HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Huntington Mayor Steve Williams says the city is in better shape financially than it was this time last year.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams

The city started 2017 with a major budget deficit, but Williams said they quickly identified and resolved the issue.

“The projected $6.1 million deficit was avoided and we completed our fiscal year accomplishing the unthinkable. We finished the year in the black without fees or taxes,” he said.

Williams delivered his State of the City address Thursday afternoon to members of City Council.

He proposed a budget plan for the 2018-2019 fiscal year that includes the largest budget line for police, fire and public works departments in the city’s history.

The proposal allows for five new police officers, Williams said, bringing the total number of officers to 108. He said it’s an attempt to increase safety in the city.

“The perception that Huntington is unsafe is unacceptable,” he said. “Huntington is safe. Marshall University students are safe. Everyone who visits Huntington is safe. We cannot allow people to mislabel our city.”

Williams said he wants to fill vacant positions quicker within the Huntington Police Department. To do that, he’s proposing incentives to police recruits that are already trained, so they can bypass the lengthy training program.

His plan also includes adding two more code enforcement officers to help crack down on inattentive landlords. He wants to create a Business Improvement District that allows businesses to volunteer to pay taxes to fund specific programs.

In addition, the mayor said he’s pushing for improvements to fire stations, $1.6 million for paving, $750,000 for street repairs and $100,000 for sidewalk repairs.

A big accomplishment the mayor reflected on during his speech was when Huntington won the America’s Best Community competition last year.

“The $3 million prize was an indication of what our community could accomplish if it allowed itself to aspire, to believe, to commit to a bold forward, leading vision that is necessary to compete in a world-wide market place,” he said.

Williams applauded city leaders for aggressively addressing economic issues and said he hopes the fight continues.

“We must continue to expect success and respond to challenges with unwavering strength. We don’t have time to engage in self pity and self doubt,” he said.

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