Talking budget and beautification in Mt. Sterling

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(Posted Dec. 6, 2022)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Andy Drake, president pro tem of Mount Sterling council, describes the village’s 2023 budget as conservative. The budget will be up for a third reading and potential vote at council’s Dec. 12 meeting.

“We’re trying to keep spending more or less flat. There will not be a giant increase in anything for any (department),” Drake said, comparing next year’s budget to this year’s budget.

Top priorities for next year include tackling overdue maintenance projects, including improvements to the sewer plant. The village also plans to make a serious commitment to street repairs, Drake said.

Village leaders are waiting to see how funding works out for a new water tower. So far, they have secured grant funding to cover 90 percent of the cost. In an attempt to avoid borrowing money or spending local money for the other 10 percent, they continue to look for additional grant funding.

While the state recently released the village from fiscal oversight, village leaders are following the state’s guidance when it comes to methodically saving money for big projects. To that end, they are drafting a capital improvements plan that plots out and prioritizes major projects over a number of years.

“It’s common sense. It gets everything you need written down in one place. It prompts a series of difficult conversations,” Drake said about putting together a capital improvements plan.

The goal is to finish the draft by early next year after which the plan will go to council for a vote.

Tree and Beautification Committee
A small part of next year’s budget sets aside $4,000 for the newly formed tree and beautification committee. The group is an outgrowth of the village’s former beautification committee.

Bill Stoer, a former Mount Sterling resident, looked into the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA initiative, a national program that provides communities with a four-step framework to maintain and increase their tree cover.

Though he lives in Columbus, Stoer remains active in Mount Sterling, doing volunteer work and regularly donating American flags for display and distribution during the July 4 parade, flower bulbs for planting on village property, and cash prizes for the village’s yard contest.

“When Bill told us about Tree City USA, we decided to revive our beautification committee and mix it with trees,” said Becky Martin, village council member.

To become a Tree City USA, towns must meet certain requirements, such as time spent planting and caring for trees and planning an annual Arbor Day event. The new committee is working with Alistair Reynolds, a representative from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry to get the ball rolling. One of the first projects they hope to tackle is installation of shade trees around the ball diamonds at Mason Park, Martin said.

The committee plans to meet monthly to work on not only Tree City USA projects but also beautification projects in general.

“We want to plant more flowers. A Master Gardener came out and looked at the town hall and gazebo. They are working with us on a new layout to move bushes and grasses and where to plant more bulbs and trees,” Martin said.

The group also is kicking around the ideas of hosting a leaf pickup day next year and starting a mulch/compost program at the village garage.

Tom Byrne, Mount Sterling’s village administrator, serves as president of the committee. Martin is vice president, and Misty Vance, the village’s utilities clerk, is secretary. Other voting members of the committee are Bill Stoer, Melanie Fritz, Sidney Ford, and Allen Chambers. Other volunteers are welcome.

The group’s next meeting is set for 1 p.m. Dec. 22 at The Mad Hatter, 17 E. Main St. For more information, call Misty Vance at (740) 869-2040, option 4.

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