Mayor reflects on city’s goals



SIDNEY — “Council will soon engage in their biennial goal-setting session, and I thought it might be a good idea to look back at the goals established for 2018-2019, and to reflect on progress that has been made toward accomplishing those goals,” said Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst.

His report continues:

Council’s first goal was: Focus on water infrastructure through the continued pursuit of land and development of water wells. For more than a century, city leaders have searched for a reliable underground water source so that the city would not be reliant upon surface water from Tawawa Creek and the Great Miami River.

Surface water is problematic for a number of reasons including pollution and the scarcity of water during periods of drought. This was highlighted during the 1988 drought when, despite water use restrictions, we came within three days of having to shut down all industry in order to conserve water.

Fortuitously, a source of water was identified in Washington Township, wells developed and tested, and the City began purchasing property for the well field. At year’s end, we were able to finalize the purchase of an additional large tract of property for well field protection that is adjacent to property that had previously purchased.

Council’s second goal was: Enhanced recreational opportunities realized through the development of bike/pedestrian trails, including the Great Miami River Trail, through collaboration with the Shelby County Park District. Council undertook a multi-pronged approach to accomplish this goal.

Unlike Miami County where voters have long supported the Miami County Park District, voters in Shelby County have been reluctant to approve funds to support the Shelby County Park District. Despite the fact that we know the amenities that a park district can develop and maintain are important to continued economic growth, such amenities come with a price tag.

As a result, we continue to work with Shelby County Commissioners, the staff of the Miami Conservancy District, the staff of the Great Miami Riverway, and our own Parks and Recreation Board to find grant monies to continue working to extend the trail through Sidney so that it can connect to the trail in Piqua.

Once the trail connects to the larger trail system in Piqua, we will be a part of the largest paved trail network in the country. When that occurs, residents and visitors will be able to ride or walk south to Cincinnati, east to Columbus and west into Indiana.

Council’s third goal involved our efforts downtown: Emphasis on downtown revitalization by marketing tax incentives for property redevelopment, including renewal of the Ohio Building, and supporting the continued activities of Sidney Alive. As the county seat and the only city in Shelby County, the downtown plays a vital role not only in economic development, but a host of other commercial, cultural, and civic activities.

Council passed legislation adopting the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. PACE is a financing tool to help commercial building owners pay for energy efficient building improvements without expending money up front. The funds are then paid back through the annual property tax bill for a period of up to 30 years.

The city continues to search for a developer to take ownership of The Ohio Building, with the goal of transforming the building into a mixed-use property that would include space for retail, restaurant, and offices. Several potential investors have looked at the building, and we hope to transition the building to private ownership this year.

With the transformation of the former bank building at 102 S. Ohio Ave. into a mixed-use structure that will include a first floor restaurant, the transformation of the property at 101 North Ohio into a bakery, and the property at 115 S. Ohio into a pizzeria, there is a great deal of activity downtown, with more good news to come.

Council’s fourth goal was to: Revitalize neighborhoods, including the downtown, through concerted efforts with the Shelby County Land Reutilization Corporation (land bank) and stronger property maintenance codes for rental, vacant and owner-occupied housing and commercial properties. Through the efforts of the land bank, 68 properties have been acquired in Sidney. With the exception of four that were in good enough condition to be sold for rehab, the others have regretfully been demolished.

Unfortunately, funds available from the federal government have nearly run out, and the only funds the land bank will have in the future are monies that are generated locally. While that will not eliminate the work the land bank accomplishes, it will slow the progress considerably.

The Community Development Department is tasked with much of the work undertaken in the revitalization process. Property inspections resulted in 1065 code violations, 80% of which were corrected by the property owner. The remaining violations were corrected by city contractors at a cost of $89,546.00.

With one year completed of the vacant property registration program a total of 112 properties have been identified as vacant and required to register. Forty-two property owners have registered their properties, while 12 requested, and were granted, an exemption from the registration requirement. Thirty-one property owners have not responded or have failed to complete their registration. In the coming year, those property-owners will face court proceedings.

Council’s fifth goal: Educate the public on the need for permanent tax levy funding to provide for improved public safety services and an ongoing aggressive street maintenance program. Unfortunately, the combined tax issue failed in May.

Council then placed two separate levies on the November ballot consisting of a 0.15 percent five year renewable levy for street repairs and a 0.15 percent continuing levy for fire operations. The street levy passed and the fire levy failed. Council’s resolve to see a third station constructed has not diminished, and the levy will be discussed further in the coming year.

Council again looks forward to the coming year with eager anticipation of the challenges that we will face, and finding solutions to those challenges. We are gratified to have a tremendously conscientious team who can supply Council with prudent options for whatever comes our way.