SIDNEY – Sidney and Shelby County have experienced many successes in the past year but face potential challenges in the coming years, officials reported Thursday during the annual meeting of the Community Improvement Corporation of Sidney, Ohio.
Jim Hill, executive director of the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership, said the No. 1 challenge the region faces is how to expand housing opportunities, which will be vital to attracting future employees.
“About 2007 was the heyday of housing development,” Hill said. “Around 225 new homes were built around 2007, and that’s really when the bottom came out of the market.”
The housing market hasn’t recovered from the recession, and Shelby County now averages approximately 50 permits per year for new houses.
Having places to live and things for people to do are crucial for recruiting and retaining employees, Hill said.
“The global talent battle is going to continue, and the ability to attract workers is really going to drive the economy probably for the next decade or so,” he said.
Hill pointed to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which he said anticipates needing to fill 20,000 open positions in the next decade, mostly because of impending retirements.
Shelby County manufacturers also have a large number of employees approaching retirement age, Hill said, and the businesses will directly compete with places like Wright-Patt for future employees. The areas that have enough housing and attractions will have an advantage in attracting those employees.
Hill also highlighted that Jackson Center had 14 permits for new houses last year, almost twice as many as any other community in Shelby County. He credited recent expansions by companies in Jackson Center with the number of houses being built.
“I think you see a correlation between some proactive activity and some housing numbers,” Hill said.
Shelby County did see approximately $267 million in major commercial investment last year. The largest investment was by Cargill, which includes a $225 million investment to expand soybean crushing operations.
“Once completed it will be the largest soybean crushing facility in North America,” Hill said.
Sidney City Manager Mark Cundiff reported the city’s total tax collections decreased more than $1 million in 2019, decreasing from $16,307,974 to $15,216,898. He said the volatility of direct collections led to the drop.
The city collects taxes through withholdings, which come out of employees’ paychecks, and direct collections, which are corporate taxes. A lot of times businesses overestimate how much direct collections they have to pay, Cundiff said, and can request refunds for the excess amount they paid.
“Last year I believe we got hit with refund requests of over a million dollars,” he said. “So that’s primarily the reason we were a million down over the year before.”
Normally companies reinvest their refund money, Cundiff said. Recent reinvestments could have a negative effect on future tax collections, though.
“Some of the reinvestment is in robotics and so that means not a person that is paying income tax,” Cundiff said.
Other threats to income tax the city continues to monitor include a future recession, effects of the new coronavirus and possible state legislation.
“The one that keeps being introduced is you would pay where you live, not where you work,” Cundiff said of possible legislation. “And I think I’ve told you every year that’s an over 50 percent cut to our revenue if that happens.”
The City of Sidney does have significant capital projects coming up in 2020 including spending $3.7 million on roadway repairs and reconstruction, $1.6 million on sewer plant and distribution system improvements and $1.4 million on the water plant and line replacements.
Another big project involves the Zenas King Bridge. The historic Shelby County bridge was donated to Sidney and is being refurbished in Michigan. It will be installed at Amos Lake in Tawawa Park.
The majority of the $800,000 bridge project is being funded by Ohio Department of Transportation funds with approximately $100,000 in local expenses, Cundiff said.
The city also plans to add four full-time employees this year. One position will be created when the city separates the assistant city manager and public works director positions when Gary Clough retires in September.
Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann reported that in the past year Fair Haven opened a new wing with 74 beds, completing a project that cost $13 million.
The STAR House opened last year and has had two graduates. There currently are nine residents from the jail and W.O.R.T.H. Center at the STAR House gaining skills to reintegrate into the community.
The Bob Sargeant and Family Shelby County Animal Shelter also opened last year, and adoptions are up. There are more than 60 animals in the shelter at any time, Ehemann said, but space for adoptable animals currently is limited because French bulldogs are being kept at the shelter while a court case continues.
“That woman is never going to be able to pay us the $70,000 that she owes us for their vet care and boarding fees, but we’ll continue to fight that,” Ehemann said.
The county has retained Jones & Henry Engineers to assist with preliminary design for upgrading the Lake Loramie wastewater treatment plant to meet today’s Environmental Protection Agency standards. The plant, which was built in 1987, services Kettlersville, McCartyville, Newport, Fort Loramie and homes around the lake.
Shelby County has contracted help for emergency communications infrastructure and is finishing up a study, Ehemann said.
Because of mandates from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, the county has upgraded internet security.
The intake area at the Shelby County Jail is being enlarged, and increased inspections ordered by Gov. Mike DeWine have led to the cost of the project increasing from $1 million to $1.2 million.
“With more scrutiny, you’re going to have a few more issues when you’re building,” Ehemann said. “So we’ve had two stop orders already when the jail inspector didn’t like how the construction process was going.”
Design work has started for a new garage for the Shelby County Veterans Services Office.
Storm water and drainage improvements are planned at the Shelby County Fairgrounds.
Ehemann also reported the county completed its bicentennial celebration and is working to ensure every county resident is counted in the upcoming Census.
The Community Improvement Corporation voted to move forward with plans to hire Columbus-based law firm Bricker & Eckler to update the group’s bylaws and ensure it’s in compliance with existing regulations.
CIC members Mick Given and Dennis Sollmann said the group also needs to move forward with its strategic planning, a task it discussed last year. If a strategic plan isn’t established, there’s not much need to update the bylaws, Given said.
“We’ve got to make sure step two happens or I think step one was wasted,” he said.
The Community Improvement Corporation approved its membership and officers during Thursday’s meeting. Harry N. Faulkner is the president, Tom Milligan is the vice president and Jeff Raible is the secretary/treasurer.
Also, the group appointed Todd Weigandt as the CIC representative to the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership.
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