City selected as 'Best Hometown' in 2012
The year 2012 proved to be one of growth and recognition for Grove City.
Here is a look back at some of the highlights.
Cover story worthy
Grove City was recognized in October when it was announced the city had been selected by Ohio Magazine as the Best Hometown of central Ohio for 2012-2013.
The magazine selects a city from each of Ohio's five regions based on categories such as community spirit, education, attraction, events, safety, business environment, culture and heritage. The Ohio Magazine issue with Grove City on the cover hit newsstands Oct. 23.
Additional Grove City stories are scheduled to be featured in magazine's January and July issues.
Care center coming
The groundbreaking for Mount Carmel Health System's new 36,775-square-foot emergency care center and 68,215-square-foot medical office building at 5525 Hoover Road took place on Sept. 27.
An agreement between the city and Mount Carmel was approved by city council that calls for the city to extend and widen North Meadows Drive from its current intersection at state Route 665 to the intersection of Hoover and Holton roads and to use "commercially reasonable efforts" to complete the public improvements by Oct. 31, 2013.
The cost of the extension and related capital improvements to support the development are projected to cost $12.5 million. Of that amount, Mount Carmel has contributed $3 million and the land the road will be built on.
In addition, the city will receive a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation for $750,000, a grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission for $630,000 and an interest-free loan from the OPWC for $400,000.
The "Southern Gateway to Central Ohio," as state, local and regional officials called the new single-point urban interchange at the intersection of Interstate 71 and state Route 665, officially opened in August after nearly 12 years in development.
The new interchange has seven lanes and a multi-use path for bicycle and foot traffic.
The cost of the entire project was about $47.9 million, with about $22 million going to the interchange itself. Other associated projects with the interchange included the widening of Route 665 from North Meadows Drive to Hoover Road and the relocation of Haughn Road. The interchange is designed to accommodate a traffic count of 41,600 vehicles.
Officials said the interchange will also make 2,000 acres of land more attractive for economic development and will give the area a signature design that "introduces people to central Ohio."
Creating a village
On Nov. 2, construction began at the site of the Lamplighter Senior Village at 1185 Lamplighter Drive. The development will have 50 residential units divided into a pair of two-story buildings and three single-story buildings, as well as a community building and shelter house.
The $9.9 million project is intended for seniors 55 and older and is scheduled to open in November 2013.
The general contractor for the project is LW Construction Services while Frontier Community Services is the managing partner. Other entities involved include the Affordable Housing Trust of Columbus, PNC Bank and the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which is providing $923,000 annually in the form of low-income housing tax credits for 10 years and another $750,000 in soft loans.
Road work ahead
The reconstruction of Stringtown Road continued in 2011. In April, city council approved an ordinance appropriating $8,196,000 for the second phase of the road reconstruction improvements on Stringtown; phase 1 occurred in 2005 and 2006.
Funding includes a $3,902,104 grant and a $2,494,789 loan from the Ohio Public Works Commission. The city's short-term contribution is $1,603,107.
Planned improvements to the three-quarter-mile stretch of road will include curb installation and new sidewalks, bicycle paths, a water main, a storm sewer, decorative street lights, traffic signals and brick streetscape accents.
Construction is under way, and the project is estimated to be completed in August.
Development looks to continue into 2013. On Nov. 20, the Pizzuti Cos. presented a $14-million plan to city council to redevelop downtown Grove City by relocating City Hall, currently at 4035 Broadway, to the current site of the library, 3359 Park St., and moving the library to the corner of Broadway and Grant Street.
The project would also involve converting the current City Hall space into commercial office and restaurant uses and the construction of three-story multi-family housing structures that would house 150-160 units at Broadway and Columbus Street. At this time, plans have not been finalized or approved; no property has been purchased or sold, but council is expected to pass legislation before the end of the year offering Pizzuti guidance about proceeding.
The historic Town Center had other activity in the past year. In August, the city appropriated $50,000 to the Town Center Commercial Revitalization Grant Program, which awards matching grants of up to $10,000 to businesses, nonprofits, not-for profits and property owners located within the commercial core of the Town Center. Around the same time, the Support Grove City initiative was launched to promote local businesses. The year also saw the opening of a number of new businesses including Read It Again Books, Marks Sports Cards Plus, the Plum Run Winery, Eban Bakery and more.
The Grove City Area Visitors and Convention Bureau also saw a change in leadership. In August, executive director James F. Hale's retirement from the position he has held since 2005 was announced. Amanda J. Davis was named his successor in November and will assume full responsibilities on Jan. 1.
New and old issues
The city took a step forward this year in looking into building a community recreation center. On Nov. 19, council approved a $41,000 feasibility study for such a center. The study, to be conducted by the firm MS Consultants Inc. and expected to take four months, is intended to determine needs and priorities of the community and address issues such as potential size, location, programming, returns on investment and funding options would be available.
According to the ordinance passed by council to fund the feasibility study, the need for such a center ranked high among residents who took the 2011 Parks & Recreation Open Space Comprehensive Plan community survey.
June 14 marked the official opening of the new four-season Eagle Pavilion at Rotary Lake at Fryer Park. The Grove City Rotary Club contributed $50,000 to the project, and the Fraternal Order of the Eagles pitched in another $100,000; the city put in $400,000.
City officials have said the new facility will meet a pressing need for indoor meeting space in the community.
In September, city council appropriated $130,000 to pay for the demolition of the vacant Value Inn at 4200 Gantz Road, which occurred in October.
The property had been regarded as a public nuisance and eyesore for number of years due to fire code, maintenance and criminal violations. The city and property owner had previously agreed in late 2011 the site would be cleaned up or sold by May 1, 2012, and when neither happened, the city began soliciting bids for demolition.
The city will be reimbursed for the cost of the demolition.
A lien was placed on the property, and $90,000 has already been set aside in an escrow account after a portion of the lot was split off and sold. City officials have said they hope to see the property redeveloped.
City scandal ends
A guilty plea and sentencing of a former city employee brought an end to a scandal with the Internal Revenue Service.
On July 10, former payroll specialist Jacqueline K. Kincade pled guilty to three felony counts -- theft in office, tampering with records and filing an incomplete or fraudulent income-tax return, and on Aug. 23, she was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and $114,800 in restitution.
Kincade, who worked for the city from 1987 through January 2011, was found to have to have written 26 checks to herself totaling $67,799 between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2010. The theft was discovered in December 2010 when the city received notice from the IRS of funds due, and city officials subsequently found 49 letters from the IRS in Kincade's work desk, many serving notice of penalties against for not properly withholding payroll taxes for Grove City employees.
Kincade is reported to have delayed or failed to pay withholding taxes for city employees to cover her thefts, resulting in the IRS penalties and accumulated interest. She is also reported to have diverted money from other city funds to conceal discrepancies created by the thefts.
The entire affair is reported to have cost Grove City $942,869 as a result of money stolen, penalties and interest paid to the IRS, the cost to conduct the state audit, police overtime during the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office investigation and legal fees. The city's loss was minimized when its insurance provider granted a payment of $555,205, in addition to the $667,551 in unpaid penalties and interest the IRS waived in 2011.
Honoring the fallen
The Grove City community gathered to remember the fallen members of the military as it hosted Ohio Flags of Honor for a second year.
Ohio Flags of Honor was on display for a 24-hour viewing period from June 22-24 at Henceroth Park.
The display is a traveling memorial comprised of more than 400 full-size flags commemorating the lives and sacrifices of the 261 Ohio service members who have died in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the War on Terrorism.
During a service on June 23, the families of Lance Cpl. Eric J. Bernholtz and Sgt. Jesse M. Balthaser of the Marine Corps and the family of Army Master Sgt. Shawn T. Hannon added flags to the memorial. All were from Grove City. Hannon was killed in April in Afghanistan. Balthaser was killed in Afghanistan in September 2010 while Bernholtz died in Iraq in August 2005. Their families also planted memorial trees in the park as did the family of Army Sgt. Joseph A. Capocciama, a retired two-tour veteran of Iraq who died in May.