During this virtual event, Mayor Emily Styron shared the accomplishments of 2020 and the vision for 2021.
COVID-19 and the Town’s mitigation efforts
Zionsville Fire Department Deputy Chief of Fire Prevention Josh Frost discusses mitigation efforts to keep firefighters and staff safe, including adding additional PPE, adjusting our emergency response guidelines and making modifications at the fire stations to restrict visitors and minimize non-emergency contacts. The Town took steps to minimize exposure to staff by adding remote work options and initiating sanitization steps. We worked with the Unified Command, the Boone County Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health.
We had a regional approach and worked with partners for a collective plan to keep our community safe in an unprecedented health emergency. We went straight to work to keep our workforce and community safe and to protect the ancillary negative impact that could happen on our economy.
COVID-19 and economic development
It was important to me that we did not let COVID-19 win and that we push forward with our economic development agenda. Right away, we created curbside pick-up parking spots. We worked to help businesses be more resilient through COVID-19 grants to local businesses.
Last year we announced the first new tenant in Creekside Corporate Park in four years, Rahal Letterman Lanigan. I can’t wait to see the amazing building this team has designed.
Grants and community engagement
Director of Planning and Economic Development Wayne DeLong discusses the COVID-19 grants awarded to local businesses in 2020. We also participated in the Boone EDC’s Propel microloan program. Through these two programs and others, the Town awarded nearly $400,000 in community assistance.
In coordination with the Zionsville Chamber, we launched Night on the Bricks. This was a wonderful respite in what had been a rough few months.
We had record engagement by the community because of additional accessibility through putting our board/commission/council meetings on Zoom. I suspect this accessibility will be around because it allows the public to be more informed and engaged.
Sense of place initiatives
Through the Zionsville Gateway Area plan, tearing down the PNC bank building was a cathartic moment. Now what? Now we have a lot of open area that is waiting for investment. We learned that not having the Farmers Market on the brick street took away revenue from downtown businesses. We need a vibrant community space not only for the Farmers Market but for other events that drive people downtown. We know there have been proposals in the past that have failed. We decided to flip the process and ask businesses, residents and stakeholders: what would you like to see in this entryway into our downtown area? We are taking this input and putting it into a redevelopment plan for commercial, residential and community space.
The Zionsville Wayfinding Master Plan is a very intentional signage plan. Our business district will benefit but we also want to explore how this will impact resident’s willingness to do something they haven’t done before. It breaks down barriers by simply suggesting wayfinding options. It is meant to get people moving and experiencing the amenities we have.
Introducing a CFO
Chief Financial Officer Tammy Havard discusses long-term solutions that were implemented and new technology, including an updated financial system and online payment portals. We used CARES Act grant dollars to partner with OpenGov to make better data-driven financial solutions.
We hired Tammy Havard to bring professional-level skill sets on a daily basis. This minimizes the reliance on outside advisory firms. It’s going to continue to be evident as we see her bring more accountability to how we’re spending our money, how our funding is used in the community and managing our contracts so we’re getting the best terms and price. She is also helping us on an economic development front. She has brought talent and expertise in-house.
New parks amenities
With the Heritage Trail Dog Park, clearly it is something that is long overdue. The Parks Board is an incredibly hard-working board that has as much as a role in our parks and parks amenities as the Mayor and Town Council.
Diversity, equity and inclusion
Zionsville Police Department Chief Spears discusses strengthening policies and practices through the Use of Force Review Board, bias training for all officers, the Community Conversation series, an intentional recruitment campaign and meeting citizens for an open discussion at Mulberry Fields Park.
It’s important for us to keep listening to members of the community who feel marginalized and want more access to participation. It was a goal of mine to increase diversity in our boards and commission.
Resiliency in 2020
I’ve been inspired by all the frontline workers: our teachers, healthcare providers, first responders. There are so many people who show up to help other people. Our firefighters and our police officers have persevered and also our permitting department. Our permitting department has had a record year. We have been open for business and by-appointment and it’s been a tremendous year. Our parks have been used like never before and our parks maintenance staff has been on it. On top of keeping everything in good shape, they have accomplished new initiatives like invasive species management. During a year when more has been asked of us, we have challenged ourselves to go a little bit further. It’s a joy to work in community service.
Options for Zionsville’s community center
It is now time for us to take the steps to explore how Zionsville will have its own community center. I don’t know ultimately what will happen with this process, but our residents deserve for us to go through this exploration. I’m grateful that Azionaqua has joined in an MOU with the Town to explore a community center.
Municipal Action Center
I want Zionsville to thrive economically and bureaucratically. Having a permitting process that takes weeks or months is not good business. We want a simple and effective permitting process and a one-stop-shop where you come in the door and your experience is curated by Town staff. We are here to meet your needs so you don’t leave frustrated.
Upcoming road projects
Director of Public Works Lance Lantz discusses road projects on the west area of town. With the North-South Connector, this spring construction will begin on a new roundabout on the south end of the project at Oak Street and CR 850. CR 400 South and CR 500 South will both be widened.
Launch of the Community Enrichment Grant
We worked with Town Council to appoint five members to the Community Enrichment Grant Committee to award grants to local non-profits.
Implementation of the Climate Action Plan
The first step of the Climate Action Plan was to work with the IU Resiliency Cohort to get benchmark data and conduct an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. One of the first things we have done is to partner with Earth Mama Compost to offer discounted curbside compost to residents.
Enhancements to parks and trails
Parks and Recreation Director Jarod Lodgson discusses breaking ground on Overley-Worman Park in 2021 and expanding the Rail Trail both north and south. With the new Director of Recreation Services, we will be offering new recreational amenities and fitness, cultural and special events. The newly formed Parks Foundation is a citizens-led group that will assist in future operations, acquisitions and programs.
Special announcement: Jim and Nancy Carpenter, longtime Zionsville residents and founders of Wild Birds Unlimited, have purchased 216 acres formerly known as Wolf Run Golf Course with the goal of someday seeing it become a park and nature sanctuary for Zionsville. It is a special place with Eagle Creek running through it, multiple lakes, mature forests and the opportunity to turn fairways into pollinator meadows. The Carpenter’s vision for the property is to provide a sanctuary for wildlife and birds plus a retreat for people to explore nature and enjoy being outdoors.
The legacy that the Carpenter’s are making possible for this community is generational. If this becomes part of Zionsville’s park system, it’s a game-changer.