In reviewing the past year, Mayor Don Wesely today said 2002 was a year of challenges and progress that citizens can look back on with pride and confidence because of the City's strong financial position.
"Taxpayers can be confident that the City of Lincoln's finances are strong and proud that the City has continued to provide excellent services with no property tax increase," Wesely said. "During difficult economic times, we took action to reduce spending. As a result, our City's budget situation is very positive. We are projecting for next year a balanced budget that adds 12 police officers and requires no property tax increase.
"During 2002, we have been able to move forward on important City projects that will benefit our community far into the future, including the opening of two new libraries, a new pool and a new recreation center."
These new facilities that opened this year are the "F" Street Community Center, the University Place Aquatics Center, the Eiseley Library in northwest Lincoln and the Walt Library in southwest Lincoln. The pedestrian bridge connecting the Haymarket area with new baseball and softball complex also opened, as well as the new Haymarket Parking Garage. The new Lincoln Southwest High School opened this fall as well.
"We also took a major step forward in planning for our City's continued growth by adopting a new City-County Comprehensive Plan," said Wesely. "Also in 2002, work began on the long-awaited Antelope Valley Project, and we received final federal approval to proceed with the South Beltway. It also was a year of major street construction, resulting in better and safer streets."
The first phase of the East "O" Street widening project was completed ahead of schedule. Also finishing ahead of schedule was the 84th Street project, which included widening 84th between Pinedale Avenue and Northwoods Drive and installing a new water main. Work is under way on the overpass at 3rd and "A" Streets. The first roundabout was successfully introduced at 33rd Street and Sheridan Boulevard. The City hired a traffic engineer, and repairs were made to more than 3.5 miles of arterial streets. For the fourth consecutive year, the City has rehabilitated more than 100 blocks of neighborhood residential streets.
Mayor Wesely said despite a slow economy, Lincoln's growth continued. For the first time in the City's history, the value of building permits exceeded $500 million, 13 percent over the previous year. The City's unemployment rate is the fourth lowest in the nation among cities our size. Wesely said despite adjustments by some employers, nearly 4,000 more people are working in Lincoln now than last year. Companies that have added jobs during 2002 include Kawasaki, Duncan Aviation, Transaction Applications Group, Burlington Northern and Sante Fe, Cabela's, Garner Industries, Digital IMS, TerraTrack, Inc., Acton and Universal Cold Storage.
To more aggressively pursue economic opportunities, the City, Lancaster County and the Lincoln Electric System partnered to hire an economic development coordinator to work for all three partners to facilitate job creation in the private sector. In addition, the Mayor's Technology Council completed its "technology audit" of Lincoln, which led to the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development (LPED) beginning a new strategic plan for economic development. Mayor Wesely and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey also met in a joint city Economic Summit to develop a strategy on how the two communities can work together and with the State to grow the economy of both communities and the region.
Other significant City highlights in 2002 included: