By Dedra Cordle
Do you believe there is a need for street lighting in your area? Do you feel that pedestrians are unsafe due to the lack of sidewalks in the neighborhood? Do you brace yourself for widespread flooding during inclement weather events? Do you see any other improvements that could be added or constructed within your community to better the environment in which you all live? If so, the Greater Hilltop Area Commission would like to hear from you.
When the city of Columbus puts forth its annual capital improvements budget and the capital improvements plan, they start an engagement process with the 21 area commissions to solicit ideas from the community on which infrastructure projects they believe should be prioritized by the city in the current budget and the ones to follow.
“This is a task that we take seriously because it could have implications for the community for decades to come,” said Dan Fagan, chair of the Hilltop commission during an interview after its February meeting.
According to Fagan, city officials will soon release a budget request form to the area commissions which will enable its members to gather information from residents via committee meetings, personal email, or through its official website and social media page regarding potential infrastructure projects. (Residents should also be able to access the budget request form via the city’s website.) Through a collaborative process, the parties will determine which projects they believe should be deemed a funding priority by the city.
Fagan said while it is unlikely the city will be able to fund every project the commission notes as a priority, having that list on hand will allow the city to keep on record the improvements the residents would like to see take place within their community.
“And then hopefully they will be able to address those issues in time,” he said.
The commission will accept input on possible infrastructure projects until the end of March. It will then be submitted to the city for future consideration.
Last year, the commission and the Hilltop residents came up with a capital improvements budget request and saw several of its projects receive funding. Some of the items on the 2022 list included improvements to the alleys through additional lighting, resurfacing, and permanent refuse collection bins; street repairs to West Broad Street; sidewalk and crossing upgrades to portions of Sullivant Avenue and West Broad Street; funding to build a new police substation on Sullivant Avenue; and the construction of a youth recreation center in the Holly Hill/Georgian Heights area.
According to Averi Townsend, a legislative advisor with the city council’s division of community engagement, millions of dollars have been budgeted for infrastructure projects throughout the Greater Hilltop area and there are still several million dollars more that have been allocated or earmarked for improvements. Some of the budgeted items include $12.6 million for the construction of the Sullivant Avenue substation; an allocation of $4 million for the execution of the Envision Hilltop plan; $1.4 million for new sidewalks on Springmont Avenue and an allocation of $2.6 million and $2.3 million for roadway improvements to Wheatland Avenue and portion of Sullivant Avenue, respectively. Major new spending items including $33.9 million for Blueprint Hilltop Lining Project with a potential allocation of an additional $39 million in the 2023 budget. The goal of the Blueprint Hilltop Lining Project is to rehabilitate existing sanitary sewer mains and associated manholes in a project area that includes West Broad Street on the north, Derrer Road on the west, Sullivant Avenue on the south, and Wheatland Avenue on the east.
In other news from the meeting, the commission unanimously approved a motion to send a letter of support to the Franklinton Area Neighbors (FAN) as they try to preserve the historic Engine House No. 10, located at 1096 W. Broad St. The engine house, which was active from 1897 through 2008, is currently owned by the city. FAN would like to see it either be rehabilitated and brought up to code to use as a venue, or have it become registered as a historic place within the state. They plan to present the letters of support to the city council next month.