Johnstown experienced several changes in 2009 - from the hiring of a new village manager in the spring to the opening of a new Kroger in the fall.

Johnstown experienced several changes in 2009 - from the hiring of a new village manager in the spring to the opening of a new Kroger in the fall.

The year also brought relief to educators within the Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge local school districts, thanks to voters who approved emergency operating levies in May.

The village of Johnstown started 2009 with interim manager Randy Ashbrook, who filled the position until council hired Judy Edwards on May 20 from a field of 50 applicants.

Six-year village manager Sarah Phillips left Johnstown in December 2008 to become the city manager of Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Edwards came to the village from her most recent job as administrator for Madison Township in Franklin County. She was given a two-year contract at an annual salary of $75,000.

Edwards was raised in Franklin County, but she moved to Licking County three years ago when she started a job with the county prosecutor's office.

In Johnstown, Edwards said she hoped to use her planning and economic development background.

Prior to Edwards joining the village, plans were already in progress for the long-anticipated opening of the new Kroger, 800 W. Coshocton St., on Monday, Oct. 26, when hundreds of customers lined up to be the first to shop at the store.

Mayor Kevin Riffe thanked the business for investing the effort - and about $12-million - to bring Kroger to the village during difficult economic times.
Bruce Macaulay, president of Kroger's Columbus Division, said new stores don't just happen without community support.
"We're here because of the leadership from Johnstown and Licking County," he said. "We started this in October 2008 and said we would have it opened before the holidays."

The new Kroger, boasting about 75,000 square feet, employs about 176 associates, including 70 new employees from the Johnstown area.

The local school districts were thankful in 2009 to be able to retain their employees, after emergency operating levies were approved on May 5.

For Johnstown-Monroe, the approved 9.6-mill emergency operating levy saved sports, extra- and co-curricular programs and some academic programming.

The district had already eliminated $1.1-million since 2006 in order to meet financial obligations. Among those cuts were high school busing, elementary and middle school busing within a two-mile radius, educational aides, 32 academic high school classes and some special needs services, among others.

The 9.6-mill, five-year levy will cost the owner of a home with a market value of $100,000 an additional $24.50 per month or $294 annually.
The levy was approved 61 percent to 39 percent.

Superintendent Damien Bawn said the district's victory was by far "the greatest effort and greatest overcoming of the odds that I've ever seen."

Northridge school leaders had to wait until May 19 to enjoy a victory, since voters narrowly passed the levy there.

At issue was a 9.9-mill emergency operating levy that will generate about $2.1-million annually. The five-year levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $26.80 per month or $321.60 per year.

In jeopardy at Northridge was the elimination of all sports and extra- and co-curricular programs. All district buildings would have closed for community usage, including the Northridge Youth Athletic Association.

Levy failure would also have resulted in the elimination of 15 teachers, guidance counselors and a school nurse; elementary physical education, art and music; the "gifted" program for advanced students; and Vo-Ag, FFA and family consumer science.