Mayor intends to improve My Home, property maintenance
With one full year of experience as the city's leader, Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard plans to prioritize -- and implement accordingly -- her goals for the new year.
Some goals are immediate, such as continuation of the My Home program. Others, such as the construction of the city's first community center, entail the start of a process that should be years in making.
Maggard's top goals for 2013 include building upon the success of the My Home initiative, which was unveiled last year. The financial-assistance program provides qualifying homebuyers up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness. The city-funded program is designed to encourage private ownership in Whitehall and reduce the number of rental properties in the city. Among the requirements of the program is that owners must reside in Whitehall for at least five years or forfeit the monetary award.
"We had 10 closings (in 2012). The program has been a success," Maggard said.
Maggard said the program has expanded primarily through word of mouth, but the city this year will advertise the program through real estate agents, so "it should get much more attention" in 2013.
Another priority involves property owners who do not comply with city code.
"There will be an increased focus this year on code enforcement," she said. "We want the city to look more appealing."
Code-enforcement officers will be focused on inspecting grass and weeds, making sure they're properly trimmed. They also will look for fences in need of repair and other maintenance issues, making sure residents and businesses are complying with the city's property-maintenance code.
The city is making its own strides to enhance aesthetics by marketing vacant parcels it owns, including the site of a former gasoline station at South Hamilton and Etna roads and a former automotive dealership at South Hamilton Road and Fairway Boulevard.
Maggard said the Whitehall Division of Police also will have a focus in 2013: to improve pedestrian safety and, in turn, that of motorists.
"Too many people have endangered their lives and others', not using crosswalks or crossing against a traffic light," Maggard said.
Although no pedestrians were killed in Whitehall last year, Maggard said, too often pedestrians jaywalk, endangering themselves and motorists, especially along East Main Street, East Broad Street and South Hamilton Road.
The city will continue to improve its new website, which was unveiled and the end of November.
"We will be adding the ability for an online payment option," Maggard said, referring to fees such as those for building or fence permits, but also for traffic fines.
Though no visible work on the community center will be done in 2013, Maggard said, planning will begin for Whitehall's first community center at the site of a former U.S. Army Reserve Center.
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, on the condition that the site be converted into a public use -- in this case, a community center.
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 bonds for its construction.
Maggard had pledged the construction would not exceed $10 million.
The city also will complete a master plan for Whitehall Community Park, determining the best course for renovating the existing activities center. Many of the activities that Whitehall Community Park hosts could be moved to the new community center, allowing for alternate uses of the facilities at Whitehall Community Park.
Construction is set to begin on at least one major project, and two others will open in 2013.
The city's library will nearly triple in size when a new Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library opens in spring 2014.
The CML trustees in June 2012 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 7,400-square-foot library, is more than six times larger than the library's existing 0.93-acre plot. The new library is planned as a 19,500-square-foot facility.
The newly constructed Whitehall-Yearling High School is set to open for the 2013-14 school year. It is the last of five new school buildings to open.
All five schools were rebuilt as a result of a $23 million bond issue voters approved in 2008. In doing so, the Ohio School Facilities Commission agreed to fund the remainder of the $78 million construction cost.
Kae Avenue Elementary School and Rosemore Middle School opened in January 2012, and Beechwood Elementary School and Etna Road Elementary School opened in August.
The Franklin County Children Services is expected to open a new regional office in spring 2013.
The new 96,000-square-foot, three-story facility 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. The agency will move 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 new regional office.