Goals old and new on the horizon for Hilliard in 2013
As Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt begins the second year of his third term in office, he said he plans to revisit and build on old goals for Hilliard, as well as tackle some new ones.
Schonhardt said fiscal prudence and efficiency will remain a priority, as in the past several years, essential in 2013 as the national economy slowly recovers.
Fiscal prudence and efficiency will be achieved, in part, by controlling personnel costs, he said.
Schonhardt announced in November he will serve as the city's safety director, as provided for in the city charter, after the resignation of Law and Safety Director Pam Fox.
The role of safety director historically has been coupled with law director, but Schonhardt opted to sever the dual role.
The mayor plans to consolidate other roles, too.
Finance Director Michelle Kelly-Underwood retired in October. Schonhardt will recommend Deputy Finance Director David Delande as the new finance director, but when naming a new deputy finance director, he plans to add the city's income-tax administrator duties to the deputy's responsibilities.
"With eliminating these positions, we of course anticipate personnel savings in 2013," Schonhardt said.
Coupled with an anticipated increase in revenue for 2013, Schonhardt said, the city will move closer to meeting a goal city officials have had since he took office in 2004.
The administration and City Council set a goal then to maintain a cash reserve equal to 25 percent of the city's annual general-fund operating expenses.
"It's been about 17 to 19 percent most of the time since I've been mayor, but grew to 22.7 percent last year," Schonhardt said.
The city's cash balance at the start of 2012 was $3.4 million and is expected to be approximately $4.2 million this month.
"The cash balance should be about 23.7 percent (of the annual operating budget amount) at the end of 2013," Schonhardt said. "We've made tremendous strides toward our target of 25 percent."
Other cash-saving options include consolidating services with other municipalities. Hilliard currently is studying the feasibility of sharing emergency dispatching services with neighboring communities.
The continuing revitalization of Old Hilliard is among the goals Schonhardt plans to approach with a renewed focus.
"We are off to a great start with First Responders Park (dedicated in 2010), but are still waiting for Hilliard Station Park," Schonhardt said.
No funding for the park was included in the capital-improvements budget City Council members approved for 2013, but funding for a portion or all of it remains possible.
"We want to have a better handle on what revenue looks like (during 2013) before making that decision," Schonhardt said.
Hilliard Station Park would be built in the footprint of the former Russell Grain Co. silos that were demolished in 2009 at the northwest corner of Main and Center streets. The park, which would celebrate the city's railroad heritage, would be built across the street from First Responders Park, a memorial to the nearly 3,000 emergency personnel and civilians killed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The construction of Hilliard Station Park and the private development of a proposed performing arts center are key elements to spurring economic development in Old Hilliard, Schonhardt said.
"Today, the area simply lacks the population base to support new businesses," he said.
The catalyst for transforming Old Hilliard into a vibrant downtown area, he said, is a proposed commercial, retail and residential development at the corner of Franklin Street and Cemetery Road, near the Starliner Diner and an inoperable grain elevator and silo.
"Even though it has been met with some controversy, (the proposed development) will be the catalyst for bringing people into Old Hilliard to enjoy all the amenities," Schonhardt said.
An extension of a bike trail and walking path would connect Old Hilliard to the new development, all within walking distance of proposed residences.
Franklin Street, a private road where it meets Cemetery Road, would be improved and aligned with Luxair Drive, creating a signalized intersection and a new access road from Cemetery Road to Main Street in Old Hilliard, parallel to Norwich Street. The $15 million to $18 million project also would require the relocation of the Starliner Diner and demolition of the grain elevator and silo.
"It is the key to future development in Old Hilliard," said Schonhardt, who foresees the area hosting community events and festivals.
While a development plan for the Franklin Street and Cemetery Road project has yet to be finalized, construction will begin in 2013 on the Villages at Britton Parkway.
An 84,000-square foot Giant Eagle store, medical offices, restaurants and apartments are planned for the 56-acre parcel at the northwest corner of Britton Parkway and Cemetery Road, which many city officials consider the "gateway to Hilliard."
The development likely will be the first of several others along Britton Parkway from Cemetery Road north to Davidson Road and eventually along the east side of Britton Parkway north to Hayden Run Road.
"There has been a long period of limited commercial and residential development, but we are beginning to emerge from this economic downturn," Schonhardt said. "Growth is good as long you manage it properly."
Another goal for 2013 is a uniform system for branding the city, including "gateway" entrance signs into Hilliard.
The city's new logo is being applied to service department vehicles and other non-emergency vehicles, and future sites will be explored for entrance signs similar to those along Britton Parkway between Hayden Run Road and Riggins Road.