Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Laying out Path Forward ; STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS Winnecke Talks Roberts Park, I-69 in Diverse, 'Positive' Speech

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Laying out Path Forward ; STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS Winnecke Talks Roberts Park, I-69 in Diverse, 'Positive' Speech

Article excerpt

The new Downtown hotel project and recently announced local business expansions show Evansville is on the move, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke told the Rotary Club Tuesday in his third State of the City address. Less than two years from a re-election campaign, the first-term Republican mayor said other examples of the city's progress include the upcoming intersection reconstruction at U.S. 41 and the Lloyd Expressway, the removal of tons of litter from city neighborhoods by volunteers and long-term plans to eliminate combined sewer overflows.

Winnecke said he will continue to push for construction of Roberts Park, and he announced that the Rotary Club, in observance of the club's centennial, has committed $100,000 toward construction of a "centennial wetland" area in the park.

The City Council last year removed Roberts Park funding from the 2014 city budget, citing concerns about the park's ongoing maintenance and other issues.

The park is to cost $6 million to $8 million to construct; city government soon will fund a citywide master plan for its parks system.

Winnecke praised the Rotary Club's support of his Roberts Park vision. "The wetlands will provide both an aesthetic and educational component to the park that will be inviting and usable to all ages," he said.

Winnecke advocates Downtown Evansville as the "preferred location" of the expanded Indiana University School of Medicine campus, but he said the campus will benefit Southwestern Indiana no matter where it is built. He vowed to support state funding of the facility during next year's General Assembly session, regardless of the site selected.

Other sites that have submitted proposals to IU include The Promenade on Burkhardt Road; a Warrick County location near Deaconess Gateway Hospital; and the University of Southern Indiana. The IU Board of Trustees is to make a selection in April.

A groundbreaking was held Monday for the new convention hotel, which will be a 257-room Hilton DoubleTree. Winnecke said the hotel will put Evansville "back in the convention business," and the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns will be the hotel's first convention after its scheduled opening in fall 2015. The group last convened in Evansville in 2007.

Rick Huffman, the CEO of hotel developer HCW, and company director Sam Catanese, were present for Monday's groundbreaking and Tuesday's State of the City address.

Winnecke said repairing Evansville's aged water and sewer infrastructure will continue to be expensive challenges. He said other priority issues include battling methamphetamine traffic, providing diversity training for city employees and razing vacant and decayed houses.

City officials in April will give a presentation to the LST 325 Board of Directors, hoping the ship will extend its lease at Marina Pointe, Winnecke said. Its current 10-year lease expires next year.

The state of Evansville's finances is "stable," Winnecke said, although the city must make unexpected cuts due to a property tax shortfall of about $2 million in the second half of 2013. …

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