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This week, Columbus City Council approved the 2019 City Budget. In past Under the Clock Tower columns, I have described the budget process to highlight how the city’s main planning document is put together each year. In short, the planning process for the follow year’s budget begins not long after the start of the New Year, when spending is monitored and future needs for operations are reassessed. The more formal process lasts about six months and it is the culmination of work that touches city staff and moves through to the City Council for final action. The end of the budget process is also a time to reflect back on what happened in city government in the last year and look forward to what’s coming in the one ahead.

The continued effort to address the condition of our streets continued last year. With some inconvenience to the residents on South Water and East School Street, those roadways were reconstructed. For the fourth year in a row, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation completed critical work to link projects on James Street, and to resurface parts of Park Avenue. One other road project, the extension of Hall Road, has also been completed, and will serve as a vital addition to the blossoming new business developments on the west side in Tax Incremental Financing District No.4. In November, I was happy to be part of a celebration to dedicate the new road and formally welcoming the businesses that have opened that area: Ottery Truck Wash, Duffy Fleet Services, Drexel Building Supply and the expansion of Fromm Family Foods. These are important new developments to Columbus in that they will provide new jobs and more consumer opportunities to the area.

Recent announcements have been made that some longtime downtown businesses have or will be closing this year, including iconic businesses like Caldwell Lumber, Sharrow’s and the Capri. Along with many of you, hearing that brings sadness as a life-long citizen. Despite that, I do sense that there continues to be interest in the downtown for commerce and am hopeful that new energy will continue to build there.

That’s more “brick and mortar” stuff. The streets will continue to be fixed, the police and fire departments will continue to serve with dedication and pride, and places like the senior center, library and Columbus Recreation will continue to find new and fascinating ways to provide community involvement and enrichment activities.

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While 2018 was a very eventful year for us, one of the things that sticks with me is that I’ve noticed a marked increase in community spirit in Columbus. I have seen new names and faces in the mix when it comes to volunteering for community events (whether they be city, or school or for other civic causes), which has spawned new and exciting ideas. The energy that is generated by this tends to spread and I hope it continues. I’ve personally met some people who are new to town this year and they have jumped in and got involved alongside all those who have been doing the same thing for years.

Upon review of this column, I may be rambling but also know there is a point to my thought process. Columbus has to work to continue to get at our physical needs like road projects and public infrastructure, but the key to our success is that fostering that spirit to help each other and make our community the best it can be for all. I guess that is why these thoughts have come out as I write my December column, during this season of giving, helping neighbors and working together. It’s what I love about my hometown.

I hope that Santa is good to you all!

If you have any questions on this or any other issue before city government, please contact me at city hall at 623-5900 or via email at pvandersanden@columbuswi.us.

Patrick Vander Sanden serves as Columbus City Administrator.

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