(Posted Feb. 7, 2023)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
London Mayor Patrick Closser took a look back at the past year and a look forward to the year ahead in his state of the city address delivered at the Feb. 2 city council meeting.
“2022 was another difficult year for many. We never expected the economy to decline, but I am proud to say the city has not slowed down,” he said. “We will continue to improve and make London an even better place to live, work, play, and raise a family.”
Closser covered accomplishments in 2022 and goals for 2023 for each department.
2022–The street department repaired multiple storm sewers and catch basins, added new storm sewer lines to Mound Street, Graceland Avenue, and across Main Street, and purchased a sewer camera to assess sanitary sewer issues. ODOT completed its State Route 56 and State Route 38 paving project.
2023–The to-do list includes replacing a storm sewer line on Olive Street and adding a line to Mariemont Avenue, building a new ditch on Andrew Court, repairing streets with a micro sealing process, and continue work on the storm water system throughout the city.
2022–Police patrols increased traffic enforcement, resulting in a significant decrease in crashes. The department also started a school resource officer program at London City Schools and a Safety Town event for children.
2023–The department aims to increase enforcement of impaired driving by 10 percent and update and obtain items such as duty handguns and a license plate camera system. Plans also include creation of a police chaplaincy program to improve officer wellness and response to community crises.
With two failed levy attempts last year to raise funds for a new police station, the department is looking to remodel its current space to make work flow more efficient and increase usable office space.
Fire and EMS
2022–Calls to fire/EMS were up 4 percent over 2021. The department responded to a total of 2,720 calls–18 percent for fire and 82 percent for EMS. Average response time within the city was 3:10. Crews responded to 54 fires and 137 motor vehicle crashes.
The department conducted 20 CPR/First Aid classes, provided fire prevention materials and presentations to students in grades K-4 at London Elementary and St. Patrick School, and assisted 289 families and 581 children in a toy drive co-hosted by Madison County Job and Family Services.
2023–Fire/EMS plans to increase its CPR programs and implement a home risk reduction program covering trip hazards, smoke detectors, and general life safety initiatives. The department is awaiting delivery of a new fire engine.
Parks and Recreation
2022–Hundreds of children participated in volleyball and basketball leagues put on by the parks and recreation department. The department upgraded lighting at the pool, allowing for after-hours rentals. Merri-Mac Park is now home to new playground equipment, and electrical upgrades were completed at Cowling Park.
2023–Plans for this year include revitalizing the baseball diamonds at Merri Mac Park and Park Avenue, creating a sand volleyball league, bringing back adult softball leagues, installing outdoor pickleball courts at Cowling Park, and resurfacing and painting the swimming pool.
“The youth programs will continue to grow, and we need to grow with them,” Closser said. “We expect the three programs to have upwards of 600 participants, and we need to work on a long-term solution to host these programs.”
For safety reasons, the city is currently demolishing the old school facilities that housed some of the youth sports. Early last year, a levy request failed for funds to build a new gym. For now, the parks and recreation department is partnering with London City Schools for gym time.
Board of Public Utilities office
2022–The office staff processed 1,605 cellular meters into the city’s billing software. In October, they entered into a contract with Invoice Cloud, a new online payment solution for monthly water, sewer, and sanitation bills. The office will go live with the new system this month, providing new options for paying bills online, including pay by text, PayPal, Apply Pay, Google Pay, and Venmo.
2023–The board’s goal is to process the remaining cellular meters as they are installed, encourage customers to sign up for e-bills, and send quarterly flyers with updates about the sanitation, wastewater, and water departments.
2022–The sanitation department continued to see the benefits of going automated in 2020 with new trash trucks. The vehicles have allowed the department to stay on schedule with residential and commercial accounts and reduce Bureau of Workers Compensation claims.
“We have seen a large increase of trash and recycle pickups in the past years,” Closser added.
2023–Rumpke is providing a new trash compactor for the transfer station this year. Also, the department will work on getting rear load customers converted to front load customers.
2022–Among the tasks the wastewater department completed last year were installation of a new sewer line on East Second Street to replace a deteriorated main line. They also began preliminary engineering for the east side trunk sewer design.
2023–This year’s projects include construction of a screw press for sludge, sewer lining on East Lincoln Avenue and South Walnut Street, and identification and reduction of odor sources at the wastewater treatment plant.
2022–Closser described 2022 as “a year of challenges with progress on the horizon” for the water department. The big challenge has been the east water treatment plant which has sat idle for years due to high levels of ammonia in the water.
“This was one of the toughest issues I’ve had to tackle when becoming mayor,” Closser said. “We have made much progress, and the finish line looks in sight. With funding, we hope to have that water plant up and producing by the end of the year.”
Also last year, the department repaired and replaced a contact tank bearing, replaced or repaired all of the fire hydrants that needed attention, and installed 1,605 cellular meters.
About the fire hydrants, Closser said, “This was a large focus of ours this past year. I am proud of all departments that helped make this happen.”
2023–Goals for this year are installation of the remaining 2,062 cellular meters, continued effort on the east water treatment plant, upgrades to the current plant, upgrades to water mains, and a stricter valve turning program.
Building and Zoning
2022–The building department issued 359 permits, 35 of which were for dwellings. Council increased the zoning officer position from 10 hours per week to 20 hours per week, making the department more efficient and able to address more violations.
“The amount of dwelling permits is great, but I see it really rising over the next two years with the Brooksedge expansion and the Pulte project,” Closser said.
2022–The auditor’s office put new technology in place to protect city funds and started the vendor payment process.
Closser said the city’s finances were good in 2022 despite the uncertain economy. Overall, the city brought in $20.7 million. Expenses totaled $19.5 million.
“I am proud to say that in the seven years I have been mayor, the city has never spent more money than it received and has continued to stay in the black,” Closser said.