(Posted Dec. 27, 2017)
By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer
West Jefferson village leaders count among 2017’s highlights the purchase of Zion Lutheran Church for use as a community center, improvements at Converse Park, and the start of expansion plans at the water treatment plant.
“The village of West Jefferson had a very successful year implementing and completing all of the items that were budgeted and planned for the 2017 year,” said John Mitchell, public service director.
“In the past year and a half, the village has (embarked) on an ongoing program of catching up and evolving into a community that is ready for the 21st century…in our infrastructure, police protection, and development programs,” said Council President Steve Johnston.
Immediately after the village purchased Zion Lutheran Church, 221 S. Center St., work began to transform it into a community center and site of the summer Lunch & Learn program for children.
“Marci Darlington has done a great job for the village, especially on the Lunch & Learn program,” said Mayor Ray Martin. “Last year, she acquired $7,000 in grants for this program. This year already, she has $14,000 for the Lunch & Learn program.”
The Battelle funding allows the village to expand the program from two days a week to three days a week.
The community center hosts other parks and recreation programs and is available to the public to rent for meetings, conferences and parties.
In 2017, the village completed extensive improvements to the baseball fields and parking areas at Converse Park; the cost was $75,000. Field 1 got a new backstop, dugouts and field fencing ; Field 2 got new outfield fencing. The chain link fencing in the park’s back parking lot is gone, replaced with wooden split-rail fencing. Crews also regraded and paved the parking lot with asphalt.
Regarding the sewer plant, Johnston said, “In the past, the village put quick fixes to our sewer plant, (but) we decided it was time to completely rebuild the plant, costing several million dollars covered by grants with minimal cost to the residents.”
The water treatment plant expansion and upgrades began in October at a cost of $4.4 million.
“This upgrade and expansion will meet our needs for years to come,” Johnston said. “West Jefferson is one of the few communities in the state that has a reverse osmosis treatment plant, giving us the cleanest, purest water possible.”
Mitchell said he hopes to see the treatment plant work completed in 2018.
Other highlights of 2017, according to village leaders, include:
- The milling and resurfacing of Center Avenue, South Bridge Street, Mill Road, East Street, South Street, Jones Street, Franklin Avenue, Heath Avenue, North Twin Street, the back parking lot at Converse Park and the entry driveway at the community center;
- Equipment and vehicle purchases, including a mower and trailer for the street department and parks maintenance crews, a pickup truck for the public service supervisor, and a cruiser for the police department;
- Upgrades to traffic signals at Main and Walnut streets and Main and Twin streets, allowing Main Street to “rest in green” until Walnut and Twin streets are occupied, at which time the traffic controller is prompted to change the light at each intersection. The State Highway Fund covered the $30,000 in upgrades;
- Installation of the Garfield Road water main line, performed by village crews and a local contractor for $25,000. The new line will improve water flow throughout the Garfield Road and Fellows Avenue neighborhoods;
- Installation of a new security system at Village Hall and the street department garage to improve safety and security for village staff, records and equipment. The cost was $35,000.; and
- The purchase of water meter and radio read endpoints, completing a two-year project to replace and upgrade the utility department’s system. The new system allows for drive-by water meter readings, thereby reducing staff time and costs and eliminating reading mistakes. This new system also can help to determine water usage and detect leaks.
Village leaders say plans for 2018 include:
• Continued collaboration with council for responsible growth
“It has been said a group of people working together can accomplish more than one person alone,” Martin said. “We’re excited to get the new Fresh Eats chain of Kroger here in our community, along with some more upscale housing. This has been accomplished through a collaborative effort with council and the mayor’s office. We can accomplish a lot more, as long as we keep listening to the community’s wants and needs, then act on them.”
• Sidewalk improvements
Martin continues to press for sidewalks to increase pedestrian safety.
“There are still two sidewalks that need to be installed to connect all of West Jefferson together–from Mary Street to Eastgate and in front of the high school to Converse Park.”
• Aggressive paving projects and pool upgrades
“We are waiting to see if we have been awarded a grant to redo Fellows Avenue, then we will try to repave Garfield and Frey and plan better access to the community center,” Mitchell said.
He also has plans for pool upgrades in 2018.
“The current pump system is underground, so we are moving the system above ground. This will be safer and make maintenance easier. Last year was a good year for the pool,” he explained.
Martin praised the parks and recreation department for its management and that no supplemental appropriations were needed.
“We continue to be diligent with the taxpayers’ money with balanced budgets, yet able to start on many projects for 2018,” Johnston said. “We are continuing the tradition of West Jefferson being a great place to live and raise a family.”