Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer has agreed to answer questions from readers of StaceyPageOnline.com. To have the mayor answer your question, email them to [email protected].
Here are most recent questions we received, and Mayor Thallemer’s responses:
Q: OrthoWorx and the city have recently signed an agreement that will allow OrthoWorx to utilize the third floor of Warsaw City Hall for the next three years. Can you explain what will happen when the three-year contract is over? While it is clear that OrthoWorx is paying for much of the renovation costs, will “ownership” remain with the city?
A: OrthoWorx has committed to an upfront sum of $180,000 of community enhancement funds to complete the renovation of the historic third floor of the old First National Bank Building. As you are aware, the city renovated the first and second floors of the building to house the new city hall. An extra stairwell and other “rough improvements” were completed with the initial renovation in anticipation of future utilization of the third floor of the building for community use.
This collaboration will fund the majority of costs for renovation, a huge benefit to the taxpayers. The city will benefit from the improvements and continue to control the space. It will in turn give OrthoWorx much needed expanded office and meeting space. At the end of the three-year term, the city, at their discretion, may negotiate to extend the lease for another term.
Q: “Buying local” is obviously something that is important to our local economy. The police car purchase from Fort Wayne was an issue for local dealers. Also, looking at the general contractor used for the city hall (Harold McComb & Son out of Fort Wayne) and the financial advisors (Umbaugh & Associates out of Plymouth/Mishawaka) the city uses on a regular basis, do you think there needs to be more effort made to use local businesses for these things, even if the costs are a bit higher? Why or why not?
A: Buying local is something everyone agrees will benefit our community. No question! Using local taxpayer dollars to purchase goods and services adds even further evidence to the argument to buy local. Every department head in our city practices that principle for the vast majority of purchases.
That being said, the use of public tax dollars also requires accountability. Cost and level of service must be considered. Let’s look at cost first. I agree that often a difference in cost may not be enough of a factor to purchase out of town. But how much is “not enough?” Is a difference of $20,000 for several police vehicles enough? Is a $400,000 difference enough for the city hall construction project?
The second issue is the level of service we can or cannot obtain locally. Counsel and accounting service for municipal bonds require a level of expertise that we cannot get locally. There are firms that specialize in municipal finance and legal work that we must engage to protection of taxpayer assets. On the other hand, we used a local architect for the city hall project that provided the quality of service that we requested and ultimately received.
Please feel comfortable that when a product or service is locally available, we will evaluate cost and give benefit to our local merchants if appropriate. If our Board of Works or city council determines the cost difference is significant enough to impact the taxpayer or the level of service in not available locally, they will make the final purchasing decision.