Hello, Tomah. Well, here we are with summer winding down. School is back in session and the days seem to be getting shorter and a bit cooler. I wanted to take some time to look back and see where we went this summer.
Our crews have been very busy working with other entities in town to help out and maintain schedules. One of the largest this summer has been the new hospital site. There was a great deal of work to do to keep up with the deadline of when the staff wanted to open the new facility. As of this writing, next Friday on the 13th they will be having a ribbon cutting to announce the opening of the new hospital complex. For all this to take place proved to be quite challenging. On Hwy. 16, the entrance needed to be modified. This required acquisition of wetland for mitigation to prepare a new entry site. We then needed to look at Goose Avenue and determine how best to lay out how that would flow and be impacted. On the other side there was Gopher Avenue. From the beginning we had told the hospital that they would be able to tear this up as they moved equipment and building supplies to the site. The intent was always, and has now been completed, to open up the road and replace the infrastructure, allow stubbing into the southern property for future commercial use and then completely resurfacing the roadway. This took some doing and was a rather expensive project, but it looks great and will serve the hospital and the community very well. I would send out my appreciation to Phil Stuart, Eric Prise and all the hospital staff I and other city employees have worked with. Their timely reports on status of the project and cooperation on all levels have made this very difficult project much easier in the end. It is a great looking building and will be a stellar addition to Tomah in the field of health services. I look forward to the opening.
Other areas of interest in the downtown are the new streetlights. This project has been moving fairly well and keeping on the scheduled timeline. The lights came in late July/early August, and we stored them in the new salt shed facility. Our Public Works crews have been busy taking the old lights down for recycling and then erecting the new poles on site. It was a slow process in the beginning, but they have really gotten into a rhythm and are moving ahead nicely. It is important to realize how much savings there is in having our crews able and willing to take on a project of this scale. I am always amazed at the amount of talent and ingenuity we have on our city staff. The new lights look great. I have been stopped by many people who have complimented them. To that, I can say a great deal of the planning and preparation goes to director Kirk Arity and street department supervisor Bill Kobleska, who oversaw the project from the beginning. I also would like to thank the members of the Long Range Planning Committee for their input, assistance and vision in selection of the style of lights. But most of all I want to thank all the members of our city who took time to answer our polls and give public input into what design they wanted for the lights. This was a community effort. When others come to our community they are going to notice the change, being able to say that this was a community effort is a great compliment to the spirit of community in Tomah.
Another area we have been busy with is the alleyway project. I know this one has not been the most popular. It has required a great deal of inconvenience with road blockage and lack of access to some areas of town during peak hours of travel. We understand this, and we did try our best to let all parties affected by the upcoming work know in advance. The upside is the project is coming to completion, and it will benefit our downtown businesses and residents by providing reliable infrastructure in water, sewer, gas and even internet and fiber. We invited all utilities to work on their parts of the project as well so that this should be a one-time solution for a good many years to come. I appreciate the patience the business owners have shown. I know it’s been rough for deliveries and back access to their structures. I do know that in the long vision of things this will be of benefit to all of the downtown.
Now the elephant in the room. Downtown Thursday Night concert series. Why the elephant? Did you see the crowds? What to say that has not been said. First off, thank you to Chamber of Commerce director Tina Thompson, Shay Jilek and Megan Divyak, our Chamber staff. What a simply amazing job they did this summer. If you made it down, you know just how large this got and how quickly. We, that is the city and the Chamber, went in preparing for around 400 to 500 attendees at each event. That number went out the window first night. I don’t have exact numbers but have been told an average was around 1,100 to 1,200 nightly with the last night at close to 2,500 − right smack dab in the heart of the city. How awesome was that. I was able to help setting up several nights, and I have to tell you I haven’t seen teamwork like that since my Navy days. Everyone came together and gave of their talent and time in a manner that speaks volumes to community spirit. This is not to say the event did not have its challenges; it most certainly did. The beauty is that for every obstacle that appeared someone stepped up and made it a non-problem. All this done as volunteers and committed members of a group effort. It was humbling to watch and rewarding to be involved with. I would express my appreciation to the businesses that sponsored and participated in the series. It was a fantastic chance to highlight our community and all it has to offer. Plans are under way for next year, and we have had discussion on how to tweak the event to make it flow a bit more smoothly. I will not go into detail at this time; this is a Chamber event, and they are taking the lead. We at the city plan to work on the logistics such as power, how best to utilize space and provide what assistance they need for the next series of concerts. I look forward to another great year of music and community spirit. Before I close on this I do want to congratulate the Chamber staff on how well they maintained this as a full family event geared at all members of our community. If you got down to it, you know how diverse and involved the crowds were. Friends met friends not seen for years, families met and kids got to have a great time with the events provided. It was just a joy to see it come together so well. Great job, ladies.
We also had our Music in the Park series, various community events and, as always, Parks and Recreation kept our Aquatic Center and parks open and inviting for members of our community and visitors as well. As I start the 2020 budget and look at all the things to work on next year, it is nice to look back on a very rewarding and pleasant summer. Remember, please, school is in session. Students are out so watch the crosswalks and slow down on the back streets.
We have an amazing community here in Tomah, and it’s just going to get better as we all pull together. Until next time I thank you for the privilege to be your administrator and remind everyone that my door is always open for any concerns. Stay safe and hope for a mild winter.
Roger Gorius is the city administrator for the city of Tomah.