NEW KNOXVILLE — Community leaders from three local villages along with a host of others gathered for the “Chamber State of the Villages Legislative Breakfast” at the First Church of New Knoxville Tuesday morning.
Members of the Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce, also known as “The Golden Triangle,” met to share reports to on the successes of 2017 and what plans are slated for 2018 and to celebrate their 20th year of working together. The Golden Triangle is made up of representatives from Minster, New Bremen and New Knoxville. Ohio Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, 84th District, was in attendance as well as representatives from the offices of Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Sen. Matt Huffman and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan.
“This is a great time to hear about all the things planned for 2018 and our successes in 2017,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Logan O’Neill. “We’ve seen a great deal of progress over the last couple of years, and I don’t see that changing in the future. Businesses are doing well, villages are doing well, and you’ll hear all about that plus a lot more at today’s meeting.”
Minster Mayor Dennis Kitzmiller said 2017 was another very good year for the village.
“Our village employees and council worked very hard to insure the village took on projects to improve our community. We have had a considerable amount of growth including a new fire chief and a new director of Parks and Recreation,” he said.
”We are saw an increase in building permits in 2017. We had seven residential permits totaling $2.7 million, and nine industrial at $9.8 million. We also saw the construction of a 285,000 square foot food distribution center at Dannon Yogurt,” said Kitzmiller.
“In 2018 we will continue our East Fifth Street reconstruction, a $1.2 million project,” said Kitzmiller. “Improvements are also planned for our water plant and police department. We will also be initiating the second phase of our solar field in building a storage facility. We have two new residential subdivisions underway, and a new sanitary sewer line installation along with installing a new electrical substation. It’s going to be a busy year.”
New Bremen Mayor Jeff Pape noted several changes in 2017.
“We lost a lot of major players like our fiscal officer and village solicitor and we have a new fire chief and assistant fire chief,” said Pape. “Income tax was down 5 percent, but we are still doing very well for a town our size.
”Our electrical crew did a great job getting underground service to Crown Plant No. 5 working through terrible weather conditions, and I want to thank them for a job well done,” said Pape. “We cleaned and painted our water towers but perhaps the most important thing to happen in New Breman this year was that we finally won a state volleyball championship.”
Pape said the village is planning for the future, which includes the purchase of a K-9 dog for $80,000 of which $60,000 was received through donations. He is also looking forward to the construction of a new K-8th-grade school building.
New Knoxville Mayor Keith Leffel said, “2017 was a good year with revenues at $2.6 million and expenses of $2.3 million, leaving us a windfall of close to $400,000. We issued 11 building permits, saw five new houses constructed, and it’s encouraging to see this kind of growth in our village. We will have a new residential development with the construction of a new subdivision, Estates of Northfield Place.
”In 2018 we will upgrade our light poles, water tower, which will be painted, and extend water and sewage to the Neil Armstrong Airport,” said Leffel. “We have a new fire chief and some new council members, but it’s always nice to have new blood in council. We also hired a new village employee to replace a retiree. 2018 promises to be another busy year, and we look forward to making improvements in our community, after all, it’s all about the people.”
Faber recognized his appreciation for the area and its people.
“I have been fortunate to represent what we lovingly call ‘God’s Country’ down in Columbus,” said Faber.
Faber said he was proud of the state’s recent accomplishments.
“We are proud of our record, we went from a multi-billion dollar deficit to $2 billion in our state rainy-day fund. Now $2 billion sounds like a big number but I have note that only covers about 18 days of state spending. That is a good start but we’re not where we need to be and have a long way to go,” said Faber.
“Ohio’s ‘State of the State’ is solid, we’ve had a lot of growth and that is reflected in our job market,” said Faber. “We’ve worked with colleges statewide and though most cringed at the thought of reducing tuition we were able to work together and get the average cost to get a degree reduced by 11.7 percent. The state finances were tightened and we cut over $5 billion in taxes, we took some money out of the beast. Reality is the state fiscal situation is strong; we are still meeting our expectations, we have the revenue we need to operate.
Alyssa Beadle, legislative aide for Huffman, spoke about pending legislation including Senate Bill 72.
“Basically, Senate Bill 72 is a prevailing wage bill that makes the application of prevailing wage permissive rather than required,” said Beadle. “This change will allow local entities to make decisions about project bids on a ground level and gives them more control over public projects reducing costs to the tax payers. It has had little traction thus far but is still being studied.”
Also of interest is Senate Bill 216, whose purpose is to reduce burdens on local school districts. Also referred to as “The Ohio Public School Deregulation Act” it is designed to give more control back to local school districts who know and understand their situations rather than relying on a cumbersome government approach from Columbus.
Cameron Warner, representing Jordon, shared a video prepared for the event. In that video, Jordon talked about the positive accomplishments since President Donald J. Trump took office.
“It’s been a busy and constructive first year; we had the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the biggest tax cut in the history of our nation, and expanded and improved relationships in foreign policy,” said Jordan. “We’ve also seen a 3 percent growth in our economy, extremely low unemployment rates, and a record year in the stock market. At present, one of our number one priorities is immigration. We have to move ahead in a way that is consistent with what the American people want us to do.”
Jordon also commented on the state of affairs in Ohio.
“Right now one of my main focuses in Ohio is welfare reform,” said Jordan. “We are trying to help families that are trapped in a flawed system that has not helped them. We are working on a system to help get people on their feet. If you’re going to get benefits, you’re going to have to work. We are working on job training and education to help those in need. We’ve seen a reduction in benefit applications if work is required. We want to incentivize and emphasize work as a requirement to get benefits while improving the ability to do so.”
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.