BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Dozens of geese filled the lawn of the former Waterville Primary School last week, soaking in the sun and enjoying access to the Maumee River. Within the next few months that will change, as Waterville moves ahead with Phase 1 of the Parker Square/Memorial Park renovations – one of several projects on the horizon, reported Mayor Tim Pedro.
The mayor shared a list of 2021 accomplishments and 2022 goals with members of the Waterville Area Chamber of Commerce on January 18.
With the completion of the bridge in January 2020, the riverfront park has remained a field, but this year it will be transformed into a public gathering space with a scenic overlook, Pedro said. Phase 2, between the bridge and School Place, will begin in 2023.
“There are few areas in the county where the public can have the opportunity to see the beautiful Maumee River,” Pedro said.
In 2021, several new businesses opened in Waterville, including Buffalo Rock Brewery, Deluxe Frame Shop, Finds on Farnsworth, Haven Salon, Mercy Health Waterville Primary Care, Liberty House and RiverFront Studios. Dale’s Diner reopened under new ownership, and so did Sunoco. National Payment Corporation completed its new headquarters behind the Anthony Wayne Auto Spa, which opened in late 2020.
This year, expect to see the opening of the Farnsworth Cocktail Bar in the old bank building and Greg Durivage’s Thrivent Financial office in the former Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church parsonage. O’Reilly Auto Parts is nearly completed on Pray Boulevard, and the new 11,000-square-foot Waterville United Methodist Church on Waterville Monclova Road is set to open this year. Nature’s Nursery recently purchased what was originally a restaurant at 7541 Dutch Rd. and will move its wildlife rehabilitation operation there this year.
Steedman Apartments opened four apartment buildings with 144 units and has plans to build more this year. The Villages of Waterville Landing and other neighborhoods continue to expand with about 32 homes added last year and an additional 92 buildable lots remaining.
“Waterville continues to be a place that people want to move to,” Pedro said. “It’s safe and we have the best schools.”
Pedro introduced Waterville Primary School principal Dr. Jamie Hollinger, who said her staff has remained flexible over the past two years while keeping students engaged and learning. The school has been awarded the Purple Star designation for two years for its support of military families. Waterville is one of only 12 elementary schools in the state to earn a STEAM designation for providing science, technology, engineering, arts and math programming in the classroom and even in its outdoor classroom.
“That’s our commitment to providing that global citizen piece and to connect to organizations,” said Hollinger, noting that the school is always looking to partner with businesses that want to send representatives to share with students more about their careers.
The city is successful because of that solid educational foundation, Pedro said. Business owners and local organizations are also a key component. He thanked Third Street Blooms’ owner Wendy Gray for hosting holiday events and Third Street Cigar owner John Henry for promoting Waterville through music.
The Waterville Rotary Club is known for its own Blues, Brews and Brats Festival, for which Henry brings in national blues acts, but the Rotary also donates volunteers and funds to improve the city with projects such as the new welcome sign on SR 64 at Pray Boulevard.
The Waterville Com-munity Foundation gives out $60,000 in grants every year to nonprofits who aid children and to graduating seniors, noted board member Paul Croy.
The Waterville Historical Society provides quality programming throughout the year, including walking tours, open houses in the historical buildings, and a partnership with high school students who share the history of Waterville with elementary students. Keeping the historical buildings intact is an ongoing challenge for the all-volunteer WHS, Pedro said.
The city has made a commitment to keep the historical downtown thriving and is in the process of forming a Downtown Redevelop-ment District, in which a portion of the taxes generated from the property valuation increases are used to invest in the buildings within the district, in terms of interest-free or forgivable loans.
The city also phased out its Waterville Economic Development Corporation and transitioned to a Waterville Community Improvement Corporation (CIC).
“This allows us to be more flexible, to invest in the community by helping existing businesses and bringing in new developments,” said CIC president Jeff Valuck.
The city continues to make investments in services and infrastructure, Pedro said. In addition to yearly road improvements, projects are planned this year at the Anthony Wayne Trail intersections at Farnsworth and Mechanic, a new light at SR 64 at the US 24 overpass and safety signals at Pray Boulevard and Waterville Monclova Road. The pumping station at 322 N. River Road will be updated to replace pumps and valves from the 1970s.
Finances remain solid with revenues up almost 8 percent over 2020, while services continue to expand to meet the growing community. A 3.25-mill levy for a fire co-op has enabled the fire department to add six new full-time staff members to meet the increasing call volume in a timely manner. The police department now has 12 full-time officers.
During the chamber meeting, members welcomed visitors and new members, including Lucas County administrator and Waterville resident Megan Vahey Casiere, Mercy Health Perrysburg administrator Andrea Gwyn and Anthony Wayne Youth Foundation executive director Taylor Kervin.