Reynoldsburg in 2021: City officials expect big things in new year
A quiet and quarantined year helped set the stage for big things in 2021, Reynoldsburg officials said.
For the second year of his first term, Mayor Joe Begeny said his priorities include customer service, communication and job creation.
“It all starts with customer service. We have a great team at City Hall, but we can always do better,” he said. “When people come to City Hall, we must be friendly, responsive and willing to go that extra mile to help our residents.
“Right along with that is communication. We have made great strides in that area this year, but we have to find ways to reach all members of our community.”
Attracting new business and creating jobs are “always a focus for us,” Begeny said.
“COVID-19 did play a role in how fast things moved in 2020, but we have set the stage for a huge 2021.”
Construction and roadwork are expected to be major parts of the new year.
A $4.1 million project will shrink driving lanes from 16 feet to 12 feet in width between Davidson Drive and Jackson Street in order to widen sidewalks and slow traffic for a more pedestrian-friendly Olde Reynoldsburg.
The project will add on-street parking, clay brick sidewalk pavers and limestone benches, decorative street lighting, street trees and median plantings, and will replace a 90-year-old storm sewer under the street.
Ground is expected to be broken in 2021 on several housing projects, including Spring Hill Farms, a 354-home M/I development planned for the east side of Waggoner Road, near the intersection with Rodebaugh Road.
A much-anticipated Swenson’s drive-in restaurant is scheduled to open this spring at 6710 East Main St.
Engineering work on the first of several phases of improvements is expected to begin in 2021 at Civic Park, said Donna Bauman, parks and recreation director. Plans include new trails, a dog park, outdoor amphitheater and additional parking at the 137-acre park, 6800 Daugherty Drive.
After being canceled in 2020, planning for the 54th Tomato Festival already has begun. The festival is scheduled for Aug. 12-14 at Huber Park, 1640 Davidson Drive.
“Mark your calendars now. You are not going to want to miss this,” said Jennifer Clemens, the city’s special events and media coordinator. “We are currently working to finalize the national entertainment acts and hope to announce early in 2021.”
The city plans to hold an artists and makers market in 2021 and will launch Food Truck Wednesdays beginning in June at the Memorial Plaza at the corner of Lancaster Avenue and East Main Street, Clemens said.
The Ohio State University Alumni Band will kick off the Concerts on the Lawn series June 27 at the Livingston House, and the Reynoldsburg Farmers Market will return to JFK Park on Thursdays, beginning June 10, she said.
As the pandemic continues to challenge programming, the parks and recreation department will offer new $5 activity kits and is planning a parks-focused scavenger hunt this spring, Bauman said.
Music on the Cul-de-Sac, a program started during the pandemic that brought local artists to small “pop-up” neighborhood performances, will be back for 2021. Residents are asked to nominate their street or favorite local artist, Bauman said.
Reynoldsburg will begin implementing or expanding many of the initiatives approved in 2020, including a police civilian review board and legislation governing code violations.
“We want to build on what we have done in 2020,” City Attorney Chris Shook said. “We’ve put into place some significant changes and we have to see those changes through.
“We are going to take a hard look at the rest of our codified ordinances to identify areas where we should be making some improvements and updates,” he said.
The civilian review board, approved by City Council in October 2020, will meet publicly to hold hearings on complaints that would be heard after an internal investigation by the police department.
The board has the power to receive, cause investigation of and recommend resolutions for any filed complaints alleging discriminatory conduct by officers and non-sworn employees of the Reynoldsburg Division of Police, regardless of their duty status, when such conduct is directed toward any person who is not a Division of Police employee.
Council is expected to consider nominations for the nine-member board in January, Shook said.
“This is a new venture for the city and we are hopeful that we will learn much throughout the course of next year about what improvements, if any, we can make to the ordinance so that the review board has its desired and intended effect,” he said. “We also want to be engaged with our officers and work to obtain their trust and faith in the process.
“This process will be new to the officers as well and the impact of the review board will depend, in large part, on our officers and the community having that trust that the process is fair. The board does not exist to make our officers’ jobs more difficult but rather, to provide more transparent oversight into the very important work they do.”
Begeny said one of the city’s biggest 2020 accomplishments was improving communication with residents and businesses.
“We worked hard to consolidate our social media with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, while working with our website,” he said. “We have also created our email-blast system, Reynoldsburg Connects, to provide the most up-to-date information. I also host a weekly Facebook show with guests that always provides great interaction for everyone.”
Other achievements included expanding anti-discrimination legislation, establishing several community commissions and creating the civilian police-review board, Begeny said.
“I am also proud of the way the city has been able to maintain city services and keep all of our employees working, even with the negative financial impact of COVID-19,” he said.
Begeny said he plans to hold the annual State of the City address in February.