"There's a lot going on in our town", says newly appointed Warrenton Mayor Henry Balensifer as he sat down with KAST's Tom Freel to talk about the city this week in a broadcast interview.
Balensifer follows in the footsteps of his grandmother Barbara “Barb” Balensifer who served as the town Mayor during its recent history. Henry Balensifer was selected by his commissioners to fill out the term of Mark Kujala who stepped down from the position recently. Balensifer has already announced his intention to run for a full term as he takes on the final year and a half of this appointed term.
Balensifer sees the implications in a large number of new homes coming to the city. He stated there are about 500 new homes in the form of both single and multifamily residences either in permitting or on the drawing board at this point. “Those are developments that have legs.”, says Balensifer cautioning, “Now, they won’t all be built this year, but in the next three to four years I expect things to start moving forward”.
The new Mayor sees one of the challenges of meeting the needs of that new building, as it progresses, is in the form of the city’s responsibility to provide infrastructure to support it. “We have a large city in terms of square mileage. I have a very small populace to meet that square mileage. We have infrastructure spread everywhere in Warrenton and that’s going to be a challenge”. He commends the action of previous commissions in responding to those needs saying, “Luckily we had some forward thinking by previous commissions that implemented system development charges. The current commission continues that tradition” He says the city is getting a waterline grant for $1.6 million for a line going out to Hammond and that the city staff has done a good job pursuing that assistance.
“Getting that line in is an important step,” he says, pointing to the additional development planned for the Ridge Road area.
The new Mayor is keenly aware of the countywide shortage of housing in all price levels and his town's role as part of the solution.
“As we supply a large chunk of the needed new housing in the county we wanted to make sure we didn’t sell the farm to make that happen” The commission held a joint meeting with the planning commission this year to make certain everyone is on the same page when it comes to making sure that developers stick to the plans that are proposed and follow the rules in construction for those that are approved.
Balensifer includes other types of services in that quest for improved community support. “There are some other plans on the table for things like parks and the library that, I think, will improve the quality of life in our city.” Balensifer adds “Those kinds of things help give the city a sense of place” while admitting there are some challenges, he says building sidewalks, making improvements in city parks while pursuing new ideas like the establishment of a dog park near Robinson Park will improve the quality of life.