Pickerington Times-Sun

Stonecreek Drive South extension

TIF pact work might be torn up for 256 widening

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Pickerington City Council unanimously passed an ordinance June 17 authorizing City Manager Bill Vance to execute an agreement with the GPD Group, paving the way for improvements related to the Stonecreek Drive South extension project.

The improvements, however, might be short-lived in light of a larger project down the road.

GPD Group has been enlisted to perform the design and construction engineering for the addition of an eastbound left turn lane and a westbound right turn lane on the north side of Refugee Road as well as a traffic signal at the intersection of Refugee Road and the Stonecreek Drive extension.

GPD estimates the total cost of the design engineering services will be $76,900, with the overall cost of the project tabbed at $510,000.

The work is being done as part of the OhioHealth tax-increment financing term sheet the city arranged with OhioHealth for the development of its medical campus.

OhioHealth is in the process of constructing a $42 million, 150,000 square-foot medical campus near the intersection of state Route 256 and Refugee Road.

The TIF agreement requires OhioHealth pay an estimated $4.4 million to help pay for the widening of Refugee Road in lieu of paying property taxes to the Pickerington Local School District.

The city, in turn, promises to use its best efforts to provide OhioHealth with a stop light and two turn lanes by the hospital's opening in 2015, which is the project GPD Group is designing.

"The TIF term sheet requires us to make some improvements to Refugee Road at the intersection with Stonecreek, which the developer is constructing this summer," said Scott Tourville, Pickerington City Engineer.

Complicating matters is the fact that the work contemplated under the TIF agreement might be incompatible with the city's long-term plans for Refugee Road.

In early June, Pickerington received $3.5 million in Ohio Department of Transportation grants for Refugee Road widening and right-of-way acquisition, a project slated for 2017.

Tourville said the Stonecreek turn-lane additions and light installation might have to be torn up later to accommodate the Refugee Road project.

"Unfortunately, that looks like a real possibility," Tourville said.

"We are doing everything we can to make sure that there is minimal re-work in regards to current and future improvements," he said.

"While we were fortunate to get an ODOT grant for Refugee improvements, the timing of those grant funds makes it very likely that we will have to remove the turn lanes and replace them when we do the full Refugee widening," Tourville said.

He said there still is a possibility the city can negotiate with OhioHealth to delay the Stonecreek improvements to prevent the obvious waste of resources.

"OhioHealth is putting down roots to be a significant community partner for the long-term, and we are excited to have them here," Tourville said.

"We know they will play a large role in the future success of this community, and are more than willing to try and work with them to make sure that city tax dollars are spent in the most effective way for all," he said.

According to the TIF agreement, OhioHealth will construct the Stonecreek Drive extension prior to the medical center's opening in 2015, Tourville said.

"We have heard that it may be open to the public before the winter," he said.

"The road will contain two through lanes, and a third lane will be built within the next eight years, also per the TIF," he said.

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