Auglaize County communities grow despite pandemic


By Kyle Shaner - kshaner@sidneydailynews.com



With the flags of New Knoxville, New Bremen and Minster behind him, New Knoxville Mayor Keith Leffel speaks during the Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Villages breakfast Thursday morning at the New Bremen American Legion.

With the flags of New Knoxville, New Bremen and Minster behind him, New Knoxville Mayor Keith Leffel speaks during the Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Villages breakfast Thursday morning at the New Bremen American Legion.


Kyle Shaner | Sidney Daily News

NEW BREMEN – In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mayors of Minster, New Bremen and New Knoxville said their communities saw continued growth in the past year.

The Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual State of the Villages breakfast Thursday morning at the New Bremen American Legion. New Knoxville Mayor Keith Leffel, Minster Mayor Dennis Kitzmiller and New Bremen Mayor Robert Parker were the featured speakers, each saying their villages have fared well during the pandemic.

“When it comes to the village of New Knoxville, it’s all about growth, and we’re looking for growth,” Leffel said. “Actually, through all this, we’ve continued that.”

New Knoxville’s financial outlook stayed level during 2020, with revenues of just over $3.2 million and $2.7 million in expenditures, Leffel said.

Minster collected $4 million in income tax, Kitzmiller said, the third highest total in the village’s history.

“What we thought would be a down year turned out to be a pretty good year for us,” the Minster mayor said.

New Bremen had $4.4 million in income tax revenue and $10.1 million in expenses. The village’s expenses were so high last year largely because it completed a new electrical substation, which was needed for expansion at Crown Equipment Corp.

Along with the new substation, New Bremen completed improvements of wastewater aerators, updated controls at the water plant, completed reconstruction of Franklin and Ash streets, widened state Route 274 near the industrial park, installed a new roof and landscaping at the New Bremen Public Library, replaced a heater at the swimming pool, poured foundations for benches in Komminsk Legacy Park, removed a stoplight on Walnut Street near the former elementary school and purchased 139 acres of farmland.

Minster completed a sanitary sewer project that involved the reconstruction of roads, completed street resurfacing, installed eight pickleball courts and two basketball courts at Four Seasons Park, installed new playground equipment at the park, annexed 18 acres to the village for commercial and residential growth and completed the second phase of the solar field, which now provides 13% of the village’s annual electrical usage.

New entrance signs for Minster were installed along state Route 66 as part of an Eagle Scout project. The village distributed $75,000 in COVID-19 relief funds to more than 15 businesses. Minster also donated an old firetruck that’s now in use in Guatemala.

Minster issued 44 building permits last year, investments of almost $4 million. Five were for new homes valued at almost $2 million, and three were commercial and industrial permits valued at more than $1.1 million Four new businesses moved into the community, ChillTex, Wilson Health Urgent Care, Fastenal and C.A. Lawton Co.

New Knoxville saw the completion of the county commissioners’ terminal project at the Neil Armstrong Airport and the completion of German Farmers Mutual Insurance Co.’s facility renovation. The village approved 18 building permits last year.

At the start of the pandemic, New Knoxville received a donation to provide free meals for older residents. Additional donations allowed the program to continue for eight weeks with police officers, firefighters and other volunteers delivering meals. Though many of the residents might not have needed the meals, Leffel said, it provided a good support system and was another display of strong community spirit.

“Somethings haven’t changed,” the New Knoxville mayor said. “We still have one stoplight, and we still have two phone booths, right?”

Police calls were down in New Knoxville while fire and rescue calls were up last year.

“Those people are volunteers,” Leffel said of the firefighters. “They’ve got their own families, their own jobs, yet they’re going out, and they’re helping people.”

In 2021 Minster is working on plans to replace its water tower, the reconstruction of East Seventh Street, completion of the village’s newest electrical substation and improvements to drainage around Four Seasons Park. Two new residential subdivisions are coming to the village including the recently started Steeple View Estates and the second phase of the Stonegate Subdivision.

New Bremen will replace schedule 40 pipe with thicker schedule 80 pipe at its public pool to fix the six to eight major leaks that were discovered. The village hopes to have the pool ready for the upcoming season.

New Bremen also is working on improvements to the bike path near the YMCA, installing a crosswalk across state Route 274 near the school, cleaning up the canal, working on a baseball diamond at Bremenfest Park, working with NKTelco to get fiber connectivity to all village buildings, creating a policy for residents who want to install solar panels on their properties and working on infrastructure improvements along state Route 274 in advance of Ohio Department of Transportation repaving in 2024.

Vectren is putting in gas lines in advance of 2022 reconstruction of Jefferson Street in New Bremen. AES Ohio, formerly Dayton Power and Light, is going to replace an electrical line between New Bremen and St. Marys in 2023 and upgrade a substation.

Parker expects many of New Bremen’s annual events to return in 2021 after cancellations last year.

“We probably all remember what didn’t happen in the village last year: Summer Concert Series, Bremenfest, Pumpkinfest, Firemen’s Picnic, all the food trucks, Cider Time, pool parties, several weddings that they had scheduled at the Pavilion, annual garage sales, the Easter egg hunt,” the mayor said. “The good news is a lot of those events are going to happen this year.”

New Bremen’s garage sales are scheduled for April 16 and 17 while the village’s clean up day is May 5. The Firemen’s Picnic will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year.

This past year New Bremen Village Administrator Chris Dicke retired and was replaced by Brent Richter. Chad Wuebker has filled Richter’s unexpired term on the village council.

Chris McKinney retired after 25 years with the New Bremen Police Department. Angela Hamberg left her position as New Bremen’s economic development director. Adrian Speelman will be the village’s new parks manager starting April 5.

Rick Schwartz retired from Minster’s village council after 30 years of service.

Along with the mayors, Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman R-Lima,, Patrick McCauley, a public affairs liaison for Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, and state Rep. Susan Manchester, R-Waynesfield, all spoke at the breakfast while Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Cleveland) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Cincinnati) made comments via prerecorded videos.

The State of the Villages event will be rebroadcast on NKTelco Channel 3 at 8 a.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday.

With the flags of New Knoxville, New Bremen and Minster behind him, New Knoxville Mayor Keith Leffel speaks during the Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Villages breakfast Thursday morning at the New Bremen American Legion.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2021/03/web1_Keith-Leffel.jpgWith the flags of New Knoxville, New Bremen and Minster behind him, New Knoxville Mayor Keith Leffel speaks during the Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Villages breakfast Thursday morning at the New Bremen American Legion. Kyle Shaner | Sidney Daily News

By Kyle Shaner

kshaner@sidneydailynews.com

Reach the writer at kshaner@sidneydailynews.com or 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at kshaner@sidneydailynews.com or 937-538-4824.