne, Bill McKean was hard-pressed to tout any accomplishments of his fledgling administration on Tuesday as he delivered his first State of the City address.
Instead, McKean used the platform to sing the praises of city employees, fellow elected officials and even his predecessor for their roles in helping the community move forward as he spoke during a noon luncheon hosted by the Berne Chamber of Commerce.
"As a past elected official, a business owner on East Main Street, and now as mayor, I can say without hesitation that we have as knowledgeable and as dedicated employees as any community, regardless of size," he said.
McKean cited infrastructure improvements, such as a new 500,000 gallon water tower on the city's southeast side, and continuing efforts to bring the city into full compliance with Indiana Department of Environmental Management guidelines as evidence the city is moving in the right direction.
The only portion of McKean's address that may have hit a sour note with residents is the news that an increase in water rates is in the offing. The mayor said a water rate study, initiated by former Mayor John Minch and performed by Umbaugh and Associates, revealed the water department is losing a substantial amount of money annually. "We need to raise water rates," McKean said, noting that the last water rate increase in Berne took place 31 years ago.
The mayor did reflect on his first order of business upon taking office — the implementation of a new ordinance intended to rid the city of eyesores and unsafe structures.
"In my first weeks in office, I instructed city attorney Jim Beitler to make finishing the Unsafe Building Ordinance a number one priority. I am pleased to say that, with the council’s unanimous approval, this ordinance is now in place and those structures whose conditions apply can be addressed," said McKean. "This will not be a quick fix. But, the process of cleaning up unsafe and dilapidated buildings will now begin."
The new mayor told the chamber crowd he has already met with State Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, and State Sen. Travis Holdman to discuss "issues that could affect our city and county," and said he will also use his membership on the Adams County solid waste and economic development boards to work for the betterment of Berne.
"I look forward to working with the Berne City Council as we journey together," McKean concluded. "I encourage you to challenge me and to challenge yourselves. Let’s all strive to make this an even better community."