Rapid residential growth has left Pickerington with traffic problems and overcrowded schools. Because of a lack of similar commercial growth, the burden falls upon the residents to bear the brunt of funding school levies and bonds.
All the candidates for Pickerington mayor and city council have listed traffic and school taxes as problems. They all agree that to alleviate the tax burden, new businesses need to enter the school district and that means partnerships must be formed with other local governments. For as mayoral candidate Heidi Riggs said, "the best land for development lays outside city borders."
Although their basic platforms all seem similar, the candidates emphasized their differences at the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Oct.18.
•Mayoral candidate and former councilman Mitch O’Brien plans to create a business advisory council to learn what the city could do to attract new business. He feels the city needs to streamline its process for commercial development. Currently if a company wants to build in Pickerington it will take them twice as long as in other cities because of all the paperwork and filing procedures.
•Mayoral candidate and current councilwoman Heidi Riggs wants to add Wi-fi transmitters to Pickerington so that residents would have access to free Internet and she wants to create a Pickerington public access channel. To get more feedback regarding the needs of older residents, Riggs plans to create a Senior Advisory Council. To instill a sense of community service in local teenagers, Riggs wants to create the Pickerington YouthCorps.
•Community activist Tony Barletta said he wants to be a city councilman to take his activism and community pride to the next level. He appreciates the work of the current council in creating impact fees for new business and design standards for new homes. He does not support a joint-park district because it would require more taxes from homeowners because as with the school district, the parks would seek funding through tax levies.
•Businessman Robert Blair and city council candidate said he negotiated building the $18.3 million highway to Easton and he could work similarly to develop Pickerington’s commercial tax base. He knows how to "be efficient using government services." He saved $100,000 on road projects by buying-out contracts to reduce payroll.
•Incumbent Councilman Ted Hackworth agrees with O’Brien that Pickerington takes twice as long as other cities to approve new business development. Within the next few months Hackworth said he and the current council will work to streamline the commercial development guidelines. Computerized traffic lights will be added soon to State Route 256 to address some of the traffic concerns.
•School teacher Tricia Sanders and council candidate said that "what you see is what you get." She would like for Pickerington to develop medical and technology-based industry. Sanders said she has been talking with residents about creating a joint park district with Violet Township and the she has received an "overwhelmingly positive response."
•Council candidate Brian Sauer grew-up in Violet Township and recently moved to Pickerington, but he said he always considered himself a Pickerington resident.
"What happens in Violet Township effects Pickerington and what happens in Pickerington will effect Violet Township; we are all Pickerington Local School District," he said.
•Council candidate Terry Walburn does not want to see State Route 256 go the same direction as Hamilton Road and Brice Road. Pickerington needs a development plan, he said.
"The average tenet stays 10 years in a strip mall," Walburn said.
He feels the city needs to find a way to retain its commercial tenets.
•Current Councilman Brian Wisniewski said that, before council can work on partnerships with other entities, they must first learn to work together themselves. He said council "accomplished much" to slow residential growth and that it is important for the current council to streamline the commercial development process.
"Hanging a sign should not be a weeklong process," he commented.
Wisniewski said all of his decisions are based on data; an example was his support of the Diley Road expansion. The data showed the expansion would improve traffic flow; unfortunately it required that the city take people’s property.
Candidates for mayor, council and school board will be available to meet the public on Oct.30 from 7-9 p.m. at Lakeview Junior High.