Mayor Brad McCloud offered a little good news in his Feb. 7 State of the City address, telling the Reynoldsburg Area Chamber of Commerce that 32 new businesses opened in the city last year, representing "a total private investment of well over $10.5 million."
He said two of those businesses were relocations or expansions. Commercial office space was a big part of those dollars, with $5.5 million in private investment, he said.
"In this economy, that is good news and we are beginning to metaphorically hear the phone ring more than we have," he said. "One of the new additions was Old Navy, which I think is the only place I've been to that had two ribbon cuttings -- they just couldn't get enough."
New businesses opening soon in Reynoldsburg include Charley's Philly Steaks and a new Auto Zone.
"Charley's Philly Steaks will open at the southeast corner of Brice and Main, next to the McDonald's, which has been vacant forever," he said. "Auto Zone is going to be on Broad Street."
McCloud said it was hard for him to believe he was delivering his sixth State of the City speech "and also hard for me to believe how much gray hair I've developed since I've been doing this gig," he said. "I'm happy to be here -- we have a very vibrant local economy and the chamber is the backbone of that local economy."
He said changes in city staff positions were prevalent over the past year. These included naming Jim O'Neill as police chief; Mike Kozanecki, safety director; Ron Wright, police lieutenant; Nathan Burd, service director; Joe Brown, parks and recreation director; Fred Slota, chief building inspector; Matt Lambert, city engineer; Mike Root, water superintendent; Bill Mathews, street superintendent; and Leslie Clark, clerk of courts.
"I was able to restructure the police department this past year because Mike Kozanecki is also a certified peace officer, so we eliminated a lieutenant position and now have a full-time safety director, which has been a positive development," McCloud said. "Our service director, Nathan Burd, is familiar to you as a volunteer and city councilman and there is nothing like becoming the service director in the middle of snow season, so it was a baptism of fire for Mr. Burd."
He said Slota was hired from the state of Washington.
"He has been a great addition and understands the need to be friendly to the business community while also establishing code regulations," McCloud said. "And Matt Lambert, our city engineer, is a great guy and is up to his waist in our Brice Road reconstruction project."
McCloud said the turnover in city jobs has not always been easy "but we have a good team in place and look forward to the good things we will get done this year."
He said the city received a $4-million grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission to completely repave Brice Road.
"The Brice Road improvement is a part of my emphasis on redeveloping that commercial corridor," he said. "We will add pedestrian improvement and are ideally seeking funding for lighting improvements as well. It will be a big project and we are excited about the energy that will bring to that commercial corridor."
New for 2013 in the police department will be a community resource officer, he said.
"We will have a community resource officer to handle all parking, speeding and accident complaints in neighborhoods," he said.
"This one officer will be the contact person. He will meet with the citizen making the complaint and take the appropriate action by talking to members of other shifts and responding back to that citizen. We will also have a trend analysis, so we will know what is happening when."
Pending legislation before council includes a capital improvement project (CIP) water fee, which will add $1.50 per 1,000 gallons of water used.
"We buy all of our water from the city of Columbus," he said. "We currently lose over $1.5 million of water a year that we can't account for. The industry standard is 18 percent ground loss, but ours is in the 30-percent range. We have many old water lines that are not designed to last 50 or 60 years.
"This fee is currently being deliberated by council," he said. "We are not being good stewards of taxpayer money by letting $1.5 million of water flow out somewhere. This is not something we want to embrace, but it is one of the necessities of providing good government."
McCloud said a comparison of city budgets would show that "Reynoldsburg operates on a shoestring."
He said several surrounding cities with similar population have much larger city budgets. Grove City operates with $25 million, Gahanna with $25 million and Westerville with $36 million, while Reynoldsburg's city budget is $14 million.
"There was an effort to put an income tax on the ballot two years ago that failed," he said. "We continue to move forward, but it is tight."