Marketing a key piece of undeveloped land and completing the $15 million widening of Refugee Road are among top 2020 objectives for Pickerington's administrators.

In November 2018, Pickerington City Council approved the $3.77 million purchase of 214 undeveloped acres just west of Pickerington Road and south of Busey Road.

At the time, Mayor Lee Gray said the city long had coveted the land, but it had to wait for the right time to buy because it had been in contract for sale to residential developers multiple times over the years.

Now that the city owns the property, officials see 2020 as an important year to shape its development.

Gray said the city expects to complete annexation of the land, which is in Violet Township.

From there, the city hopes to lock in developers for a variety of projects on the site.

It was important to secure ownership, Gray said, so officials could ensure businesses, which would bring in more taxes to the city than residential developments, are constructed there.

"We are expecting close to 70 acres of this ground to be commercial and light industrial," Gray said.

In addition to that planned development, a top priority for city officials is to see the completion of the Refugee Road widening project from its intersections with state Route 256 and Fuller's Way.

The $15 million project is backed by more than $12 million in federal and state funding from the Federal Highway Administration, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the Ohio Public Works Commission and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

Pickerington's share is estimated at $2.5 million.

The project was launched in October 2018, and officials initially said they hoped it would be completed by the end of 2019.

However, wet weather and delays associated with relocating utilities have delayed completion.

"The Refugee Road widening project should be completed in the fall of 2020," City Manager Greg Butcher said.

When completed, the project will yield:

* Additional lanes on Refugee from just east of Route 256 to the Refugee-Fuller's Way intersection.

* An additional center-turn lane/median from the Refugee-Fuller's Way intersection to the west corporation limit near Wheatfield Drive.

* Curb and gutter installation to improve drainage.

* A roundabout at Refugee and Fuller's Way.

* A new bike path on the north side of Refugee Road to provide access from Route 256 to the Blacklick Creek Greenway Trail.

* A new sidewalk on the south side of Refugee Road.

* Resurfacing Refugee Road and installing medians throughout the corridor.

"It is going to be a five-lane road from Route 256 to Fuller's Way," Frank Wiseman, Pickerington's former city manager, said in June.

"At Fuller's Way, there's going to be a roundabout and then it goes down to a three-lane highway from Fuller's Way to the Columbus border."

In line with the Refugee Road project, both Gray and Butcher touted the city's plans to continue to maintain roadways in 2020.

"The city has budgeted $1.5 million for our 2020 paving program," Butcher said. "That represents the highest amount ever in city history.

"Planning for the program is underway."

The city's plans look beyond the 214-acre project for development strategies.

"The city will be updating its comprehensive land-use plan, with a target completion date of late 2020," Butcher said. "The plan was last updated in 2001 and is thus nearly 20 years old.

"We will be engaging residents and other stakeholders in this important update effort.

"Additionally, the city will be formulating its first-ever economic-development strategic plan in a parallel process with the comprehensive land-use plan."

Beyond the specific projects and plans, Gray and Butcher both emphasized the city will continue to focus on public safety and customer service in 2020.

Gray cited the addition of three police officers to the Pickerington Police Department in late October.

Those officers are expected to be fully trained and able to patrol without supervision throughout 2020.

"We are continuing to add personnel at our police department," he said. "Public safety is and continues to be a priority."

Butcher said customer service to residents and businesses is emphasized to city employees daily.

He pledged that officials would seek to communicate news and initiatives to community members throughout the coming year and would welcome meetings with residents and business owners.

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