Editor’s Note: Mayor Costi Kutteh delivered the following remarks during the Statesville City Council meeting on Monday, December 20.
BY COSTI KUTTEH
2021 has been an amazing year in the City of Statesville. In the midst of a seemingly never-ending pandemic, we have flourished and grown considerably. While there have been obstacles and tragedy along the journey, we have again and again seen the “Spirit of Statesville.” None of this would have been possible without the dedicated efforts of all of our employees. Each day, our employees deal with the public in a caring, competent and conscientious manner. Even when they are not treated with the respect they deserve, they respond professionally in all of their tasks. I see firsthand our team in action and I am proud of all their efforts.
June 28th rocked the core of our community. Ah’Miyahh Howell’s senseless death caused us to look at how we treat one another, how we continue to improve the quality of life for all of our citizens and how we deploy resources broadly. We already had in place great recreational programs, aggressive programs to maintain streets, sidewalks and upgrade all outdoor lighting to LED. We had created an Adopt-A-Street program to offer citizen groups a chance to participate in regular city cleanups. We were making great strides in improving our housing stock by intentionally following the results of our housing inventory. We were planning our future with Land Development Plans, a recreation department master plan, a Water Asset Inventory and an Airport Layout Plan. We made it through our first 20 years of the Civic Center and are planning for the next 20 years. We approved the first and second phases of our much-needed warehouse facility upgrades. Diversity groups had been discussing, among other things, social justice and racial equity issues. But more needed to be done. Ah’Miyahh’s death was a new call to action. Enough is Enough. The Sprit of Statesville shone brightly. After praying, walking, crying and bonding with each other, we knew we had work to do.
You asked us to look at all our facilities, especially our parks – and we listened. Significant improvements are underway, not just on the drawing board.
You asked our police to solve these unthinkable crimes and within ten days, the alleged perpetrators were behind bars. Our police did this without a single tip from the folks who knew what happened. In an effort to help our police department in the future, anonymous citizens raised over $20,000 for a new Protect Our Children Fund – with a hope that the tragedy of June 28th will not happen again.
You asked for improved fire protection south of Front Street – and we entered into one of the most significant partnerships in our City’s history with Statesville Housing Authority. We acquired SHA property in an ideal location in exchange for lighting and sidewalk upgrades in the H-115 corridor – a win for everyone!
You asked us to find more opportunities for our youth and we have started an advisory group of middle school students, who will make a presentation to City Council before the end of the school year.
You asked us to recognize forgotten historic sites and persons throughout our community and we are meeting, seeking grants and working to accomplish this.
The census, though flawed and delayed, provided indications that our population is steadily growing, though not as rapidly as our sisters to the south, but favorably to our other neighbors and our state. We are seeing even more aggressive population growth now with thousands of residences under construction or in process while having more proposed. It seems as if every vacant residential lot has a new home on it and as we further implement the housing inventory, things will grow even better.
The census delay also affected our elections. Our city has been redistricted and many of you will be in a different ward than you were in the most recent municipal elections. Beyond that, City Council voted to delay our local elections (which with an on-time census report would have been conducted last October) until the approved date for state and national elections. That date is now in May, 2022, and may be delayed even further. For those of us anxious to continue serving our city as elected officials, a definitive time for the elections is of great interest.
Every city in the USA got American Rescue Plan funds. Statesville will receive $8.7 million. It will be put toward necessary projects and will relieve the burden on our taxpayers. That was automatic – a no-brainer. The great news, the heavy lifting, so to speak, is the nearly $21 million we received through our state budget. We knew early on there would be large amounts available for certain projects. We began asking Senator Sawyer and Representative McNeely for their help in uncovering where Statesville could fit in. Our manager found the fit, our legislators made the request and we were successful. The majority of these funds will be used to upgrade water and sewer systems. This was a huge win for us!
Commercial and industrial growth are everywhere. Some folks don’t think so, but new private investment in Statesville industry started in 2021 totals nearly $200 million. 2022 will be even better.
For the first time in a long time, some folks are saying “put on the brakes, we are growing too fast.” We are watching things carefully, but we have the infrastructure in place to responsibly handle our growth.
We sold city-owned land, from single family lots to 134-acre tracts, as the city divests itself of unneeded property. The plan to renovate the Vance Hotel is well under way, and we should know around mid year how the development will proceed. Should the rehab continue, it will be a major divestiture of city-owned property and like the other properties we sold, put property back on the tax rolls and enhance our tax base.
We have enjoyed the successes of all of our citizens – the youth who have excelled and earned scholarships for further academic or technical training, the folks who have excelled in their churches, business and families – our citizens who volunteer hundreds of thousands of hours to help others. Two heralded Statesvillians stand out in 2021:
♦ Emma Schieck – paralympic gold medalist in volleyball (who displayed and let us hold the real thing); and
♦ Tom Marshburn, who is at the space station now and who became the oldest person to walk in space.
And too many of our friends and family members died this year, people that loved us and we them — and who loved Statesville with an admirable passion – a lesson for us all.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May 2022 be your best year and the best year for Statesville!!