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In State of City, Florence Mayor Notes Challenges Faced by National Retailers

The state of the City of Florence is strong, Mayor Diane Whalen stated in an address before city council this week.

Showing off events and accomplishments in a slide show presentation, Whalen called Florence a center of commerce and a city that provides the best services possible to its residents.

"Our efforts are paying dividends, and we are experiencing successes from large to small, all of which are important to our community," Whalen said. "These efforts provide an increased and sustainable source of revenue that allow us to provide the best in public safety personnel and equipment, as well as maintain and improve our city infrastructure through the efforts of the public services employees. The fiscal plan and management are in place  to make sure we not only meet those obligations this year, but for many years to come."

She went on to say that the city won its third consecutive Government Finance Officers Association Distinguished Budget Presentation award for excellence in financial reporting.  

The police and fire departments are very busy and continue to provide high quality protection, Whalen asserted.

The mayor also touched on the abuse of heroin plaguing the region, saying that overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50 years of age. She said the city held a heroin town hall on the subject last year and will hold one this year. She told the audience that the police and fire/EMS deal with the effects of heroin on a daily basis, and that the city has been working with other agencies and counties to try to find some solution for the problem.

The mayor also spoke of infrastructure.

"Our transportation infrastructure improvements are now complete, or nearly complete, on 93 streets," she stated. "These improvements include complete replacements, mill and overlay, and crack-sealing. Various sidewalk and bike path improvements were also completed throughout the city."

Whalen addressed economic development in the city, pointing out the new Outback Steakhouse on Mall Road, and the new Chick-fil-A, the Costco and Dave and Busters. She said the new Menards has been delayed, and in fact, Menards' developments all over the US have been delayed, but they are committed to bring their store to the area next to Costco.  

"Concerns remain nationwide about the future of brick and mortar retail stores and large urban malls," Whalen told council. "Our discussions with some of the national retailers, as well as GGP, owner of the Florence Mall, have reassured us that they are aware of the concerns and recognize that as needs in the retail arena shift, so must their focus."

Major projects include Bosch Automotive on Spiral Drive, which will add 70 new jobs and invest over $100 million in a new building and equipment. A new access road will be put in, called Renegade Way, in honor of the city's adopted military unit, the Renegades.

Annexation of 170 acres of airport land behind Walmart has led to working with CVG on the Van Trust development, and Amazon Prime has decided to make CVG its new hub. Other recent developments include Gabe's, Bear Paddle Swim Club, Core Life Eatery, T-Mobile, and Vision Works. Magnolia Springs Senior Living, and Gerner and Kearns law firm have recently opened as well as hotels, Hilton Home to Suites, and Comfort Suites Hotel, which is soon to open. Villages of Florence ranch style rentals will open soon, too.

The city has hired a consultant to look at traffic patterns on Mall Road and will follow the recommendations since traffic is major concern in the city, the mayor said.

The city will be responsible for buying $900,000 worth of 800 megahertz radios to keep up with the entire Northern Kentucky's effort to update the communications systems, as will other local governments.

A new website should be up and running within the next few weeks, the mayor said.

"We may not have riverfront property and views to promote, but our view from the top of our Florence Y'all water tower is just as impressive because of each and every one of you," Whalen said, concluding her nineteenth state of the city report. "Thank you for allowing me to serve. It is indeed a labor of love."

Other notes:

Dr. Rob Tagher, a pediatrician with offices in Florence, ran 100 miles in the Florida Keys on May 20  to raise money to benefit the Children's Advocacy Center. Despite freezing temperatures and flooding on the trail, Tagher was one of only 57 runners to complete the race, finishing tenth. The race represents the farthest he has run to date. Tagher was recognized by the mayor and council for his accomplishment. June 13, 2017 was declared Dr. Rob Tagher Day in the city of Florence. Tagher was able to raise over $18,000 for the center, which will be used to buy much-needed medical equipment. His family came and proudly watched as Tagher was recognized.

"He has a passion for children," said Vickie Henderson, executive director of the center. "Especially for those who have been abused or neglected."

Tagher said that he couldn't have done it without the support of his family, and of his team, who followed him in a van with water and supplies for the entire run.

Mayor Whalen told Tagher, laughing, that the next time he needed someone to follow him in a van in the Florida Keys to let her know. He joked back that the van didn't smell so good at times.

Council passed the second reading of the budget, which totals $35.3 million, slightly higher than last year due to additional capital outlay projects.

The annual Fourth of July festival will take place on July 3, at the Freedom Ballpark from 4 to 11 p.m., and the fireworks will take place at 10 p.m.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor