Westerville News & Public Opinion

Grants, JEDZ to help Blendon improve in 2014

Public works spending will soar this year in the township

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A little more than a year after Blendon Township residents approved a joint economic development zone with Westerville and adopted limited home rule, they should begin to see the rewards.

In 2014, the township has planned a lineup of infrastructure improvements and is working with businesses to aid them in improving their properties and expanding their presence in the township.

After contracting with a grant-writing firm, the township recently received a $431,346 grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission to improve township roadways.

That money will be combined with the township's own funds to support a total $664,000 in investments in township infrastructure this year. That triples what the township has spent on its roadways in recent years, said Blendon Township Administrator Bryan Rhoads.

"There have been years where we've spent less than $100,000," Rhoads said. "This will allow us to catch up."

The township also recently received an $85,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to upgrade Phelps Acre park, at the corner of Dempsey and Hempstead roads. "We've been wanting to do something with this park," Rhoads said. "It's kind of a gateway."

With the grant and township funds, township leaders plan to spend a little more than $100,000 to improve landscaping and install new playground equipment. The park now houses a historical marker, and the renovations at the park will highlight that, Rhoads said.

Last year, the township invested in Ridgewood Park to install fencing and expand the parking lot. This year, those improvements will be expanded upon, Rhoads said, with the township planning to have brush removed to allow for more open recreation space.

Township leaders also are looking at erecting a monument to Jane Juergens, a resident who was murdered in Ridgewood Park in October.

The township now is working with the Ohio Department of Transportation to see if grants are available to help develop a gateway feature at Buenos Aires Boulevard and Harbin Drive, where the township purchased an abandoned, burned out house last year.

The township likely will be able to take on other initiatives in the future, Rhoads said.

Through the joint economic development zone, which applies Westerville's 2-percent income tax to Blendon Township's commercial areas, the township brought in $1.4 million in revenue last year, exceeding expectations.

That number likely will grow, Rhoads said, as that figure represents a partial year's collection.

The township already is seeing business growth and expansion thanks to its home rule authority, which allows the township to offer tax incentives to new or expanding businesses, and the economic-development services it receives from Westerville through the JEDZ agreement.

"It's just increased the revenue coming in," Rhoads said of the joint economic development zone. "It's growing and growing."

With the money raised through the zone, the township already has established a property improvement program that businesses are beginning to take advantage of, and with the improvements being made, many of those businesses expect growth in the coming year, Rhoads said.

Rhoads said he's also been focusing his attention on meeting with local businesses to see how the township can better serve them and help their growth with its newfound revenues.

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