BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Downtown streetscaping, the opening of Veterans Memorial Park and the addition of new playground equipment were the most visible improvements to the village, but 2019 was a successful year on many fronts, said Whitehouse Mayor Don Atkinson.
During Atkinson’s January 7 State of the Village address, as well as in administrator Jordan Daugherty’s end-of-the-year report, both outlined significant progress last year.
A new Economic Development Committee was formed with five paid professionals from a variety of industries: Dallas Paul, Jennifer Rozic Scroggs, Wes Beham, Steven Holland and Brad Mauk. As a result, the Perrysburg engineering firm Proudfoot Associates is relocating its headquarters to the professional building at the corner of SR 64 and Cemetery. The committee is also hosting a mixer with potential clients on Thursday, January 16 and is aggressively pursuing leads for the right business mix for Whitehouse, Daugherty said.
The village recently closed on the purchase of the former Ted’s Marathon station at 10843 Maumee St., at the corner of Providence Street. The village paid $20,000 for the .13-acre corner parcel. The goal is to find an investor who will retain a portion of the original 1930 gas station building and utilize the property in a way that will enhance the downtown, Daugherty said. The tanks were removed and the property remediated years ago, so it’s an ideal spot for an outdoor patio or other uses, he added.
The village continues to work on form-based code as it plans for the future of the SR 64 corridor from the east. Resurrecting the Waterville Township Joint Economic Development District along SR 64 is also in the works.
Other visible changes to the downtown: the completion of Veterans Memorial Park, addition of stonework, new signage, benches and other streetscaping, as well as new playground equipment and drinking fountains at the park. Exercise equipment will be added this year, said Public Works Director Steve Pilcher.
While not as visible to the public, the department teamed up with contractors to clean out a large portion of Van Au Ditch, which improved the flow of stormwater from Industrial Parkway.
This year, a traffic signal at Finzel and Weckerly will be added. So will a new sanitary sewer trunk main that will eliminate aging infrastructure and correct the hydrogen sulfide issues that lead to a smell around Finzel Road.
The formation of a regional water committee with other area municipalities was historically significant, Atkinson said. For years, the village has sought a way to stabilize rates and have a voice on the committee making those decisions, he said.
The 2019 formation of the Fallen Timbers Union Cemetery District was also monumental, Atkinson said, allowing Waterville, Water-ville Township and White-house to collaborate on caring for the five area cemeteries in a way that honors the deceased.
“Keep in your hearts those residents who passed away last year … they made us who we are as a community,” he said.
The fire department had no failed responses despite responding to 900 calls for service in 2019. Fire Chief Josh Hartbarger attributes that response to a volunteer on-call program and regular-schedule part-time program. With the addition of a full-time training officer, officer training was expanded, with a combined 1,731 hours logged in 2019.
Whitehouse police promoted three officers to first-line supervisory positions during a restructuring of the police department. All officers and civilian staff completed 472 hours of specialized training in total. The department was also re-certified by the Ohio Collaborative Community Police Advisory Board.
Police and fire/EMS are part of a Rescue Task Force, training in how to respond to critical incidents. Hands-on training in schools began in November and will be increased in 2020, said Deputy Chief Alan Baer.
The village received a perfect audit from the state in 2019 – an achievement that not many municipalities can claim, Atkinson said.
With a projected carryover of $5.3 million, including $750,000 in the General Fund, the village is financially secure.
“We’ve set the bar pretty high for 2020,” Atkinson said.