A new administration spent the past year getting a feel for how to run Bexley.

A new administration spent the past year getting a feel for how to run Bexley.

Mayor John Brennan, who took office last January, learned it was possible to be prepared for some challenges, such as budget cuts and the debate over the new police station, but not others, like March's near-blizzard and September's windstorm.

"That was really unique," Brennan said of the two weather extremes, which forced city crews to plow nearly 2 feet of snow and clean up downed trees and branches.

But looking back, Brennan believes slashing the city budget was his toughest task.

In July, he announced a year-to-date savings of $1.7-million. He said $196,793 of the savings was the result of cutting two positions -- the building services director and the information technology director.

"It was a tough decision," he said. "I just thought we were a bit overstaffed."

Brennan said the city also decreased its legal fees with the hiring of new city attorney Lou Chodosh.

In October, city council members began discussions on the 2009 general fund budget. They decided on a final amount of $11.6-million at the Dec. 16 council meeting.

The budget includes an estimated $528,000 in debt service to go toward paying off the new police station.

After expenditures, city officials estimate that the general fund will have an ending balance of about $39,000 -- an estimated difference of about $2-million from the 2008 ending general fund balance.

"It's so much pick and choose," Brennan said.

The mayor said he hopes to look at further cuts after the first quarter of 2009.

He said one of the most visible accomplishments of 2008 was the approval of the new police station and its Nov. 17 groundbreaking on Delmar Avenue.

The contractor, Thomas and Marker Construction, was given 413 days to complete work on the station.

Police Chief Larry Rinehart said he and his officers are already preparing to move into the station next December.

"Hopefully, it will be seamless," he said of the transition.

He said the approval of the new station was a long time coming, but he knew it would happen eventually.

"It was challenging," Rinehart said. "I always felt that if we could get the right information out there that everybody would agree that we definitely needed a new facility regardless of the economic picture."

Brennan said the new station will be in "an area that I just think is a better fit."

With the police department set to move, Brennan also hopes to find a new home for City Hall within the next few years and open up the current space for development.

"I would like to see something happen with this probably by the end of 2009," he said. "If we do something on this space, it will force people across the street to look at their green space."

Brennan said there have been discussions with Capital University about a partnership for development and programming.

Two examples of this, he said, were the 2008 Fourth of July celebration on the Capital campus and Bexley's new art walks, which city officials said were very successful.

"That was a no-brainer -- to have a gallery-hop event," Brennan said. "I thought, 'I am proud to be mayor.' "

gmartineau@thisweeknews.com