By TARA LAYNE
Goshen News Staff Writer
During the annual State of the City address Thursday afternoon, Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman called the immigration issue “the elephant in the room.”
There is an interesting mix of attitudes in Goshen on the subject, from complete sympathy to no sympathy, he said.
“Some folks believe police should show compassion and make fewer arrests. Others believe local police should be enforcing federal immigration law,” he said.
Kauffman said that Police Chief Gary Penland has looked into the issue of having local police enforce federal immigration law, but for that to happen officers would have to be trained in that area and would then be working under the supervision of the federal government, not the local police chief. Also, the officers would only be looking for undocumented felons.
“Why should officers be diverted from enforcing local and state law, and only be interested in undocumented felons?” he asked. “Local police are interested in removing all felons from the streets, not only undocumented ones.”
Another challenge facing the city, according to Kauffman, is the perception of the quality of education provided by Goshen schools.
“City government doesn’t typically get involved in quality of education issues,” he said “But there is no question that quality of education is an economic development issue.”
Kauffman said in Goshen there is not a quality of education problem but there is a perception of a quality of education problem.
He explained that the perception is due to the higher number of Goshen students receiving free and reduced lunches and limited English populations that cause composite ISTEP scores to look bad in comparison to suburban schools.
“Non-label students (those who don’t fall into those categories) score as well as their peers in suburban schools,” he said.
Kauffman said Goshen should not be losing out when new employees hired by Goshen Health System or other companies decide not to live in Goshen because they perceive education as better in other school districts.
The mayor also talked about several projects under way in the Maple City and others that are planned. Some projects have been stalled for various reasons.
“We haven’t given up yet” on the south link road project, Kauffman said, explaining that the process has not gone smoothly.
Land cost issues are holding up the project, he said. Kauffman explained that the city administration still hopes to have the link road built across Waterford Commons to C.R. 27. However, if an affordable agreement cannot be reached, “the city may decide only to build road from State Road 15 to Regent Street,” and make some improvements to C.R. 40 and abandon the thought of building a new road across the current open space, he said.
“We still believe traffic needs to get across the Elkhart River somewhere in the Waterford area,” he said.
Another road project, the U.S. 33 widening, has resulted in a lot of people wondering if the project is ever going to happen.
Kauffman reported that when city and state officials met recently to discuss the project, city officials indicated their desire for the design of the planned five-lane Madison Street to include a landscaped median to soften the appearance through the historic district. He said state officials have indicated that an underpass at the railroad track is not an option with this project because of budget concerns.
“If we want aesthetics, we may have to pay for it ourselves,” he said. He said an underpass may be something that could happen as part of a later, separate project.
The city had a pretty good year financially in 2006, the mayor said. He said more than $1 million was spent on new sidewalks. Despite the large amount spent on the project, the General Fund operating balance grew 10 percent from $2 million to $2.2 million. Total unobligated amounts in all funds within the controlled property tax levy grew from $3.85 million to $4.5 million, he said.
A priority this year will be to hire some new police officers, Kauffman said. He said the police department needs about five more officers to be where it should be.
The mayor’s speech was part of the Goshen Chamber of Commerce’s annual Founder’s Day celebration. Each year at the event, businesses that are celebrating major anniversaries are honored. The Goshen News was the oldest business honored, celebrating its 170th anniversary this year.
Dzung Nguyen, chairman of the board for the Chamber of Commerce, announced the businesses celebrating anniversaries.
More than 328 people were in attendance at the event, according to Chamber officials.
Respond: (574) 533-2151, ext. 313
By TARA LAYNE
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