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Ask The Mayor: Terre Haute's Duke Bennett

Mayor Duke Bennett

In this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Indiana Newsdesk's Joe Hren visits Terre Haute's Mayor Duke Bennett at City Hall. The mayor talks about the partnership between Indiana State University and the city with downtown projects, an update on the effort to demolish blight homes and a look back at 2014.

Listen to their full conversation above. Here are some highlights:

Hren: The state was offering funding for the demolition of blight properties, Terre Haute was active in that. What's the latest in securing funding and progress on cleaning up neighborhoods?

Bennett: It is a very red tape intensive process, we have to really control the property and so you really have to do a lot more legal work up front before you can actually tear the building down. We're going to be able to do at least 60 to 70 maybe 100 when it's all said and done, additional properties than we were going to be able to do.

Hren: Economists predict 2015 will be the strongest year for the U.S. economy since the 2009 depression. Do you notice an uptick in the Terre Haute economy?

Bennett: I've seen a few things. Home sales are doing very well here. We've seen some business expansion some small business expansion doesn't get a lot of headlines but things you could tell they are hiring again. The biggest issue we face are people not being properly trained for those jobs. There are open jobs, I betcha there are at least 300 to 400 today in this community that pay pretty good money, much better than some of the jobs people have right now, but they're not qualified for that.

Hren: What are some of the low-lights and high-lights of this past year for you?

Bennett: Low lights, I guess still dealing with the financial situation, it's been going on several years now. Our reduction in revenue, a significant reduction in revenue. This year we didn't collect $10 million that we were approved to collect because of assessed values being down and just the caps themselves.

On the positive side, we've invested in infrastructure, we did twice as many sidewalks this year, we're going to do twice as many next year. Paving, we did all the things we need to do just to maintain. Our waste water treatment plant continues to move ahead. People want to gripe to me about their sewer bill, I get that, but we were mandated to do that. When we get down with this plant in a year and a half, we will have a state of the art facility that's totally compliant with federal and state guidelines.

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