Violet Township and Pickerington leaders touted steady management in 2018 and expected gains in 2019 at a recent Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

On March 21, the chamber held its annual luncheon, which serves as an opportunity for officials from the township and city to provide updates on the state of the community.

First up was Violet Township Trustee Darrin Monhollen, who noted one of the highlights of 2018 was the township's purchase of the Wigwam facility for $2.7 million last summer.

"In July 2018, we took possession of the Wigwam, a 63-acre retreat that will allow the use of a theater that has 303 seats for performing arts, small community concerts and presentations," he said. "The lodge will seat 450 comfortably for weddings, corporate and other community events.

"Violet Township offices will also be relocated to this facility. Plans also include commercial development along the northern 10 acres of Interstate 70 frontage."

Monhollen also hailed the opening of Fire Station 591, a $6-million, 15,000-square-foot facility at 21 Lockville Road, and the continuation of a $1 million annual road-paving program.

In 2019, Monhollen said, the township has a 4.6 mill levy on the ballot to fund construction and 25 years of operation of a $46 million, 95,000-square-foot community center.

He also said the township is working to plan for upgrades to local transportation throughways.

That includes searching for grants to help fund planned widening of Refugee Road from Toll Gate Road to Pickerington's boundary, at roughly 810 Refugee Road.

"That also includes a multiuse path along the north side and a sidewalk on the south side," Monhollen said. "Our staff is currently seeking funding for this project."

Additionally, Monhollen said, township leaders hope to create an "active transportation" plan to connect a multiuse path along Diley Road to future paths on Refugee Road.

"This path could ultimately extend to a southern connection to the Olde (Pickerington) Village and ultimately beyond.

"We also are pursuing a U.S. (Route) 33-to-I-70 connector by working cooperatively with the Fairfield County Transportation Improvement District ... that would connect these two corridors and promote economic development."

Pickerington Mayor Lee Gray followed Monhollen by noting the city also is spending approximately $1 million a year for street paving while maintaining the highest rainy-day fund in the city's history.

"The city of Pickerington has the highest general-fund reserve in the city's history," Gray said. "It's about $6 million.

"That's a big deal. The benefit of that is, if we ever start having a down economy, we're going to be in a good place."

Along those lines, Gray noted Pickerington's water and sewer rates haven't been increased since 2013 and the city hasn't raised income taxes for nearly two decades.

"There have been no tax increases since 2000," he said. "In 19 years, we have not had to have additional funds."

Gray said 15 new businesses opened in 2018, and 130 new homes built, which, he said, displays "the health of our community."

He also highlighted the city's $3.3 million purchase of 214 acres of undeveloped land near Busey and Pickerington roads last November.

"We're not sure where it's going to end up, but what we do know is that by the city buying it, it will not be more dense than two units per acre," Gray said. "We are going to set aside at least 50 to 70 acres for commercial, light-industrial and we're already starting to get people calling about it."

Additionally, he said, he's eager to see the construction of a "ninja-warrior course" at Sycamore Park this year, as well as the end of the approximately $14 million project to improve Refugee Road from state Route 256 to Fuller's Way.

The latter project includes the widening of Refugee Road along that stretch to five lanes, curb and gutter installations to improve drainage and the construction of a roundabout at the Refugee and Fuller's Way intersection.

Gray said weather has caused delays in the Refugee project and he's hopeful it will be completed soon.

"I guess the water level out there is only 6 feet below the ground and they've had to do a lot of de-watering and moving utilities around," he said. "There's going to be a roundabout, and I've been told that that's going to move that traffic a lot faster."

Lastly, Gray said, he hopes the decision to move the community's July Fourth fireworks display to July 3 will quell problems police have had with large crowds and fights the past two years.

"In those two years, Whitehall had moved theirs (to July 3) and so had Reynoldsburg," he said. "So, the east side had started having their fireworks on the third and we were one of the few that was still having ours on the fourth. So that's why lots of people from out of town were coming here.

"So we made the difficult decision to align with them. We're going to have our fireworks on the third and we'll have the parade on the fourth. We're hoping that that takes it back to being a local, community event."