By Linda Dillman
On the job for only two weeks, Canal Winchester Mayor Joe Steager held his first State of the City address, along with City Administrator Matt Peoples, at a Chamber of Commerce Jan. 17 luncheon.
Steager currently splits his time with the city and Heiberger Paving as the company’s vice president secretary. Peoples’ career in public works started in Canal Winchester in 1994 as a water/wastewater operator.
“Matt will be running the day-to-day operations,” Steager said, before telling luncheon attendees his focus is on security and that he wants to work more closely with Madison Township.
“Lucas Haire and the development department have done a good job of bringing development into the city,” continued Steager. “One of the keys now is following the city plan. Following this plan is crucial to development.”
Canal Winchester City Council approved the city’s new comprehensive plan late last year after an 18-month period of study, research, and community input.
Peoples reported on the financial status of the city over the last 12 months, calling it a good year from a financially. Income tax revenue was up $12.1 million, representing a seven percent increase over 2022.
The city’s bed tax was up 48 percent over the previous year and exceeded $636,000.
Over $2.7 million in debt was paid down as well and the 2023 general fund budget was $16 million, the largest in the city’s history.
“This building (municipal complex) and McGill Park will be paid off this year,” said Peoples.
In discussing the comprehensive plan, Steager said the document indicates residents value a city with community charm, value their neighbors, and value a community ecology.
“These values form the decision-making process,” said Steager. “It’s been well thought out where to put things in our community. It serves as a guide for the community for the next 10 to 20 years. It has our vision and values in the comprehensive plan.”
Peoples said regarding work at McGill Park, an $850,000 three-season shelter house is under construction and a pre-construction meeting for pickleball courts was scheduled for the following day. New soccer fields were available for play in 2023 and a pair of baseball fields were constructed.
The sixth phase of Gender Road improvements focus on pedestrian safety with construction of a $3.7 million pedestrian walkway that begins this summer. The city received a $2 million grant for the project.
A roundabout is planned to ease congestion along Winchester Boulevard. Peoples said construction is expected to begin in spring 2025. The streets in downtown Canal Winchester will get a massive facelift, including a dedicated crosswalk from Stradley Place to Shades Restaurant.
“We’re doing these public investments to compliment the private investments,” said Peoples.
Steager said a building at 20 S. High St. was purchased by the city to improve the streetscape and safety. City employees gutted the interior of the former medical office.
“The end result will be a Johnson’s Ice Cream,” said Steager. “The Canal Winchester location should be opening this June. It’s a great family amenity to our downtown. The former Chase Bank is being restored to it’s original (frontage), Fantasy Cupcake will be replaced by Coffee on High, and Columbus Metropolitan Library is building a branch on Groveport Road.”
Steager said construction on the new library branch starts this year and will open in 2025.
“Overall, 2023 was a year of planning,” said Steager. “I’m looking forward to 2024 as a year of planning.”