By Carson Gerber
For the Pharos-Tribune
Peru Mayor Jim Walker Monday night used his annual state of the city address to pledge support for placing armed officers at Peru schools, and outline development plans on a large area of property near U.S. 24 currently designated as a floodplain.
Walker addressed a standing-room-only crowd at city hall, where he said the city was working to find funding to help pay for five armed enforcement officers to guard the main entrances at the five schools in Peru.
Peru Schools Superintendent Chuck Brimbury said earlier this month he was seeking financial support from the city, county and local donors to help the district pay for the guards. He said it would cost around $120,000.
Walker said he supported Brimbury’s initiative, which was prompted by the recent school massacre in Newtown, Conn.
“Some people may say that will never happen in Peru,” he said. “We don’t want to roll the dice on this.”
Walker said the city was also looking at installing infrastructure and utilities on land near North Broadway that’s currently designated as a floodplain.
He said the floodplain designation severely limits development in the area, and the city has worked for years to have state and federal agencies remove it.
With the completion of the Heartland Corridor later this year on U.S. 24, Walker said the property will be perfectly located for commercial development.
“What we do today will create jobs tomorrow, and we’re building a foundation for that on North Broadway,” he said. “We’re going to make investments out there.”
Walker also defended his initiative to begin inspecting houses sold at county tax sales to find any potentially dangerous conditions. He said if buyers of the properties don’t repair the problems after purchasing them from the county, the city would not allow people to live in the residences.
To help with repairs on dilapidated homes, he said the city was seeking to designate parts of Peru as “residentially distressed,” which would allow homeowners to take a tax abatement on any new repairs to a property.
Walker also tauted the recent upgrades to city sidewalks that made the entire downtown wheelchair accessible.
“Now anyone with mobility issues can shop downtown,” he said.
Walker also praised local volunteers who help out in city parks and the animal shelter.
“When you see this many people who have volunteered, you know you live in a good city,” he said. “ ... This is a great community. Could it be better? It sure could, and that’s something we’ll work towards in the future. Our glass is not half empty — it’s half full.”
Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He may be reached by phone at 765-854-6739, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.