By Linda Dillman
The books are closing on 2021 and Canal Winchester Mayor Mike Ebert, along with Finance Director Amanda Jackson and Public Service Director Matt Peoples, reviewed a year packed with activity.
“A lot of great firsts happened in Canal Winchester in 2021, including the Phase I construction of McGill Park, the city’s first multipurpose and multi-recreational park,” said Ebert. “It began in the spring as earth moving equipment began construction of four full-size soccer fields on the southeast side of the park.”
The fields include an automated sprinkling system to help keep them in playable condition year round. Construction crews then began the construction of the Phase I parking lots next to the fields. Along with the parking area, the entry drive was also paved.
“The playground was laid out and construction began, but wet weather has delayed the completion of it until the spring,” said Ebert. “McGill Park’s first open shelter was constructed in the area of the soccer fields. The newly constructed Walnut Creek trail currently can be entered near the covered bridge on the opposite side of Washington Street. The Walnut Creek trail currently crosses two bridges that cross over two separate scenic ravines along the way.”
Renovation of the former Bob McDorman building on Waterloo Street for the city’s new community center and city office space began in 2021. Canal Winchester saw the opening of two new hotels in 2021 with occupancy rates at or above 80 percent.
Peoples pointed with pride to the park as the highlight of 2021.
“I absolutely love the trail we installed,” said Peoples. “Just the setting with the bridges, creek and mature trees; it came out better than I thought. The McGill Park playground is going to be great. Can’t wait to see kids playing out there next year.”
Jackson said a highlight for her and her department was the issuance of $6.5 million in debt to fund the construction of Phase I of McGill Park and the renovation of the McDorman building into a new municipal complex.
“Income tax revenues were extremely strong this year—currently 18 percent higher than total collections in 2020—with one additional check yet to be received for 2022,” said Jackson.
Ebert felt the biggest challenge tied in with two common highlights—the park and the new city complex.
“About anyone who works for the city would likely say our biggest challenge in 2021 was to find enough time to get it all done,” said Ebert. “From McGill Park construction, the McDorman Building renovation, Gender Road update construction, private construction projects, economic development projects, election year, charter review, and trying to figure out if and how, we would be able to bring back events. All of these and more made 2021 our busiest and most challenging year in recent memory. But we did it all and did it quite well in my opinion.”
For the public service department, Peoples said COVID was probably their biggest challenge with crews working split shifts, which caused a delay for some departmental projects, in addition to the number of large projects taking place throughout the city.
As for the financial side of Canal Winchester operations, Jackson said the city was fortunate to not have experienced any real challenges this year.
In looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, Jackson said she and her department are working to implement more fraud protection on the city’s bank accounts, as well as upgrading the city’s utility bill pay services.
“While we have not had an issue with fraud on any of the city’s accounts, we felt it was important to ensure we were taking advantage of all the security features offered by our banks to protect us as revenue (and bank balances) continues to grow,” said Jackson. “We are looking forward to moving into our new space at 45 E. Waterloo St. and continuing to provide friendly and efficient customer service to our residents and all those who visit us from the community.”
Peoples said his department will have a break with a smaller number of projects taking place in 2022, aside from the opening of McGill Park as well as the move into the new building.
“Once the construction gets far enough along, Rick (Brown) will be building the entire IT infrastructure for the new building and that will take quite an effort,” said Peoples. “And, while no one from my department will be moving our offices, we will be instrumental in moving everyone else from their current offices into the new building. We’re continuing to work with ODOT towards progress on the U.S. Route 33 improvements, including the Bixby Road interchange.”
Shepherding the city through 2022 will be a busy time for Ebert with the move of city offices into the new municipal complex in the first quarter of the year.
The building will be the new home of city hall and include council chamber meetings, planning and zoning meetings, landmarks meetings, and the community center. A ribbon cutting and open house are planned.
“After we have moved into the building, renovation to the current municipal building on South High will begin in order to make way for the Fairfield County/Canal Winchester Sheriff deputies’ new headquarters—a desperately needed facility for them, as well,” said Ebert. “As for McGill Park, we’re looking forward to the completion of Phase I in the spring and completing the design of Phase II, which will include the baseball complex. Construction should begin in 2023.”