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Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer says the city is at a crossroads in 2013, with increasing needs in the community, flat revenues and cuts in state and federal funding. He is calling on citizens to get involved and help decide priorities for city services and how they will be funded.
In his annual State of the City address Tuesday evening at city hall, the mayor talked about the accomplishments of the past year in downtown revitalization, public safety, the start of construction of a new terminal at Mid-Continent Airport with the addition of service by Southwest Airlines and providing employment for at-risk youngsters, among other programs.
Speaking to a capacity audience in the city council chambers, Brewer said there are some signs of economic recovery in the Wichita area, but the national economy is still a concern. He said even with modest growth projections, the economic weakness along with cuts in state and federal funding will leave the city vunerable at a time of unprecedented infrastructure and quality of life concerns.
The mayor said most of the city's aging water, sewer and storm drainage systems will need significant maintenance or replacement over the next 30 years, at a cost of $2.1 billion. He said there are substantial maintenance costs for city streets, and the city's transit system will not break even in 2014 unless new sources of funding are found.
The mayor said the city has cut over $28 million from the general fund budget. The city will continue to look at cutting more where possible, but it's coming down to a question of which areas the city will choose to fund, and the choices will not be easy.
Brewer said the city must come together as a community. He is calling on residents to take part in an upcoming community survey by Wichita State University that will help in setting priorities and deciding how city services will be funded. More information on that survey is expected to be released at a city hall news conference Wednesday morning.
The mayor asked "What kind of city should Wichita become? What kind of legacy will we leave for our children and grandchildren? This city needs you to step up and answer." He said he and the city council will be listening.