The rising rate of foreclosures in the Hilltop community and the upcoming November bond issue were among the agenda items for the Sept. 2 meeting of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission.
Mark Kelsey, director of the Columbus Public Service Department, made a presentation and answered questions about the bond issue.
He said more than $400 million of the money raised by the bond was slated to fund key neighborhood projects like work on sidewalks, bike paths, and police and fire stations.
One project that had been approved, he said, was a $400,000 traffic study in the Hilltop area which would examine ways to improve traffic flow. Another project would involve work on a bike path along Sullivant Avenue. Some areas would get sidewalk work, sewer work, and curb and gutter work.
Commission Chairman Chuck Patterson expressed concern about how the bond money would be paid back.
Patterson said he knew the bond issue did not technically involve a tax, but that the city would need to raise money to pay off the debt somehow, and that money might end up coming out of people’s pockets through taxes or other means. He said he approved of improving the city but just wanted to know what he was getting into.
Also at the meeting, Steve Torsell, Executive Director of Homes on the Hill Community Development Corporation, spoke about the rising foreclosure rate in the Hilltop community. He estimated that there were about three times more foreclosures in the community now than eight years ago.
Homes on the Hill, he said, is offering pre-purchase counseling to buyers and also working with owners who are having trouble with their payments. He mentioned that there will be federal funding available to help out with the housing crisis in Columbus, and urged the commission to help work toward getting some of that funding to benefit Hilltop.
The commission also voted on whether to recommend that parts of the Hilltop area be included in the first phase of the city’s security camera initiative. Through the project, cameras would be installed strategically in some areas of the city to help deter crime.
Patterson said he would be in favor of anything that makes the streets safer, but that he was worried that the purpose for the cameras had not been defined well enough, which might lead to problems with the use of the data.
The commission voted 6-4, with one abstention, in favor of recommending the use of the cameras.
Police Sgt. Horton discussed the problem the police have had with using their helicopter because of budget problems and fuel costs.
He said the helicopter is badly needed and that if people wanted to help advocate for using the helicopter they could get in touch with city officials.
The commission also voted unanimously to recommend that the Masonic Lodge at 2925 West Broad be allowed to work with T-Mobile to install equipment at the lodge to provide the community with better cell phone coverage. The installation would help support the lodge financially and would be designed to blend in with the building.