Mercer delivers state of the city at council meeting

| January 23, 2018

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

I want to begin by acknowledging the support of my wife Sharon, my immediate staff, Max Crown and Cherry Wilson, the department heads, supervisors and other elected officials, who work together to better this city. This past year marked a major transition in my administration when after 12 years, Jerry Stenner retired as Service Director. Max has moved seamlessly into that position and adapted well to public life after 35 years in the private sector. As usual, Cherry serves as the great Oz behind Max and me to make our office run smooth and efficiently. Thank you both! And finally, I want to express my sincere appreciation and respect for the life and contribution that Jon Cotterman added to our team, taking the vision of cleaning up blighted properties and junk cars.

Beginning the State of the City, it’s necessary to review the achievements of last year to help establish our goals for 2018.

Starting with our financial picture, we ended our 2016 general fund with a positive balance. In 2017, we finished again in the black with a carryover of $1,392,885. This can be credited to increased tax revenues and the national economic rebound being felt by our local manufacturers. Our Income Tax revenue showed another modest but steady increase for the 7th straight year.

I am always encouraged by any growth since municipalities main source of revenue is income tax, and therefore, are the last to feel the effects of a rebound.

Turning toward our Utilities, we have weathered the closing of the WestRock paper mill and its’ financial impact on our Water & Sewer and Income Tax Departments.  With Council approving the necessary rate increases, along with cuts made, those funds have finished 2017 in the black and allowed us to again be looking how we can utilize these significant services to provide a regional coverage to those that want and need better water.

The wastewater plant began the upgrade from using chlorine as the main disinfection process to installing a state-of-art ultraviolet system that is much cleaner and environmentally safer. On the water side, we have begun upgrading the pumping system at the Airport Road Booster Station so that we can provide for better fire protection and possible expansions and loops to other areas from there. These projects should be completed in the next few months.

In addition to these projects, the city started exploring expanding the water lines to underserved areas outside the city limits. Two new projects are slated for this year, one along State Route 541 heading west and the other out County Road 10. I consider these two projects, along with other current proposals we’re discussing, as the first fruits of the city sharing it’s tremendous assets to become the supplier of our county region. It has long been said, “Economic development follows the water and sewer lines”. Expanding our base of customers will help city residents by stabilizing rates as we increase the volume sold. Running lines throughout the county will not only serve much needed quality issues, but will benefit everyone with development potential.

Our Public Works Department made great progress with street paving in 2017. We again partnered with the County Engineer and with cost sharing from the State, 8 streets were paved at a cost of $445,000. Revenue from the 2.4 mil street levy allowed 12 additional streets to be paved spending another $276,947. Adding in funds from the Motor Vehicle License, $839,000 in total paving dollars were spent in the city. These include the roads of 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th & 15th Streets, Denman, Locust, Overlook, School, Woodcrest and Water Streets I received more positive feedback this year than any other so far.

Also completed was the paving of all the roads in the Roscoe Cemetery.

Additional developments in 2017 year were:

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

The Coshocton is Blooming group invited national judges for the 5th time to judge our community’s floral and beautification effort. We were awarded a 4 Bloom rating and an Outstanding Achievement for Best Floral Display among all entrants and population categories.

2)   Through a partnership with the County Commissioners, the city sought and was awarded from the state, two significant grants.

One was for $500,000 for the North End Neighborhood Revitalization project. This will help improve an aging area of the city with paving, new sidewalks, bus shelters and removing more blighted and abandoned properties.

The other grant was a $300,000 award for Critical Infrastructure. This is for the Chestnut Street sewer project to deal with a longtime problem of sewer backups in that area. and,

3)  We made significant progress with cleaning up properties and removing junk cars with our Property Code Investigator. A solid foundation was laid in structure and forms that will allow the next person in that position to easily continue our beautification and clean-up efforts.

Though the Coshocton naysayers like to beat their drum loud, it doesn’t take much more than a look around to see investments from the private side that contribute to our improving economy and confidence in our future.

Here are but a few examples:

1)  Kraft/Heinz has invested more than $50 million dollars in buildings and equipment and steadily increased hiring to become our largest employer of over 750. They were recently recognized with the Excellence Award in the Large Manufacturing category by the Eastern Ohio Development Alliance.

2)  McWane Ductile announced a $17.5 million dollar expansion in the Coshocton plant to build and keep in-house their pipe finishing process.

3)  The ArtPark, led by Anne Cornell and the Pomerene Center for the Arts, has secured over $600,000 to create an interactive downtown park and will continue providing programs to engage people of all ages.

4)  The Coshocton County Emergency Medical Service has purchased the vacant Tribune building and will be renovating it for a total cost between $7-800,000. When completed, it can house all their vehicles, offices and provide training areas.

5)  Some new or changing businesses include:

Good Boy Bakery

Rose of Sharon Quilt Retreat

Hasseman Brewing Co.

Rust Décor

Grason Properties and HER Realty

Coshocton Coffee Connection operated by Frontier Power

Local sale of The Bowling Alley


7)  the building of the new Century National Bank branch office on the corner of 3rd and Locust Streets. This investment of nearly $1 million dollars shows the confidence by their board in what they see as the stability of this market. This project helped push the repaving of Third and Locust Streets along with new curbs and sidewalks. This became the key driver for neighborhood revitalization in this part of town.

So then, what does 2018 look to bring?

1)  In April, ODOT will begin the complete replacement of the land bridge over State Route 16 and the refurbishing of the river bridge. This two and a half year, $19 million dollar project will completely transform our city. An inconvenience? YES! A new gateway and welcoming appearance to the city? ABSOLUTELY! What is currently a 4 lane road, will be reduced to 2 lanes, but access through SR 541 will be maintained. Alternatives into the city will be available at SR 83 or CR 1-A. We are currently finalizing agreements to obtain and demolish blighted houses along that path to improve the first impressions coming into the city.

2)  We will continue pursuing long range plans to expand the existing walk path from Lake Park. Beginning at the 1-A bridge, under the 541 bridge and behind the Village Inn, we want to create a riverwalk that gives up-close access to the river. The river bridge was long ago dedicated as the Veterans Memorial Bridge. As we create and improve the river bottom land given to us by the Village Inn & Suites, we want to name that park area as the Veterans Park, to honor all those that served. I hope to engage the various veterans groups and clubs in the design and development of this peaceful area by the river.

3)  Furthering our quality of life through Parks and Recreation, we will be developing the existing boat ramp down by the Wastewater plant. We want to thin out the trees along the river, grade the area and put in shelters. We’ll name this park the Riverfront Park. This creates the southernmost park in what we hope will be a Riverwalk system.  We will be completing the plans to add playground equipment to Bancroft Park this spring. That equipment is already in storage.

4)  Perhaps the most ambitious goal we embark on is to share our greatest asset, the clean, high quality water our plant produces. With a capacity of 15 million gallons a day, we’ve only been producing 3-4 million. State and federal goals are to regionalize systems and monies are being made available to help communities do just that. Continued unfunded mandates and regulations make small systems almost impossible to keep up with or, to finance the necessary improvements. Coshocton has over decades built an efficient, well performing system that produces outstanding quality water. We have well trained staff in all areas of the utility business that can produce and respond in every type of emergency. When developments and communities are looking for quality potable water, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Come, let us partner together to discover the possible solutions that will keep everyone’s rates low and share the plenty that we have to offer.

In closing, I am easily reminded of the beauty of Coshocton and the treasure of its’ people.

I think of the turnout for the burial of a WWII MIA veteran Pvt. Eugene Appleby, whose remains were found in 2011. The family that wanted him buried next to his sister and Mother were overwhelmed by the respect and honor given him by our community.

I think of David Dilly, who because of his ongoing work outside his military service, qualified him to be awarded and inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame.

I think of the many service clubs including the Rotary Club that this year is celebrating 100 years of serving in Coshocton. Are both clubs celebrating 100 years?

I think of all the clubs, organizations and foundations that daily work to make Coshocton a better place and it gives me great peace that our future is in good hands

In closing, as I will do every year, I take comfort and am reminded of God’s love and promise for us and this city, as found in the Book of 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.”

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