(by Linda Dillman, staff writer - February 08, 2010)
In his third State of the City address, Reynoldsburg Mayor Brad McCloud acknowledged the toll the economy is taking on everyone, but preferred to focus his comments on end-of-year highlights in safety services, road construction and development.
McCloud, along with School Superintendent Steve Dackin, updated members of the Chamber of Commerce during a Feb. 4 luncheon on city and district accomplishments and plans for the future. During his tenure, the mayor said the number of hours donated by reserve police officers has doubled, Blockwatches are up over 50 percent, and more youth offenders are processing through the system.
"I've made juvenile arrests and charges a priority," reported McCloud, "and we've doubled the amount of arrests and charges from 310 to 619 in the last two years. The bicycle patrol is near and dear to my heart and I'd like to continue that.
"Code enforcement wrote twice as many code citations as two years ago and we started issuing citations directly to the mayor's court for people who don't cooperate with citations."
According to McCloud, Eastgreen on the Commons, a long-standing thorn in the city's side for its crumbling staircases and structures, raw sewage in bath tubs, and exposed electrical panels, is finally getting a makeover.
"Eastgreen on the Commons has been in a perpetual state of disrepair," stated the mayor. "This was a real problem with safety and welfare issues. It was atrocious, but they are beginning to make changes. The owner has submitted a $400,000 reconstruction plan. They've already begun replacing exterior panels and windows.
"We also had 23 new businesses open with over $1 million in new investment and retail vacancy declined by two percent. For the first time, city council created payroll incentives for businesses and we earmarked a portion of the bed tax for REDI (Reynoldsburg Economic Development Inc.). That's a big development."
Efforts to improve health care and lower costs included employee health risk assessments/programming and participation in the Bureau of Workers Compensation Safety Council, which saved the city $11,412 in premium costs. In 2009, Reynoldsburg implemented an identity theft policy and expended $1 million in street improvements. Reconstruction of Rosehill Road was a $5 million project, but the city's share was only $500,000.
"We partnered with the Alliance Soccer Club for the first annual Tomato Cup at Civic Park with 30 teams participating from around the region and surrounding states," McCloud said. "Parks and Recreation received a meritorious award and four honorable mentions for its Safety Town program, we now have a community survey on our Web site, and Civic Park trail construction will begin in the spring."
Buildings standing empty throughout the city are slowly filling up. One of the largest and longest vacant, a former Big Bear near the corner of Livingston Avenue and Brice Road, is slated as the future home of a full-size grocery run by the Giant Eagle corporation under the Value King Food Market logo.
"It's been a long time coming," the mayor told chamber members and visitors. "This will go a long way in redeveloping that Brice-Livingston corridor."
Dackin said he was proud of the school district's continual state excellent rating and attributed part of Reynoldsburg's success to a strong business partnership. The superintendent also commented on a freshman science project, which developed a mechanism to assist a handicapped college student, propelling the student-led team to the national competition level.
Five specialized programs are planned for the high school curriculum when Summit Road High School opens, but the district is still at the mercy of dwindling state funding and budget cuts in the face of levy defeats.
"We're looking to the future, but our ability hangs in the balance," continued Dackin. "We've cut $17 million from the operating budget. Teaching, staff, and administrative salaries are frozen. We've cut more than 41 percent out of our budget, but we can't cut our way out of this situation.
"We're taking steps to place an incremental levy on the ballot to allow residents to hang onto their money for as long as possible."