SIDNEY — After eight years serving the city of Sidney as third-ward Sidney City Council member, Ed Hamaker will be serving his last days on council come early January. His term ended on Nov. 30, but will continue to serve until his replacement is soon appointed by City Council.
No longer serving on the Sidney City Council will allow more time with family and the ability to travel more easily, Hamaker noted.
“My future plans are to do some traveling and attending my nine grandchildren’s sporting events,” Hamaker said by email.
Among the many things Hamaker is proud Sidney City Council accomplished during his time on council, passage of the 0.15% and 0.25% street levies, securing an alternative water source for the city of Sidney, expansion of the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and downtown revitalization, are some of them.
The proposed 0.15% street levy was approved by the voters in 2014, and expired Dec. 31, 2019. Voters then approved the 0.25% street levy, which became effective Jan. 1, 2020, and will expire on Dec. 31, 2024.
“We have identified more than $22.9 million in street and bridge work that needs to be undertaken in the next four years. Prior to the passage of the levy, we were able to pave approximately three miles of roads each year. Since the levy was passed, we have annually averaged paving 10 miles of streets. You can readily see the importance of the street levy,” Hamaker said.
Regarding the alternative water source, Hamaker said although records are unclear as to when the search for an alternate source of water was first undertaken, it is clear it has been an ongoing effort for more than 100 years. Historically, he said, most of Sidney’s water has been taken from the Great Miami River, but noted that source is problematic for a number of reasons — not the least is the potential for a drought to impact the community’s livelihood.
“An alternate water source was found and property was purchased in Washington Township. …We began using the new water source in October 2017,” Hamaker said. “The city last acquired property for the water source in 2019. That purchase completed a significant part of this goal. The city will continue to explore the development of additional wells as dictated by need.”
In terms of the WWTP expansion, he said City Council continuously worked to reach an agreement with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“In a meeting arranged by then Senate President Keith Faber, the city manager and mayor met with the Ohio EPA director and presented him with our plan that would save the community millions of dollars in construction costs, over time, and millions more in operational costs. That plan was approved by the EPA and by council.” Hamaker said.
The revitalization of downtown contains many facets, including the formation of Sidney Alive, lively businesses downtown, beginning of the restoration of the Ohio Building, possibilities for riverfront connection, and the establishment of the Sidney Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA).
“When we hosted the forum on the downtown in 2014, we had no idea that it would lead to the formation of Sidney Alive. I am pleased that Sidney Alive continues to actively pursue efforts to promote vital downtown development. I remember in the 50s, 60s 70s and 80s how I used to drive around the court square four or more times hoping to find a parking space and getting frustrated when I could not find a parking space. Now it’s a good problem to have. If you go downtown during the evening hours, you will see many parking spaces are filled with vehicles. We have many fine restaurants and shopping downtown and they are busy each and every day. I am most proud of all of our gateways to the downtown area. At Christmas time you can see Christmas decorations along Route 47 from Fourth Avenue to Walnut Avenue and they are very beautiful,” Hamaker said. “… We expect the (Ohio) building to transition to private ownership in the coming year, and be a mixed use development – including retail, commercial, and residential.”
He also said City Council continues to work closely with the Shelby County Land Reutilization Corporation, (also known as the land bank). Since its establishment in 2016, 80 housing units have been acquired; four have been sold for rehab, and the remaining 76 were demolished. Council also authorized the Vacant Property Registration program in 2018.
Hamaker spoke about the first failed fire levy and the second that was combined with streets’ needs that also failed in November 2019. He commented on the need for a third fire station and said additional personnel remains vital to the continued growth and well-being of the community.
“… Council members are in agreement that the public needs to be better educated about the need for the station and attempt to correct the misconceptions about the project that have been expressed,” Hamaker said. “As calls for emergency service continue to increase, council has discussed the need for funding expanded fire and emergency services. In 2018, the fire/EMS annual report revealed that total calls for service (fire and EMS) again exceeded 4,000 calls (3,053 EMS and 1,013 fire). Since 2010, the organization has seen a 33.14% increase in total call volume. … If I’ve had a disappointment about serving on council, it would be that the levy was not adopted by voters. …”
He also expressed pride in the city’s natural gas/electric aggregation, noting, “Residents, you will not find another program to save dollars than these two aggregation programs, natural gas and electric. I had many calls from friends and resident’s asking how to sign up for both of these programs, so please visit our city web page to sign up for these two programs.”
City Council also actively worked to obtain funding through the state of Ohio Capital Budget for continued development of the Canal Feeder Trail. Council learned in late November Sidney will receive $850,000 in funding to extend the recreational trail from its current terminus east of Interstate 75 to Kuther Road. When completed, the 99-mile trail will extend from Sidney to Hamilton and be part of the country’s largest paved trail network, he said.
During Hamaker’s time, City Council also hired the current city clerk, city manager and law director. He noted council has had more than 50 additional meetings in the recent past.
“As we undertook the hiring process for both a new city manager and a new law director, both of whom announced their retirements more than a year in advance to give Council members the opportunity to spend the time necessary to hire their successors,” Hamaker said, “I believe that we’ve been able to attract and hire great talent, and look forward to watching from the sidelines as they continue the work making Sidney an even better place to live, work, worship, and play and raise a family.”
“As I look back on my first week on City Council, the thing I was most proud of was serving on City Council. Before being on City Council, I took everything for granted: fresh drinking water, flushing our toilets, driving on our city streets and who is really behind the scenes to make this all happen. In my first week, I met with all the senior directors and department heads, who were the ones behind the scenes, to see what makes our great city function. One thing I learned was the city has a very dedicated and well trained staff. Another thing I did not realize before joining council was that the city has a park/playground within a half mile of each residential home,” he continued.
Hamaker noted it was a pleasure to meet “a lot of outstanding and dedicated individuals” serving on the numerous city boards and committees. He also spoke about his opportunity to welcome new businesses and meet a lot of nice and friendly people by attending ribbon cuttings, business-after-hours and many social events around the court s.quare area, and being proud to hire “the best city law director and the best city manager.”
“I had the privilege to work with a talented and dedicated City Council. In my eight years on City Council we always got along and we all did what was best for our Community and its residents. I am proud to say I was a part of this outstanding team of individuals. … In the end, will I miss being a member of City Council, definitely yes,” Hamaker said in closing,” but I am sure our mayor will find other projects for me to do in the future.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.