(Posted Jan. 14, 2019)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
London Mayor Patrick Closser set his vision for 2019 in his state of the city address, delivered Jan. 3 at city council’s first meeting in the new council chambers at city hall on Walnut Street.
Closser sees the city’s priorities in the new year as:
* repairing infrastructure;
* increasing the housing market;
* expanding parks and recreation opportunities;
* attracting high-paying jobs; and
* continuing to curb the drug epidemic.
In addition to looking forward, Closser looked back at projects completed in 2018, starting with the city’s decision to provide its own emergency medical services (EMS) through the fire department. The city’s EMS began operations on Jan. 1.
“Everything seems to be going smoothly and exactly as planned,” Closser said.
The department purchased three EMS transport vehicles and two fire trucks and expanded the fire station to accommodate the EMS and additional staff.
Late last year, the city began consolidating offices into the new city hall at 20 S. Walnut St. The administration office, law office, tax department, building and zoning department, and parks and recreation department have moved into the building. After year-end financial business is complete, the auditor’s office and Board of Public Utilities will move into the building, too.
“This consolidation will make it easier for our citizens, cut operational costs and make the city function more efficiently,” Closser said.
Earlier in the year, the city took possession of the old school complex at 60 S. Walnut St. from The Brightway Institute, whose plans to convert the property into an educational center never materialized. The city upgraded the facility’s heating system and renovated the gym to expand youth recreation programs.
The city received $1.1 million in state funding to reconstruct Park Avenue with a new road, storm sewer, curbs and sidewalks. An engineering firm has been selected. Closser said construction should start this spring.
Construction has started on the third and fourth phases of Chevington Place on Eagleton Boulevard. The result will be an additional 49 single-family homes.
The city also approved a final development plan for Wallick Communities, which will build 48 multi-family rental units on Keny Boulevard between Lafayette and Elm streets. Construction is slated to start this year.
“This is a great start, but we need to get more homes built in our area,” Closser said. “I am currently meeting with an apartment developer, a townhouse developer, a condo developer, and I am always in contact with Maronda Homes as hopefully they begin another project.”
Parks and recreation
In 2018, the parks and recreation department installed a four-acre dog park on Keny Boulevard, installed new green space and a sand volleyball court at the swimming pool, and expanded and improved the community garden space at Cowling Park, selling out all 32 plots and partnering with Ohio State University Extension-Madison County to offer planting and cooking classes. The Access Cowling project was completed, resulting in a new inclusive playground and multi-purpose paths at Cowling Park.
Closser said the department’s goals in 2019 include finding more recreational opportunities for children ages 10 to 15 years old.
Last year, the city spent over $500,000 to resurface 25 streets and $100,000 to upgrade storm sewers. Additionally, the street department moved into the former Ohio Department of Transportation garage at 1460 State Rte. 42.
Closser said more storm sewer improvements are scheduled for this year. The city will work with county officials to clean out Clingan Ditch to help alleviate flooding on Jacqueline Drive and continue to rebuild the storm sewer that runs under High Street.
Closser noted that 2018 was the area’s wettest year ever with almost 56 inches of rainfall.
“We are happy to announce that we received less complaints about flooding issues this past year than in 2016 and 2017. This shows that our work to repair the neglected, aging infrastructure is working,” he said.
Last year, a double homicide occurred in London. Six days after the incident, the suspect was in custody and is now on trial for murder and several other charges.
The police department’s two newest officers will finish training this month and another officer will start training. After the final officer graduates, the department will be at full staff.
“Being at full strength and the addition of Ygor (the department’s K-9 officer) will enable our officers to continue their work to curb the drug epidemic,” Closser said.
Tax collection for 2018 is up 8 percent over 2017, bringing in $6.16 million.
Closser said increased revenues and under-budget spending allowed the city to spend money last year on needs for parks and recreation, streets, storm sewers and infrastructure.
The city spent $4.06 million of its $4.99 million budget in 2018, leaving $700,000 to add to the city’s carryover. Closser suggested to council that the funding be used for capital improvements.