Mayor Mercer delivers State of the City Address

| January 29, 2019

COSHOCTON – Members of council, fellow elected officials, co-workers, citizens and guests,

I’ll begin by recognizing my wife Sharon who has always stood with me and been my chief supporter, my immediate staff, Max Crown and Cherry Wilson for whom I am extremely grateful.  I want to start by saying that in the last few years the State of the City has been steadily improving and with a great team of city officials, department heads and supervisors, along with many dedicated volunteer board members, the city is in the best shape it has been in many years and in good hands.

Let’s first look at our financial picture. In 2018, we finished the general fund again in the black with a carryover of $1,480,000. This can be credited to several factors including a 4.14% increase in Income Tax Revenues because of the vigilant efforts of our administrator and careful oversight by the Auditor. The continued upswing in the global economy is driving local industries like Kraft, MFM, McWane and Organic Technologies to expand and hire.  Though our retail sector struggles, groups like Our Town Coshocton have remained resolute in their determination to improve Main Street opportunities. They applied for and received a Downtown Historic District designation to help incentivize downtown investors, raised over $100,000 to light our courthouse and saw the installation of a beautiful Main Street Clock dedicated to 2 longtime downtown advocates, Cheryl Triplett Wantuck and Cheryl Cooksey.  I’m pleased to report our local economy is growing and in good hands.

Our Public Works Department again made significant progress with street paving in 2018. We are very grateful that our 5-year street levy was renewed overwhelmingly. It is with these dollars that we leverage state and federal monies far beyond what the levy collects. Last year the levy generated $443,000 and when we add in our partnership with the County Engineer’s projects, we spent more than $800,000 laying asphalt on our streets.  In addition to those funds, another 8 streets received some paving under our North End Neighborhood Revitalization Grant in cooperation with the County Commissioners.  That grant will finish this year with over $100,000 in new sidewalks bringing a total of over $450,000 in investments for this area.

We are planning another aggressive year of paving for 2019 with least at 11 more streets including 6th, Adams, Kenilworth and Arrowhead.  We again directed an independent review and grading of all our streets to measure the progress these last 4 years. Our standing on a national scale rose by 5 points and we now have an updated list that’s used to prioritize paving and street maintenance.

With these strategic planning tools, and the levy renewed, you can see every day the streets are in good hands.

Turning toward our most valuable commodity, water and sewer services, our utility department improved infrastructure throughout the city. We installed a state-of-art ultra violet system at the sewer plant that is much more environmentally safe than the previous chlorine method. Our major sewer project this year will be a $300,000 sanitary sewer relining project in the East Chestnut Street area, that has experienced problems for years.

The water office was able to obtain the former Peoples Bank location at 11th Street which provides a much more secure, private, and convenient service to our customers. This aligns with the goal of regionalizing water services into the county and providing the best service to our customers. We have already begun two, long awaited line expansions, to residents on Hillsdale Drive and County Road 10.

Since the West Lafayette residents passed their water purchase initiative last November, both entities have been in active discussions to finalize contract terms and, hopefully soon, submit to both Councils for approval.  With the overwhelming support and significant funding help from the Ohio EPA, along with Ohio Mid East Government Association, this project became financially possible.

We expect the projected construction start date for the Spring of 2020.

With these city projects and ambitious expansions underway, I confidently can say our Utility Department is in good hands.

Perhaps some of the most visible changes in the city have come through our Parks and Recreation Department.  In our effort to continue improving the quality of life with recreational opportunities, we upgraded Bancroft Park with a new walk path and playground equipment and developed two new river parks. Across from the Wastewater Plant, we expanded the boat ramp, cleared trees and will be adding a shelter to the Riverfront Park. That has increased boating and given a beautiful and safe access to the river. On the north end at our Waterworks Park, with the help of a day-long church effort and over 150 volunteers, they helped clear and landscape more river access and contributed to a beautiful new shelter.

Thank you, New Pointe Church.

We have been awarded a $65,000 grant from ODNR to begin improving Hall Park at the east end of town. With a total estimated cost near $100,000, it will include our longest walk path, shelter and refurbishing the courts for basketball and pickleball.

The most exciting parks project is the Riverfront Multi-Use Path along the river that will connect the Lake Park trailhead at the 1-A Bridge to the Plaza. The real treasure of this section will be a new Veterans Park behind the Village Inn and Suites.  We have hired ADR Engineers out of Newark who have worked on many park and path projects in multiple counties. We will be working with the veteran’s organizations for the planning and design for this worthy memorial park.

Our bridge replacement project is well underway and expected to take two and a half years, finishing in 2020.

With the Veterans Park and Riverfront Path in construction simultaneously with the new bridges, we will have an outstanding and inviting welcome to Coshocton.

Cooperation between all these parties, shout loudly, our Parks are in good hands.

These additional developments in 2018 show we’re heading in the right direction:

1)  The City was awarded its’ third TREE CITY USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation for our Tree Commission’s urban forestry effort.

2)  Coshocton is Blooming expanded their street and pole planting project to more locations and businesses creating a magnificent visual impression for the city.

3)  The Coshocton Rotary Club celebrated its’ 100-year anniversary as a service club dedicated to improving the community through their motto: “Service above Self”.  One of their projects was funding the City Tree Commission’s aggressive tree planting project on 7th Street.

4)  First Step Family Violence was able to raise funds to build a new office building and finally have a home of their own.

5) Our Property Code Investigator continued cleaning up properties and removing junk cars with the help of City Council who unanimously adopted a new Vacant Property Ordinance to address orphaned and abandoned structures.

And some noteworthy examples of confidence in our local economy are:

1)  ITM is investing over a million dollars on Main Street to purchase and rehab the former Civic Hall for their expanding business.

2)  McDonalds tore down and built a new state of the art restaurant for more than 1.4 million. Fortunately, the build only took a few months while Coshocton held its collective breath waiting for it to reopen!

3)  Sorrell’s on the Square bought and refurbished a former restaurant, fulfilling a life-long dream of having his own.

So then, what does 2019 look to bring?

1)  Central Ohio Technical College has created the most fantastic opportunity called “Coshocton Promise” that will provide tuition free education, at this campus, for county residents. They choose this location as their pilot in part because of very generous, local benefactors.

2)  Roscoe Village will celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Montgomery’s restoration vision that has become Coshocton’s #1 tourist destination.

3)  Coshocton Grain is expanding to build a soybean processing facility at their present location.

4)  The former GE site has been sold to local investors finally opening the way for future development of the property identified as the #1 industrial site.

5)  The most exciting news for the reinventing of Coshocton could be the sale of the former WestRock paper mill last October. The closing of our oldest industrial site, here for over 150 years, was quite a blow to our community. But as the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens. It appears ironic that our oldest smokestack plant will give way to a very environmentally friendly, high tech industrial center.  Standard Power bought and began transforming this well powered site into another remediated industrial property, as they have done in other locations around the world. Their partnership with Bit5ive, BitMain and Frontier Mining will be serving a new emerging cryptocurrency industry, serving both retail and financial markets worldwide. Their goal is to increase technological infrastructure with over $100 million dollars in planned investment, and eventually, increase employment to more than 100 jobs. Since our first October meeting when they shared their vision, the city, along with the Port Authority, have been doing all we can to keep up with their very fast flowing development needs. We are very happy that Standard Power saw this site as their next opportunity and welcome them as future partners in our community.

With these business ventures, along with the growth of our current industrial base, I’m confident our local economy is in good hands.

Coshocton constantly faces the challenges of being a small rural community so I don’t look at our future naively, but I do look at it with great optimism.

Communities, businesses and people all have life cycles. I see the constant transforming of Coshocton as essential for our sustainability. I see businesses that have come and gone, both large and small, but all had an influence on how this city has evolved. We see the passing of outstanding leaders such as Tom Thompson whose legacy will endure. With that, I also see that new business and new leaders will arise that will carry the torch for future generations.  Giving opportunity for those businesses to flourish, and looking for the next strong leaders, are what we should embrace.

We have tremendous assets, vision and a great team of city leaders.

Since I moved to Coshocton 39 years ago, I have always believed of the whole country, that this is a blessed area.

I’ve said tonight, I believe we’re in good hands, but I want to acknowledge the core reason I believe we are in the right hands. To quote from an old song, “We’re in The Hands of the Man from Galilee” who promised us in His Book from Jeremiah Chapter 29, verse 11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to Prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you Hope and a Future.”

May God bless you and bless this city.

Thank you!

Mayor Steve Mercer

Tags: , ,

Category: Government

About the Author ()

Article contributed to The Beacon.

Comments are closed.