In his State of the City address, London Mayor David Eades presented ideas to council in six categories: utilities, capital improvements, manpower, recreation, city facilities and downtown development.
“There are some items that I believe city council needs to reconsider for the general betterment of the community,” Eades stated. “Progress takes time, of course, but careful planning and concentrated effort can bring positive results. Changes are happening around us every day, and we need to keep pace with those changes that benefit our city.”
1. Storm Water Utility
London’s eroding storm water system needs repairs, along with the money to make those repairs. Council previously considered and rejected a utility fee structure to raise funds for the work. Eades wants council to reconsider.
“Without a storm water utility to initiate some program of upgrade and repair, the problem will continue to worsen,” he said. “It makes sense to get this project under way soon rather than later, when we would be under a mandate to get this accomplished.”
2. Capital Improvements
Storm water system improvements aren’t the only project on London’s plate. Eades informed council that the Ohio Department of Transportation has issued an unfunded mandate requiring local governments to pay for routine maintenance of bridges and culverts. Many of the city’s bridges and culverts need repairs or replacement.
Additionally, if council approves installation of sidewalks throughout London, a large sum of money will be needed. With that in mind, Eades suggests that council devise a phased plan for the project that spreads out the expense over time.
Street repaving is another large expenditure, especially considering the rising cost of petroleum products, Eades added.
“Where and at what level does London City Council want to reach in the capital improvements department?” he asked. “The needs are many and, as always, there isn’t enough funding to go around.”
Council is addressing the needs for more personnel in the city’s police and fire departments. Eades said now they should consider hiring a city engineer who also could oversee the street maintenance department.
“There would be a significant savings realized from having to contract out for small engineering services, which would offset some of the salary costs,” he explained.
The mayor expressed hope for economic benefit from the Ohio to Erie Trail. Madison County’s portion, part of which runs through London, was completed late last year.
He said plans are in the works for summer concerts at the new shelter house at Cowling Park. The shelter is available for rental for family gatherings, weddings and other uses for a small fee.
Last year, the city was among a handful of central Ohio municipalities that answered the Columbus Crew’s call for a site for a new soccer training facility.
“Although we worked many hours at presenting a viable site and package for the project, we were told our site wasn’t satisfactory for their use,” Eades said. “We have since been in contact with a possible partner in developing an indoor center and outdoor soccer complex. This could be accomplished at far less cost than the Crew project and we would operate it ourselves.”
Another possibility for indoor recreation programs involves a possible land swap between the city and London City School District. The school district is planning its next phase of construction, which includes a new middle school. The district wants to build it on property owned by the city across from the elementary and high schools on Route 38.
If the swap goes through, the school district would turn over to the city the property on which the current middle school stands. With the swap would come the school’s gymnasium, which could mean more indoor recreational opportunities for citizens, Eades said.
5. City Facilities
The property swap idea goes hand in hand with the outlook for the city’s facilities. Council has received a proposal for a complete study of the city’s current set-up. Eades wants council to proceed with the study, which would cost an estimated $20,000 to complete.
“It would be in everyone’s best interest to proceed with the possible exchange of property with the school district,” he said.
“I believe that government needs to be in the heart of the city, not located outside in some remote location. If (the property swap) is deemed suitable, it would solve some of our housing problems for various departments in the city.”
Eades pointed to Marysville as an example of a city that has located many of its offices in former school buildings without spending a large amount of money.
“The problem would still exist of how and where to house the fire and street departments, but maybe the study would give us direction on these issues.”
6. Downtown Development
With the idea that the downtown is the heart of London, Eades wants the city, merchants and Madison County Chamber of Commerce to continue to push for revitalization.
“We have lost some hometown businesses recently, and new ones need to be attracted to the downtown area for the good of the community and the remaining businesses,” he said. “Other communities have faced this situation before and have rebounded to become a stronger community.”
Eades is encouraged by the news that the county government may be relocating some of its offices back to the downtown. He also is glad to see the completion of Ernie’s Medicine Shoppe and Obstetrics and Gynecology of London at the corner of Oak and High streets.
“(It) is a testament that those businesses believe that the heart of the city will remain strong and gives the rest of the community something to build on,” Eades said.
In other information regarding the downtown, the mayor told council that the Cobra car club has expressed interest in holding its annual car show as a stand-alone event in London. For the past several years, the gathering has been held in conjunction with the London Strawberry Festival.