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The way in which Berne united following the death in 2012 of Spc. Nick Taylor, killed in Afghanistan while serving as a member of the Indiana National Guard, was an example of the community's strength and resolve of Berne and demonstrated why the city "is a great place to call home," Mayor Bill McKean said Tuesday during his second annual State of the City address.
McKean gave his remarks during a noon luncheon hosted by the Berne Chamber of Commerce.
"The truest measure of a community is how it comes together in difficult times," the mayor said. "In reflecting on Nick’s passing, the very best of Berne’s citizens — as well as the citizens from our surrounding area and state — shone brightly. At such a sad and solemn time as Nick’s homecoming, we know how special it is to come from a small community. I am moved to serve as this community's mayor. Berne is a special place to call home."
The mayor, now just six weeks into his second year in office, devoted the bulk of his speech to singing the praises of the city's employees, elected officials, volunteer firemen and police reservists, and community members who sit on various boards and commissions.
"There were many firsts during my initial year in office, and I've learned a great deal. I want to thank every employee of this city for the teamwork they have offered, without regard to who gets the credit," the mayor said. "We have a great team working for the city."
McKean had asked each department head to prepare a summary of 2012, and to outline goals for the coming year. He touched briefly on several of those goals, in particular focusing on the city's efforts to meet the requirements contained in the city's latest federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. That permit requires Berne to reduce the level of ammonia contained in water released from its sewage treatment plant.
McKean said of the project, which earlier this week was estimated to carry a $3.9 million price tag, "It's an expensive project, but we will make it."
The mayor also said the city's efforts to establish a Safe Routes To Schools program continue to move forward, with construction expected to begin within the next 12 months. The program, funded in part by a grant from the Indiana Department of Transportation, is designed to encourage students to take part in a healthier lifestyle by walking and biking to school. Infrastructure projects included as part of the program include the installation of sidewalks, crosswalks, speed bumps, pavement markings, increased signage and other "traffic-calming" devices near schools.