State of the Community Address

The following is the Whitehall State of the Community Address, presented by Mayor Kim Maggard on March 22, 2017:

Thank you, Representative Bishoff for welcoming us and for such a kind introduction. I am so pleased to see you have all taken time from your busy calendars to join us for this special event. I particularly would like to thank and recognize the
elected officials from both the City and the School district who are with us today. Please join me in giving these individuals a round of applause.

We also have four outstanding public servants with us here tonight: the 2016 City of Whitehall Employees of the Year. They include firefighter of the year Lance Short, police officer of the year Myron Lowery, administrative support personnel Angie O'Kelly and Service employee Jeff Hart. Would you four please stand to be recognized.

Many people don't know the significance and meaning behind the City's logo. The logo is made of three "sails." Each of these sails represents a different aspect of our community.

The red signifies the City: our parks, elected representatives, first respondents in police and fire, the street department and various other divisions and departments staffed with dedicated public servants.

The green sail represents the other non-city entities that work to improve our community. The school district, local churches, and civic organizations such as the WCCA, the Whitehall Citizens’ Police Academy Alumni Association, and the Pride of Whitehall, all work every day to better the lives of our residents young and old.

Finally, the blue sail represents the business community. Our local businesses play such a critical role in strengthening our community. Through their partnership with the development department, the Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce and the Whitehall Community Improvement Corporation are leading the effort to increase the vitality of our local economy. I kept this insight in mind when meeting with the superintendent of schools to discuss the idea of expanding this annual event; thus, partnering with leaders from the other two sails was born. I am so very thankful to the Whitehall School District and Area Chamber of Commerce for joining me in this presentation. A strong, vibrant Whitehall is only possible when all three sails work in tandem to thrive and flourish.

Let me be the first to tell you that tonight you are going to hear A LOT about the progress being made toward common goals and momentum being generated in each of these areas. We have spent the past few years really setting the foundation for the success you will hear about this evening. The investments made and hard work put in, is now allowing our community to seize new opportunities.

One of the areas where momentum has been created, and results are being delivered is in our parks and recreation system. Last
year during this event, we shared with you the multi-phase parks improvement plan. This plan began with the official announcement of Heartland Bank relocating its corporate headquarters to the former maintenance complex at Whitehall Community Park. As you can see in the pictures, work continues on their 60,000 square foot complex and I think we can all agree that once completed, it will be a truly spectacular addition to North Hamilton Road.

Secondly, the City moved forward with recapturing the property and acreage that formerly made up the Four Seasons Golf Center. Once we have disposed of the dome and the other City assets on the site, work will begin to develop the front 12-15 acres along Broad Street.

I do want to take a moment to remind all of you of the FACTS supporting this important decision. On average, the City only made 65 to 70 thousand dollars annually for the use of the property and facility.

Last fall, we contracted with an industry- leading development firm to conduct a market study that incorporated the kind of development we envision for that site. Their conclusions, were that the market and site could accommodate more than 100,000 square feet of medical and class A office space, which could lead to as much as a million dollars of new income tax generated annually.

The remaining acreage is being added back into usable public park land for residents and visitors alike to enjoy. Once the final acreage total is determined, Whitehall Community Park will grow to more than 80 acres, a truly unique asset inside of I-270.Also, as outlined last year, all income generated from both Heartland Bank and the former driving range site is being diverted into the Parks Improvement Endowment Fund to pay for upgrades and new amenities within our parks. We believe, once fully implemented, this could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for improvements.

With a new parks director and re-energized Parks Commission, work is already being done to improve our parks. We are in the final stages of planning approximately $1.4 million dollars’ worth of improvements in Whitehall Community Park this year alone. This will include improving the entrance to the park, creating additional and better access to the lower level, adding new walking and biking baths within the park near Big Walnut Creek and the complete transformation of the lower level, into a passive, metro style nature park that will allow park visitors to enjoy the creek, meadows, walking paths and open green spaces.

In addition to the progress residents will soon see at Whitehall Community Park, headway continues to be made on the John Bishop Park Splash Pad. Dirt has been moved, holes dug, and concrete poured as we continue toward our goal of celebrating a grand opening with all of you early this summer. I am very excited to be able to add this recreational amenity for the children of our community.

And speaking of providing additional recreational opportunities, we continue to engage in conversations with the YMCA of Central Ohio regarding recreational programming and the future use of the activity building at Whitehall Community Park. I am more confident than ever that these conversations will bear fruit and lead to a long term partnership with this world class organization. I know from speaking with many of you in this room that you share the same goal of providing exceptional programming for people and families of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds through this partnership. I hope to have a formal plan and proposal for the Parks Commission and City Council in the near future.

Part of creating momentum and opportunity is done through improving our infrastructure. Late last year, the City completed
the North Hamilton Road improvement project. This nearly $3 million dollar project created a new gateway into our community, repaired the railroad overpass, improved the entrance into Whitehall Community Park, and allowed for the installation of new lights and a bike path along the corridor. This important project stretched to Poth Road and was recently capped off with the installation of the new Airport South Commerce and Tech Park sign at the corner of Hamilton and Poth Roads. I want to thank the Whitehall Community Improvement Corporation for their financial support of the sign and promotion of this important Whitehall business park. Would you all please join me in a round of applause for our WCIC trustees, many of whom are with us tonight? Thank you.While the Hamilton Road project wrapped up last year, we will undertake another significant infrastructure project very soon. As many of may know, Etna Road between Hamilton Road and
Country Club Boulevard will undergo a massive upgrade this year.

Included in the project will be the replacement of the 60-year-old water line, installing new curbs and gutters, pavement, Yearling Road-style decorative lights, landscaped medians, improving the crosswalks within John Bishop Park and the planting of nearly 160 trees. Once completed, we will transform this section of Etna Road into a beautiful, tree-lined boulevard. This project goes to bid within the next 10 days, and once a contractor is selected we will work to publicize the schedule for construction. In addition to this large project, work will begin shortly on smaller residential projects, including resurfacing on parts of Chandler and San Jose. New curbs and pavement replacement on parts of Beechwood, Westphal and Pierce and new curb and gutters on Kulmer between Yearling and Wolfe will also begin soon.

Although these are smaller projects, we know their value to homes and the lives of our residents is substantial. Adding value in our neighborhoods has been AND continues to be a top priority of mine. That is why we created the Home Rehab program in 2014 and this year partnered with Rebuilding Together Central Ohio to apply for a half a million dollar grant that could increase our 2017 home rehab grant budget to $240 thousand dollars. We are hopeful to hear positive news by the end of this month.

This is also the reason we created the My Home Program in 2012. Through our partnership with Huntington National Bank, we provided down payment assistance to families looking to move to Whitehall and plant roots in our community. That program is one of the items I am most proud of during my time as Mayor.

Over the 30 months the program ran, we helped 73 families become members of our community. Participating families had to maintain the home as their primary residence for five years. In addition, families who took advantage of the program had a median income nearly 20 percent higher than the 2010 federal census data. The proof that these programs are working and adding value to our neighborhoods is clear. In fact, the Columbus Dispatch reported last month that between 2012 and the end of 2016 average home sales in Whitehall
increased by 29.2%, the seventh best increase in Franklin County.

Increasing our residents’ quality of life is another way to improve our community. Through a creative program in the Fire Department we intend to do just that. The Division of Fire will deploy a full time community paramedic later this spring to interact with high frequency users of the fire department and work to remove any barriers to long term health. Issues such as transportation to doctor appointments, lack of proper nutrition, complex and often confusing medications and non-medical needs in the home are just a few examples of the areas in which the community paramedic will look to help our residents. Improving our neighborhoods and the community cannot be done through grants and innovative partnerships and programs alone.

No, we know we must continue our efforts to improve safety in our community. As we all know, one of the largest contributors to crime, not only in Whitehall but throughout the region, state and country, is drugs and drug activity. It is my belief that to address this issue head on, we must pursue a comprehensive holistic approach, one where we help the addict and hold the dealers accountable. Through this philosophy, my administration partnered with Breaking Point Recovery Center to open a new treatment center in our city to provide additional resources within the community. Furthermore, the Whitehall Division of Police has been asked to participate in the recently created Franklin County H.O.P.E. Task Force. H.O.P.E. stands for Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education.

The goal of the task force is to track down Heroin and Fentanyl drug dealers and hold them accountable for the overdoses and deaths that they cause. We are in the process of putting together an agreement with several other agencies, to allow the HOPE Task Force to obtain and share grant funding for items such as healthcare, law enforcement training, and prevention programs. In my 2015 State of City presentation I said we were going to go after drug dealers. Later that year, I directed the Division of Police to create a drug enforcement bureau tasked with this very issue; their results are staggering. Since its creation, these officers have seized more than $2 million dollars of drug money and taken approximately 815 pounds of illegal drugs off the streets. To put that into perspective, typically these types of drugs are sold by the gram, meaning we have helped prevent more than 370,000 possible drug deals.

Also this year, the Division of Police will be adding additional officers and resources to the force. For the first time ever, Whitehall police will deploy K-9 units within the community. Officers Jesse Hackney and Shane Dray have been selected from among their peers to take on this additional responsibility and I could not be more proud of them. The first K-9 should be in place by the end of the summer and the second by the end of the year. In addition to our two new four-legged officers, we are also adding 2 new officers and school resource officers at the
beginning of next school year. The city and the school district partnered together to secure federal funds to pay for these two new positions.

You see, partnering with the school district has become second nature to the City. Working hand in hand with district leaders has allowed important projects to come to fruition. And to give you all an update with more exciting news from our schools, I am pleased to introduce Brian Hamler, superintendent of Whitehall City Schools. Brian...

Thank you, Cindy. Wow that was great information from the Chamber. I am so pleased to hear that our Chamber is again growing and working to be a resource to our area businesses. An active Chamber is a key component in creating a business friendly environment here in Whitehall. And that work is gaining momentum every day. Last year we had 38 new businesses open their doors in Whitehall. 38, wow.
Representatives from several of these businesses are with us today. When I call your business please stand and remain standing. We have Tekaya, Continental Auto Parts, Braking Point Recovery Center, Planet Fitness, The Ashford on Broad, Burger King, Vision Home Health Care, I’m More Limited, 2 Tones Brewery, Blackout Bullets, Victories Ministries, and Flavor 91. Thank you all for investing in our community.

These employers, and the hundreds they joined, contributed to a robust year in income growth. Last year we experienced an increase of 9.8% in revenue. 2017 is on pace to be just as productive, if not better, in part because of four major developments we announced last year.

The first was one I mentioned earlier. Heartland Bank's decision to invest in Whitehall was a major win for our community and set the stage for our incredible 2016. I love driving past their site on Hamilton Road and seeing the progress being made. Last week cranes began setting steel - simply amazing. Secondly, as some of you read last week, Kroger made their expansion official, purchasing the western end of the Town and Country Shopping Center for a new, larger Kroger.

Once demolition is completed, Kroger will build a 104,000 square foot store that will nearly double the size of their existing Broad Street location and represent a 20 million dollar investment that promises to transform the western entrance into Whitehall along Broad Street.

In August, we were able to finalize the attraction of one of Central Ohio's oldest family run businesses when the Wasserstrom Company made the decision to relocate and expand in Whitehall. This industry leader is in the midst of a complete renovation and modernization of the 50,000 square foot former Apprisen Financial building on Broad Street, next to Alliance Data. Not only is Wasserstrom bringing with them
hundreds of employees but also a desire to contribute to the community's resurgence.

And finally, I shared with many of you in December the proposed Norton Crossing redevelopment at the site of the former Commons at Royal Landings apartments. This $50 million dollar, mixed use development is a public private partnership with Continental Real Estate and will allow the city to attract young professionals and empty nesters in a way not currently possible.

Since we announced the partnership in December there has been a lot of progress that I would like to share with you. All leases at Commons at Royal Landings have ended and the complex is now vacant. No doubt you have seen the boarded up windows and doors. The City is continuing to work with Continental’s team to finalize the necessary details such as sites plans, elevations, finishes and all development agreements. We anticipate demolition to begin in the second quarter of this year.

One of the things I’ve heard the most after announcing the project was that while outstanding, it would sure be great if the redevelopment could also stretch to include the properties along Hamilton Road. I am pleased to share with you tonight that through the partnership with Continental, we are doing just that. The current computer store on Broad next to Holiday Lanes is under contract; an agreement has been reached on the three apartment buildings on Hamilton Road, known as the Broad Hamilton apartments, and finally, the city intends to acquire the small strip center on Hamilton Road to make way for necessary right of way and road infrastructure. As you can see, this would allow for additional office and commercial development along Hamilton Road while improving access to and congestion from the redevelopment site.

Frank Kass, chairman and CEO of Continental is with us tonight, and I want to personally thank him for being such a willing partner in sharing our vision for the site.

Through these four projects alone, 2017 promises to keep the development and building departments very busy.

All of the updates you have heard about tonight, were the result of community members seizing, and expanding opportunities here in Whitehall. In that vein, we decided it was time to start recognizing those who help in that mission through a newly created Opportunity Ambassador award. This award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated their willingness to embrace opportunity. Individuals who have made the decision to seize their opportunities, to improve the lives of others or work to spread the message of opportunity throughout our community.

I am so very pleased to present the first of two Ambassador awards this evening to Parks Commission member Tiffanie Charles. Tiffanie, would you please join me on stage? As Tiffanie makes her way up here let me tell you a little about her. She is President of the Whitehall Yearling High Schools Parents teacher student association; she is an organizer for the Whitehall Yearling High Schools Caring Room which is a resource room for students that contains gently used clothing, non-perishable food items, and school supplies. She is a former Vice President of Rams Sports Club; she volunteers to help with Whitehall Yearling High Schools Music Unlimited Show Choir, started a
“Team Moms Club” for the basketball program, and is a member of the Parks and recreation commission. The list goes on and on. Always acting as a leader of the community, Tiffanie is working to provide opportunities that improve the lives of young people, parents, and families in Whitehall. Thank you, Tiffanie.

The second Ambassador award goes to Dan and Dina Maxwell from Ideal Precision Instruments Inc. Dan, please join me. Ideal Precision was founded by Dina’s father Jacob Gelman in 1982 and moved into their Broad Street location in 1985. Two years ago, Dan and Dina began having conversations about issues with outgrowing their space. After meeting with the development staff and evaluating options, they chose to purchase the building next door, the old Paul's restaurant, and convert it to new office space. After a period of renovation, Ideal Precision officially moved their operations across the parking lot earlier this month. We are so proud they would see the opportunity to continue to be valued members of the community and invest in another location in Whitehall. For Dan and Dina, their seized opportunity was located just next door.

Opportunity is here. It is thriving in Whitehall, through partnerships that are improving our parks, because of special individuals and organizations who help make our city unique and business leaders investing in a better stronger economy. . The state of our community is strong and ever improving. I hope all of you can feel the momentum being created by the three sails of our community. I want to again thank the Whitehall City School District and the Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce for joining me tonight. Thank you for being here and may we all seize the opportunities 2017 has to offer. Thank you and good night.