Whitehall News

Looking back on 2012

Developments, condos, jobs highlighted Whitehall's year

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As the year draws to a close, ThisWeek Whitehall News revisits some of the highlights and lowlights of 2012.

One key development for Whitehall was, well, development.

Officials from Franklin County Children Services and the city of Whitehall gathered April 18 for a groundbreaking ceremony for a 96,000-square-foot, three-story building that will serve as the agency's East Region office.

Located at 4071 E. Main St., the new center is built upon the former site of Main Lanes, a bowling alley. Construction was nearly completed in December, and about 350 employees are expected to occupy the building in spring 2013.

The agency is moving employees from its former East Region office at 205 N. Hamilton Road and from its Central Region and Intake & Investigation office at 525 E. Mound St. to the Whitehall office.

FCCS officials said the agency outgrew the exiting East and Central offices.

"We are excited that (FCCS) chose the city of Whitehall as their new home," Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said in April.

Whitehall residents learned in May that the size of the city's library would nearly triple in size when a new Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library opens in spring 2014.

The CML trustees in June approved the $550,000 purchase of a 6.4-acre parcel at 4445 E. Broad St. The new site, about a quarter-mile from the existing site, is more than six time larger than the library's 0.93-acre plot.

The existing 7,400-square-foot building at 4371 E. Broad St. opened in 1959. It was renovated in 1982, and an addition was constructed in 1993.

The number of jobs in Whitehall increased in 2012, not only from the new FCCS East Regional office but also though Alliance Data Systems.

A manager of store-brand credit cards, Alliance announced in May the addition of 175 to 200 jobs to its call center at 4590 E. Broad St.

The additional employees boosted the total number to about 800 employees.

Alliance acquired new clients, including Pier 1 Imports and online jewelry retailer Blue Nile, and needed additional customer-service representatives at its call centers in Whitehall, Westerville and Easton in northeast Columbus.

In addition to new businesses, the city also celebrated the opening of four new schools.

Kae Avenue Elementary School and Rosemore Middle School opened in January 2012, and Beechwood Elementary School and Etna Road Elementary School opened in August.

Construction continued on Whitehall-Yearling High School, set to open in 2013.

All five schools were rebuilt as a result of a $23 million bond issue voters had approved in 2008. In doing so, the Ohio School Facilities Commission agreed to fund the remainder of the $78 million construction cost.

In addition to new schools, residents also will enjoy the city's first community center.

For more than three years, the city was aware that it would receive federal land on which to build the center, but it was not until May that the slow government process concluded with Maggard receiving a deed that officially made the former U.S. Army Reserve Center the property of Whitehall.

The U.S. Army declared the 25,000-square-foot facility, at 721 Country Club Drive, excess property in 2005 as part of that year's Base Realignment and Closure program. As such, Whitehall was able to obtain the parcel for $1, providing that it was converted into a public use.

The city has contracted with Cincinnati-based MSA Architects to design a plan for converting the reserve center into a community center. No budget has been established for the project, but the city expects to sell bounds for its construction.

Whitehall Fire Chief Tim Tilton announced in November he is retiring after more than 27 years of service to the Whitehall Division of Fire, nearly 16 of those as chief.

"It just seemed like the right time to retire and move on," said Tilton, who was enrolled in city's deferred-retirement-option program. "I have some things I'd like to accomplish in my personal life, and I think it's time for someone else to lead the department."

Other stories in 2012 included former Whitehall development director Dan Lorek, whose criminal case in Franklin County Common Pleas Court ended in March 2012, when a judge accepted a finding that Lorek was incompetent to stand trial.

Columbus Port Authority Police arrested Lorek, 52, of New Albany, on Sept. 30, 2011, after he refused to move his vehicle out of a no-parking zone at the passenger-arrival area and allegedly spat at an officer after challenging the authority of police to compel him to move the vehicle.

Lorek was facing misdemeanor charges of assault, obstructing official business and resisting arrest and a felony charge of harassment. He resigned as development director Oct. 5, 2011.

Another city director also disposed of a criminal case in 2012.

Service director Ray Ogden pleaded guilty May 24 to an amended charge of disorderly conduct, concluding a case that began in May 2011.

Two other charges -- theft and criminal mischief -- were dismissed. He also had been charged with assault but pleaded guilty to an amended charge of disorderly conduct.

According to Whitehall police, Ogden stopped at an automotive service center May 7, 2011, and removed signs that were in the city's right of way. The store manager told police Ogden had assaulted him when he attempted to stop Ogden from collecting the signs advertising in-store specials.

Woodcliff Condominiums was a continuing story throughout 2012 as the city sough to obtain an order from a Franklin County Municipal Court judge for the 317-unit condominium complex at East Broad Street and North Hamilton Road to be demolished as a public nuisance.

A municipal judge first ordered the property a nuisance in 2008 and named a receiver. Since then, the issue has remained in court.

The city and property manager negotiated throughout 2012 as the city dropped then-reinstituted efforts to demolish the property until finally reaching an agreement to give the property manager a final opportunity to meet strict deadlines to comply with safety and health regulations for the property.

Whitehall police recorded no murders through Dec. 10, 2012, but investigated a homicide that occurred in Columbus as the victim's body was discovered in the early morning hours of Oct. 20 outside an apartment building in the 4600 block of Eastway Court, in Whitehall.

Michael Payne, 38, a 1993 graduate of Whitehall-Yearling High School, was killed at the East Livingston Avenue apartment of Maxamillion J. Williams, police said.

Seven days later, police in Florida arrested Amy L. Lambert, 27, and police in Mexico arrested Williams, both in connection with Payne's death, described by police as a murder for hire to collect Payne's life insurance. Payne had named Lambert, his girlfriend, as the beneficiary.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 30, a Whitehall police officer was seriously injured and a 78-year-old East Columbus man killed in a collision at East Main Street and Beechwood Avenue.

Vernon L. Lightle, of Collingwood Avenue, Columbus, was killed and Whitehall police office Enrique Ortega, a four-year veteran, seriously injured in the crash stemming from the pursuit of a man who had arrived at his girlfriend's Whitehall residence, violating a restraining order.

Whitehall police on Dec. 4 arrested the man, who fled and contributed to the cause of the crash. Matthew S. Jones, 29, of Collingwood Avenue, is charged with felony fleeing, aggravated menacing, violation of a protection order, domestic-violence threats and failure to comply with the order of a police officer.

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