By Linda Dillman
Calling 2020 a “notorious year,” Obetz Mayor Angie Kirk is looking forward to better days ahead, while looking back over a year that forced the village to revisit the way it does business, conducts programming, and keeps employees on the payroll.
“In the face of these new challenges, the Obetz staff and elected officials had to rethink the way we had done things in the past,” said Kirk in the village’s annual report. “We worked hard to come up with new ways to hold our traditional events. Things were rescheduled or redesigned to accommodate the rules and policies associated with the pandemic. In the spring of 2020, we held a rolling car show. The Rolling Car Show allowed people to come out onto their porches or into their front yards and watch as classic and custom cars rolled by on a beautiful spring day.”
With planning and cooperation, Obetz hosted Hamilton Township High School’s 2020 graduation at Fortress Obetz in a drive through graduation ceremony. It was the first of its kind event allowed graduating seniors to accept their diplomas in person in a quasi-traditional graduation.
With heavy pandemic restrictions in place, Kirk said the village was forced to close the Obetz Athletic Club. However, in order to continue providing workout opportunities for residents, the OAC Lite—an outdoor workout space on a converted basketball court was put in place.
“Finally, as the year ended, we redesigned our Christmas celebration to create a drive through Trail of Lights that community members could view from their vehicles,” said Kirk. “We also designed a new Santa Claus float and Santa was able to ride up and down the streets of Obetz waving to our children.”
Village Administrator Rod Davisson said he expected 2020 to be a rough year for the village, but Obetz fared better than anticipated with new housing starts and a dramatic increase in income tax and carryover.
“Hopefully that path continues,” said Davisson. “We aimed for a $2.5 million carryover and ended with $5 million.”
An extra $2 million of that carryover was transferred into Obetz’s capital budget, bringing the total to $3 million and affording the opportunity to accomplish more capital improvement projects in 2021. In addition, while the village was shut down, employees spent their time training online. Forty-four employees were certified in First Aid and 30 received OSHA certification.
Human Resources Director Derek Duncan said, “With the help of our IT department, our employees were fitted with new laptops, cell phones, and Microsoft Teams accounts to maintain work efficiency while working from home for parts of the year. Our Obetz team made significant achievements in training hours completed, courses completed, and certificates earned.”
Community Services and Planning Director Stacy Boumis said the housing market in Obetz is robust and that the Butler Farms and Bixby Grove housing developments continue to expand because land is still available. All available lots in Mulberry Grove were platted and sold and Walnut Run started selling lots in 2020.
“Central Ohio was buzzing with the news that Sheetz was entering the market,” said Boumis. “In 2020, the land for the store was annexed and the Final Development Plan approved. The store is located at the corner of Toy Road and Alum Creek Drive. “Sheetz will provide needed convenience services including made to order foods for the tens of thousands of people employed in Obetz’s industrial parks and travelers using the Rickenbacker Airport.”
According to Economic Development Director Stacie Davisson, Zenni (Optical) USA expects to create 189 full-time positions, generating $8.2 million in new annual payroll. The company is an online retailer that sells prescription and non-prescription eyeglasses, sunglasses, sports glasses, and goggles.
A new Fresenius Dialysis Center provides in-center and home dialysis services. It is located in the Walnut Creek Development behind Ohio Health Emergency on Alum Creek Drive.
The 2020 fall football season consisted of a tackle football and cheer program and a flag football program. Obetz partnered with Bally Sports to offer a full-contact alternative that met weekly in the Fortress where participants spent the first half of the day working on techniques and fundamentals, and then finish each day with competition.
“Our turnout for the tackle football and cheer season was not greatly impacted by COVID,” said Youth Sports Director Jacob Gifford. “In fact, we had about a dozen more kids in 2020 than we did in 2019. Our season kicked off in July with our annual combine.”
While the pandemic created challenges for other facilities in and around central Ohio, it presented new opportunities for the staff at Fortress Obetz, which hosted many first-time events in 2020, including the Under Armour All-America Middle School and High School Combine and Camp, OHSAA Junior High and High School Cross Country State Championships, OHSAA High School Post-Season Tournament Games, National Fallen Firefighters 9/11 Tribute Stair Climb and the Community Cup presented by the Columbus Foundation.
Several safety measures related to the pandemic were developed and installed throughout municipal buildings by the village Research and Development department. Workers also designed, built, and installed more than two dozen custom lighted holiday displays.
“We constructed the displays in rebar that we custom bent and welded before attaching the lights,” said Bill Baker. “We also integrated computer control units to the displays to allow for lighting effects.
Baker said his team works on special projects and develops cost saving production techniques such as a custom stage and barrier system that allowed for a drive-through graduation for Hamilton Township High School. The department also expanded its internal production capabilities this year by integrating a new pipe bending machine and several smaller tools.
“From its days as a stagecoach junction, to its settling in 1834, its incorporation in 1924, and its declaration of Charter in 2010, Obetz has thrived for nearly 200 years,” said Davisson. “In 2021, Obetz expects to exceed 5,000 residents and become a city under Ohio law. We will begin a new chapter in the history of Obetz.”