Saturday, April 14, 2012

04142012 - News Article - Snyder recounts first 100 days as Portage mayor

Snyder recounts first 100 days as Portage mayor
NWI Times
Apr 14, 2012 

PORTAGE | Portage Mayor James Snyder was told before he threw his hat in the ring last year to take over leadership of the city that the campaign was the easy part and his work would really begin when he took over the post.

After serving his first 100 days at the helm, Snyder said he is finding it the opposite.

"The campaign was the difficult part. This has been the rewarding part because Portage residents have been a part of it every step of the way. They helped me pick the department heads, they've shown up in record numbers at city council meetings and they've offered ideas on how to save the city money," he said this past week.

"It's a blast. I love it," he said of his first three months in office.

Snyder, only the second Republican mayor elected in the city's history, hit the ground running, with a few disappointments and some accomplishments already under his belt.

"My biggest disappointment was not getting the (COPS) grant to add three new officers on the street," he said. In January, the Democrat-controlled council voted against accepting the grant, citing financial concerns.

However, Snyder added, he believes he's found a way to add a second school resource officer to the schools and plans on hiring two additional officers soon. He said the hours at the police station have been expanded and he intends to reopen the station full-time soon.

In addition, he said, the department has been active in conducting raids, making arrests and a putting a dent in illegal drug activity in the city. They've also ordered five new vehicles, two new sniper rifles and two ATVs. The latter will be used to slow down traffic in neighborhoods this summer as part of his city safety initiative.

"We are polishing our reputations so that everyone knows that Portage is safe," he said.

He's also made progress in his jobs initiative, working with Portage Economic Development Corp. director Jim Fitzer.

Working together, the city and Fitzer helped shepherd Ratner Steel Supply Co.'s location in the city in record time, said Snyder, adding his administration is fulfilling is promise to be business-friendly.

Making the city fiscally responsible, Snyder said, was his third goal and he believes they are making strides in the effort.

"I was surprised that there were bills that hadn't got paid when I came into office. I knew it was going to be a challenge and we'd have to cut bills, but that added to our challenge," he said.

"But, it is what it is and we are taking the necessary steps to get the budget under control," he said, adding those steps include changing the trash and recycling collection in the city and having an outside review of health insurance to save money.

He said he's also challenged department heads to cut staff through attrition, removed several city official cars from the street, hired an actuary to find cost-cutting measures and made energy efficiency improvements to city hall.