SIDNEY — While this may well sound like a broken record, the year just ended has been one in which the City of Sidney has continued to recover from the effects of the Great Recession, the simultaneous loss of traditional revenues from the State of Ohio and the loss of corporate income tax revenue. Over the course of the next five years, the city of Sidney will have $12 million less income than it had in 2008. Fortunately, increased employment has also grown individual income tax revenue.
“Despite the loss of revenue, we have continued to make progress on long term goals, and I thought that it might be interesting to provide readers with a listing of the top 10 things that took place in Sidney this year,” said Mayor Mike Barhorst. “Beginning my list is our edging ever closer to turning on the pumps at the new well field that will allow water to flow from the well field to the city’s water treatment plant atop Orbison Hill. Once this project is successfully completed, the city of Sidney will no longer be solely dependent upon surface water for our water supply. The $25 million project has taken more than 60 years!”
His report continues:
No. 2 on my Top 10 List is Emerson’s announcement that they will be investing $100M in their Sidney facility, largely updating lab and office space so that they can continue their cutting edge work in efficient residential and commercial air conditioning and refrigeration systems.
Also came announcements from Everyday Technologies, Freshway Foods, MaMa Rosa’s Pizza and Perfection Bakeries of their plans to expand each of their facilities. The expansion plans of these respective companies ranks third on my list. As readers may know, Sidney has more manufacturing jobs per capita than any other city in Ohio.
No. 4 on my list is the completion of the Phase I improvements at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, improvements that satisfy a part of our agreement with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that will see the plant updated to serve the community while meeting the latest compliance requirements.
No. 5 on my list – and please understand, this is my list and does not necessarily reflect the views of anyone else – is the 2017 street resurfacing, curb and gutter projects that were funded by revenues generated by the five-year, quarter percent income tax that voters approved four years ago. In addition, I’m going to include the reconstruction of North Street between West and Ohio Avenues and the reconstruction of Fielding Road – additional millions of dollars spent on infrastructure improvements that benefit the entire community.
No. 6 on my list is the updating of the Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan, the roadmap by which we make decisions about the future of the community, was updated in a lengthy process that involved segments of the community in brainstorming sessions that helped determine the community’s development goals.
No. 7 on my Top 10 List is the purchase of land near the intersection of Wapakoneta Avenue and Hoewisher Road for the construction of a third fire station. The growth of the City has made response times to some areas of the City far exceed acceptable standards. The purchase of the property is the first step in a lengthy process that will eventually see the station become a reality.
The City also took an option on additional acreage adjacent to the land purchased for the third fire station that would be used for the construction of a Regional First Responder’s Training Center – and that project is No. 8 on my list. As envisioned, the training center would serve police, fire and EMS personnel by providing space for classroom coursework as well as lab space – a tactical village – in which there would be exercises in which firefighters, police officers, SWAT Teams and EMS personnel would train for events that we hope will never happen, but which realistically we know could.
No. 9 on my list is the purchase of MARCS Radios for our emergency first responders. Readers will likely recall that one of the problems encountered by first responders during the 9-11 attacks was that not all first responders could communicate with each other. MARCS is designed to provide Ohio’s first responders and public safety providers with state-of-the-art wireless digital communications and interoperability – this should save lives and maximize effectiveness in both normal operations and emergency situations.
Rounding out my Top Ten List is the purchase of body cameras for the Police Department. We like the cameras for several reasons, and I’ll mention two: 1) While a mounted body camera can’t pick up on absolutely everything an officer sees, the camera’s video can help paint a much clearer picture of what happened in an incident. Police reports, especially in complex situations, can be hard for juries to interpret or visualize. Video evidence removes a lot of that uncertainty. 2) Another benefit is that the video officers to self-evaluate and find opportunities to improve how they handle a situation, and to share what they have learned with their peers.
Council and staff will face numerous challenges in the coming year – many of them the result of having far more needs than income to address those needs. Council will meet in April for their biennial planning retreat to reach consensus on our goals for the next couple of years – but those goals are easily sidetracked by budgetary spending that requires taking care of things that are necessary before spending on things that are desired.
Projects that are budgeted for the coming year include a number of infrastructure improvements including projects to replace failing sanitary sewer lines, storm sewers and water mains; Phase II improvements at the Wastewater Treatment Plant; the purchase of the new quint for the Fire Department; additional improvements at the airport; highway safety improvements including Phase III safety improvements on SR47; and, the 2018 Street Resurfacing, Curb and Gutter Replacement projects funded through the quarter percent income tax passed by the voters four years ago.
Also new in the coming year will be the addition of a vacant property inspection program. In my view, this new program will be key to the future of this community, providing for the tracking of the condition of vacant properties so that we don’t end up with more housing and commercial buildings that are in such poor condition that the only economical way to care for the property is to demolish it and start over.
Perhaps our most important challenge will be to determine whether to ask voters to renew the quarter percent income tax that has thus far been used to pave city streets, or to renew the tax using part of it for ongoing street maintenance and the other part to fund an additional fire station.
Council 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.