Many changes are on the horizon for Hilliard in 2020, but perhaps the biggest is one that is not visible.

Hilliard's first city manager becomes official Thursday, Jan. 2, when Michelle Crandall is sworn in.

Voters approved a change from a "strong-mayor" form of government to a city-manager system in November 2018, so the change has been almost 14 months in the making.

But now the rubber meets the road.

"The average person living in the community probably won't notice a dramatic difference in their daily lives based on the form of government," said David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard.

But the efforts of Crandall and Hilliard City Council "will be felt in positive ways by everyone who lives, works and plays here," he said.

Crandall said "a strong foundation is in place" because of the past efforts of council members and the administration.

"2020 will be an important transitional year for the Hilliard community," said Crandall, who was hired in September and will succeed Mayor Don Schonhardt, whose fourth four-year term ended Dec. 31, as the lead executive in the city.

"The biggest thing for Hilliard (in 2020) will almost certainly be tied to the transition to a city-manager form of government," Ball said. "Not only will there be a learning curve and a change in process for both the administration and City Council, but (Crandall) and council (also) will be looking to do some citywide strategic-planning initiatives to chart a course for the future.

"The strategic-planning process should start in the first quarter of 2020 and will involve council and staff. There (also) will be opportunities for community input and involvement."

But other changes in 2020 will be readily visible, including a capital-improvements project to improve Franklin Street.

The project includes street reconstruction, curbs, sidewalks, streetlights, on-street parking and water-line and sewer improvements to Franklin Street from the end of the Landmark Lofts mixed-use development to Main Street.

"This is part of our ongoing investment in Old Hilliard, and (it) is designed, in part, to improve walkability and rehabilitate aging infrastructure," Ball said. "The project should run from January through September."

About $3 million was appropriated for the project over a two-year period; the final phase is expected to be completed this year.

Technology also will play a significant role in Hilliard in 2020, as the city will invest about $2 million toward such improvements.

"We are moving full steam ahead with construction of more than 30 miles of fiber-optic-network infrastructure," said Duane Powell, director of information technology for Hilliard. "This will help facilitate connectivity between Hilliard and other community partners in central Ohio.

"This type of connectivity will net huge rewards in terms of economic development, connectivity and communications, and (it) has the potential of benefitting local government, schools and other organizations."

Hilliard also will build on its recovery-court and juvenile anti-vaping initiatives in 2020, Ball said.

"The Hilliard Recovery Court will continue to grow and identify individuals in the criminal-justice system (who) need assistance and treatment for their substance-use disorder as an effective alternative to incarceration," Ball said.

Meanwhile, council is expected to consider legislation to ensure anyone under 21 cannot purchase or possess an electronic smoking device or any of its component parts, Ball said.

Council likely will consider legislation in January, and Hilliard City Schools leaders are discussing policy changes involving the use and possession of electronic smoking devices to create effective and meaningful sanctions, according to Ball.

In another cooperative effort with the schools, the Hilliard Division of Police will add two full-time school-resource officers, increasing the number from four to six and providing each of the district's three high schools and three middle schools with an SRO.

For the Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department, the city plans to expand and increase the number of programs and activities it offers to the community, including expanding its popular summer camp offerings from five to 12 weeks, Ball said.

Infrastructure improvements in the recreation and parks department include new playground equipment at Conklin Park off Conklin Drive and a new disc-golf course at Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park, 3800 Veterans Memorial Drive, said Ed Merritt, director of the recreation and parks department.

The city will work with residents and the Columbus Flyers Disc Golf Club to update and replace the course at the municipal park. If funded and approved by council, the city will remove the nine-hole course and build an 18-hole course around the perimeter of the park, Ball said.

"We will also be rolling out some new baseball and softball fields. ... We are excited to continue to make Hilliard a great place to live, work and play," Merritt said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo