Pickerington in 2021: Customer service, development, finances top agenda
Pickerington city officials will strive to maintain fiscal responsibility and a high degree of customer service while continuing to support economic development in 2021.
Given that the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic had an impact on virtually every facet of city government and planning in 2020, City Manager Greg Butcher said he expects lingering effects well into this year.
With continued uncertainty, he said the city will focus on three “broad-based” priorities in the new year.
“A conservative fiscal philosophy has served the city well and was accentuated in 2020, enabling the city to withstand the challenges of COVID-19,” Butcher said. “We strongly believe fiscal responsibility, excellent customer service and economic development have been and will continue to be guiding principles as we advance into 2021.”
A reined-in approach adopted in 2020 included suspending the replacement of departing employees. Butcher said that practice will continue in 2021.
He said officials looked for opportunities to stretch municipal dollars by seeking aid from outside sources and they will stay alert to future funding that might arise as the pandemic stretches into the new calendar year.
“The city was able to utilize approximately $1.2 million in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding for direct support to city services in the form of personal protective equipment and payroll support,” he said. “The city’s emphasis on flexibility, remaining nimble to pivot when required, will position the city for success in 2021.”
Although municipal buildings have at times been closed and programs – including those for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department – were canceled or significantly altered in 2020, the city sought to bring modified versions of activities to residents. That included restricting large gatherings in Victory Park on July 4 but maintaining a fireworks display.
Likewise, the city had a “traveling Easter bunny” who was escorted through neighborhoods and waved to children outside Pickerington City Hall, opened the Pickerington Community Pool last summer with caps on attendance, partnered with the Pickerington Lions Club to hold a drive-thru Labor Day parade and provided photo opportunities with Santa Claus in December.
Butcher and Economic Development Director Dave Gulden said the city remains mindful of precautions that must be taken but still seeks to provide semblances of normalcy and time-honored activities to residents.
In that vein, Gulden said, the city will seek to further ramp up customer service in 2021.
“A component of our COVID response was to reach out over the summer to all businesses, and this enabled us to gather basic information and address any issues quickly – one of the hallmarks of customer service,” Gulden said. “The city intends to do this again in the summer of 2021 as an ongoing strategy.”
Beyond that, Gulden said, economic development will be a big focus in 2021.
He said Pickerington embarked on a public-input campaign in fall 2020 to help guide future policies for how all areas of the city should be developed. That initiative will continue as the information is used to craft zoning and development standards.
In the meantime, Gulden said, the city is marketing available land and existing commercial spaces that are vacant. In some cases, the land is city-owned and in others, officials are working with local landowners and real estate companies that control various parcels.
“The northern part of the city, at Blacklick-Eastern Road and Freedom Way, is seeing the opening of the Ashton Crossing Business Park,” Gulden said. “This will include a mix of business and retail, including Valmer Title’s corporate headquarters and a new location of Orange Theory Fitness.
“The eastern Refugee Road area, between Milnor Road and Ebright Lane, is seeing rezoning activity that is pointing to new commercial development in this area. The city looks forward to guiding the best possible design and infrastructure outcomes for this newly forming commercial node.”
OSU Wexner project
Construction on the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center-Outpatient Care Pickerington at 1025 Refugee Road began in early December 2020. Garth Dahdah, administrator in Ambulatory Services for OSU Wexner Medical Center, said the project is expected to end in May, and the facility will open by the end of that month.
“It’s approximately 12,000 square feet on the second floor in the same building that houses the Ohio Gastroenterology Group,” Dahdah said.
Gulden said the new medical office will offer services related to mammography, imagining and primary care.
“We are very pleased that our medical-related business base continues to grow,” Gulden said. “OSU will invest approximately $2.2 million in the building’s west half for interior buildout, furnishings and equipment.
“The first year, estimated payroll is 15 full-time equivalent employees estimated at $1.1 million in annual payroll. In five years, it is projected to increase to 35 full-time equivalent employees, estimated at $3.1 million in annual payroll.”