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Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson delivers 2022 State of the City address

Screenshot captured via Facebook Live

In his State of the City address, Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson said 2021 was a year of “reinvigoration,” when Elkhart emerged from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our community once again got to experience one of the greatest joys of being human — being together,” he said.

Roberson cited the return of downtown events like the Grand Prix and Jazz Festival, as well as the opening of Hotel Elkhart and competitions at the Elkhart Health & Aquatics Center.

He also touched on the city’s economic successes — namely, a Wall Street Journal report naming Elkhart the top housing market in the country, Amazon’s decision to build in Elkhart County, and one of the country’s lowest unemployment rates.

“Our reputation as a city that works is on its way,” Roberson said.

Roberson said the year’s work could be broken into three focus areas: projects, investments, and quality of place initiatives.

In projects, the city used American Rescue Plan funding to pave nearly 60 miles of roadway and install over 14,000 feet of new water and sewer mains, despite supply chain issues and inflation.

Roberson said the city invested in staff through a new performance-based pay initiative. The city also processed 9 percent more permits in 2021 than in 2020.

“While 9 percent may not seem like a lot, that 9 percent represents $90 million additional dollars of investment activity in our city,” Roberson said.

In quality of place, Roberson said the myElkhart311 was first in the country among cities of similar size for engagement and resident participation.

He said the city plans to expand constituent services through the app next year, working with council members “to establish neighborhood associations and find temporary housing for the city’s unhoused.”

“That app is our best way to create a two-road dialogue with our citizens,” Roberson said.

Though it was only open for seven months, Roberson said the Lerner Theatre had a record year, with 137 events. Attendance also improved at the National New York Central Railroad Museum.

As for the coming year, Roberson said the city hopes to make headway on affordable housing, in part through public-private partnerships.

“The work we are doing now will bear fruit for the next five to 10 years, when we expect to add 1,500 additional workforce housing units,” he said.

Elkhart’s 2022 State of the City address is available on the city’s Facebook page.

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Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.