State of the City Address

The following is the Whitehall State of the City Address, presented by Mayor Kim Maggard on March 14, 2018:

Thank you, Commissioner Brown, for welcoming us and your kind introduction. First off, I want to personally thank Brad Wasserstrom and the entire Wasserstrom Company for their generosity in providing this wonderful venue tonight. Isn’t this a magnificent facility? I so appreciate them allowing us to be here this evening and for choosing our community as their new home. 

And I have a special housewarming gift for Wasserstrom, if Brad Wasserstrom could please join me on stage?

This is a framed copy of the Columbus Dispatch article that showcased all of the progress going on in the community. Brad was kind enough to be interviewed, adding to the vibrancy of the article. Thank you, Brad.

I would also like to thank the other elected officials, members of City Council and Whitehall City School Board for being here this evening. In the spirit of ‘it takes a village,’ we are also joined tonight by four outstanding public servants: the 2017 City of Whitehall Employees of the Year.

They include Whitehall Division of Fire’s EMS Coordinator Michael Burnes, police officer Gary Baker, Senior Administrative Assistant Casey Thomas, and Parks and Recreation Crew Chief Matthew Golden. Would you four please stand to be recognized?

I am overjoyed to see so many new and familiar faces here tonight, and that all of you have taken time out of your busy schedules to be here speaks volumes to the strength of our community.

With real, tangible results in our parks, in economic development, in police and fire – in all departments – tremendous progress is being made toward our overall strategic goals. These goals include strengthening the financial position of the City, enhancing the quality of life for residents and stakeholders, improving public safety and providing additional economic opportunities throughout the community. Tonight is about celebrating our current progress and sharing with you a path for greater achievements and results.

Progress toward many of our goals requires investments to be made. And just like you, with your household budgets, having the necessary funds is essential. I am pleased to report that we ended 2017 with a budget surplus of more than $128,000. And, since coming into office in 2012, income tax revenue has increased by more than $4.5 million dollars. This is in part due to sound financial management and the partnership between my administration, City Council and the Auditor.

This focus on fiscal responsibility, while increasing revenue, is what has allowed the City to make investments in ALL departments. These investments already have, and as you will hear tonight, continue to have direct benefits for our residents.  

There may not be an area where the benefits of additional investment and progress are more noticeable than in our parks and recreation department. The growth, change and evolution currently going on in our parks is unbelievable.

Last year, many of you joined me in kicking off summer with the much-anticipated opening of the Splashpad at John Bishop Park. This wonderful addition to the park was a huge hit with so many of our families in the community. This new feature was not only celebrated within our community, but also by industry experts from across the state. Just last month, the Splashpad was recognized by the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association as one of the top three new park improvement projects in the entire state.

Additionally, the parks department received an award for their new Urban Park Ranger Program in the Innovative Programming and Law Enforcement Category. Please join me in congratulating our Parks and Recreation Department. (APPLAUSE)

One of the other parks and recreation highlights in 2017 occurred last fall when we announced we had reached an agreement with the YMCA of Central Ohio to expand and recondition the former activity building at Whitehall Community Park into the Community Park YMCA branch. Since that announcement, our team has been working with YMCA staff on this important project.

A Request For Qualifications for architects is out and a small group made of City Council, administration, Parks Commission and YMCA staff are expected to recommend an architect by Mid- April. It is our plan to be under construction by the fall. Once complete, this 24,000 square foot center will feature recreational and education programming for all ages, and offer a hub for our community in which to learn, be fit, and gather.

In addition to the construction of the Community Park YMCA, the City will also soon begin nearly $1.5 million dollars of improvements to the rest of Whitehall Community Park.

Here to speak more on the additional upgrades coming to Whitehall Community Park is Shannon Sorrell, our Director of Parks and Recreation.

Thank you so much, Shannon, for that information and to your entire department for creating the opportunity for progress in our Parks.

As if a new YMCA branch, $1.5 million dollars of improvements in Whitehall Community Park and more than 20 new acres of parkland were not enough; I am pleased to announce to you tonight that through grants, increased City investment, sponsorships and other various sources, the Parks Department will be replacing the playground equipment in all FIVE of our City parks THIS year. So no matter which of the five you visit, no matter which side of town you live on, you will be able to visit a City park and utilize a NEW playground.

These projects represent a $600,000-dollar investment in our parks. Additionally, many of these will consist of inclusive playground equipment, so every child can safely play in a Whitehall park. One playground in particular has me very excited. This is a rendering of the new inclusive playground at John Bishop Park. How awesome is that?!

And when you combine this new playground with the newly reconstructed Etna Road, the soon-to-be repaved parking lots and the planting of hundreds of new trees, it is hard not to see, touch and feel the progress in our parks. 

Improving public safety is and always will be a top priority of my administration and there is a tremendous amount of progress in this area. Over the last 18 months, we have been able to make additional investments in personnel and resources within our police department. We have added two new school resources officers to work with youth in our schools.

The department can now count three K-9 units to work with officers in drug and bomb detection, with a fourth scheduled to come on board in the next 6 months. And the addition of a crime analyst now allows the department to better understand where and when crime occurs to better deploy our resources.

All of this is in addition to the continued efforts of the Division’s Drug Task Force, which continued to take the fight to drug dealers in 2017.

Last year, the Whitehall Division of Police seized nearly 200 pounds of illegal drugs, 74 firearms and $180,000 dollars’ worth of drug money while making 110 drug-related arrests. 

The results of all of this are staggering. In 2017, violent crime decreased by 26 percent, its lowest since 2011; robberies decreased by 18 percent, their lowest since 1998; and burglaries decreased by 35 percent, their lowest since 1995 – 22 years ago.

These advances were part of A Safer Whitehall’s strategic plan, spearheaded by Chief Mike Crispen.

Chief Crispen has certainly made an impact in the community since becoming Chief of Police in the fall of 2016. And to share with all of you a little more about the Safer Whitehall Initiative and how EVERYONE can play a role, Chief Mike Crispen.

Thank you, Chief Crispen, and to all of your officers for the work they are doing to protect our community. The City of Whitehall owes you and your families a debt of gratitude for the sacrifices made to keep everyone in and around our community safe. On behalf of those in this room tonight, we thank you for putting your lives on the line whenever you put on your uniform. Let’s give the Whitehall Division of Police a round of applause. 

While 2017 produced a lot of progress, we know additional investments and resources are necessary to achieve our Safer Whitehall goals. To that end, I am pleased to announce our plan to hire three more police officers to the division within the next four months, with an ultimate goal of adding six over the next three years.

The Whitehall Division of Fire is the other side of public safety, and last year the division remained extremely busy. Whitehall Fire personnel were dispatched on 7,497 runs in and out of the City.

And like many communities, our fire department has experienced a surge in heroin and other opioid-related incidents. In 2017, the division of fire responded to 110 such incidents.

To combat the growing national epidemic, with a local plan of attack, the fire department is coordinating the implementation of an opioid abuse grant the city was recently awarded for nearly $400,000.

In conjunction with the Mayor’s Office, the City Attorney and Division of Police, the funding from this federal grant will allow us to reduce opioid misuse and the number of overdose fatalities in the 43213 zip code by 20% over the next two years. A special Mayor’s Drug Court for defendants participating in diversion to incarceration programs is another important piece to solving this problem. It has been my belief that to address the issue of drug abuse head on, we must pursue a comprehensive holistic approach, one where we help the addict and hold the dealers accountable.

Another example of taking a comprehensive approach to better treat residents was last year’s pilot community paramedic program. This position, staffed by firefighter paramedic Randy Jones, assisted those who would otherwise call the fire department on a regular basis in lieu of a health provider.

To share more with you regarding the incredible work of the community paramedic, I would like to invite Chief Preston Moore to the podium.

The Whitehall Division of Fire’s Community Paramedic is designed to act as a stop-gap between hospital visits and home wellness, improving citizen’s access to primary care by working as a resource to contact providers.

Often times a member of the community needs help but does not necessarily require the emergency squad. In the position’s trial run for the year, 151 home visits were made with the community paramedic spending more than 257 hours in the homes of residents; 11 CPR classes were held and numerous families were educated about Safe Sleep options for infants, and provided with FREE cribs. Other impressive highlights include nutrition education, fall-risk behavior assessments and service referrals to seniors. These are only a few examples of successful support community paramedicine has been able to offer our residents.

As you may have read in the front page Columbus Dispatch article highlighting Randy Jones’ work, he has resolved patient’s medication errors, corrected problems with standard at-home medical procedures – such as administering insulin – and cleared up communication issues between patients and what can sometimes be numerous doctors.

Public outreach was another of our main focuses when considering how community paramedicine could enrich Whitehall. Victory Ministries has been an excellent partner for this program, inviting Randy to educate core staff members on recognizing and managing drug overdoses, identifying undertreated or untreated health concerns and helping direct those in need to primary care providers.

This position – and Randy Jones – far exceeded our hopes in 2017.

Thank you, Chief Moore, for continuing to explore ways to bring new and innovative service methods to our residents. The information and impact you shared regarding community paramedicine is profound. And for those of you who may not know already, because of the incredible results of this pilot, at the beginning of the year, the City made the decision to fund this position permanently.  (APPLAUSE)

If the rising tide lifts all ships, then economic and community development is the water. Because simply put, much of the progress on display tonight could not happen without development, both commercial and residential. More than $60 million dollars per square mile of public/private investment since 2010 speaks to the awesome impact development has had in our community.

Residential growth and development has been a hallmark of ours over the last five years.

And with the continued support of City Council, programs encouraging residents to improve their homes, as well as giving families the opportunity to purchase a home in our community, continues to be a top priority. Last year we were fortunate enough to continue three such programs – the Home Reinvestment Program and Sidewalk and Driveway Approach Replacement Program for current homeowners, and the My Home Program for potential home buyers.

The proof that these programs are working and adding value to our neighborhoods is obvious.

Families that took advantage of the My Home program had a median household income nearly 20 percent higher than 2010 federal census data. Our housing stock is seeing a revitalization with new and existing homeowners, increasing home ownership rates and values. In 2017 the Home Reinvestment Program aided 23 Whitehall homeowners with more than $75,000 in improvement projects, bringing our total over the last four years to more than half a million dollars. AND through our partnership with Huntington and other banks and lenders, we have now helped almost 100 families become homeowners in the City of Whitehall since 2014.

I am so proud of the progress these programs have produced and of the homeowners who have taken advantage of them.

Turning our focus to commercial development, 2017 proved to be one of our best years. 48 new businesses opened their doors in the City, a 25 percent increase over the previous year. Businesses of all shapes, sizes and sectors are choosing to be located in Whitehall – like Wasserstrom, where more than 200 employees moved into this new 50-thousand square foot space in the fall of 2017.

Just around the corner, Heartland Bank is preparing for their ribbon cutting ceremony next week to celebrate the grand opening of its new corporate campus on North Hamilton Road. From these companies to service oriented companies such as 3B Mechanical and Reliable Staffing, more and more businesses are calling Whitehall home.

In addition to welcoming new companies to the City, the development department worked throughout the year to ensure existing companies received the support they need as well.

In fact, City staff visited 110 businesses, gathering “front line” data and insights, such as confidence in the local economy and how many are hiring. It also allows for City staff to provide a quick response to challenges a business may be facing. I am pleased to share, that of the businesses visited last year, 75% of them were increasing or maintaining their current level of employees during 2017. 

To build on last year’s momentum, the development department is working with key community stakeholders on new ways to introduce Whitehall to the broader Central Ohio audience.

Let me share with you our latest marketing video that will enable us to promote our
community to businesses, developers and potential investors.

One of the most striking images in that video is of the complete transformation on the southwest corner of Broad Street and Hamilton Road – the soon-to-be Norton Crossing.

Watching the progress on that site has been unbelievable and taking the first ceremonial swing at our construction kick-off in December was a banner moment for me and the City. This $50 million dollar, public/private mixed-use redevelopment is a partnership with Continental Real Estate I cannot wait to watch unfold.

I would now like Zach Woodruff, our Director of Development, to give you all a few more details regarding this enormous project.

Between the new restaurants, public park and housing aimed at attracting young professionals, it is easy to understand how this project is going to lead to even more progress in our community. While Norton Crossing is the largest redevelopment in the City’s history to date, I can promise you it will not be the last.

All of the progress we have shared with you tonight was a result of residents, staff, businesses and various other community members seizing and expanding on the opportunities available in Whitehall, which leads us to our annual Opportunity Ambassador Awards. These awards are presented to those who have demonstrated their willingness to propel progress, seize opportunity and improve the lives of others.

I am so very pleased to present the first Opportunity Ambassador Award to Whitehall resident Terry Anderson. Terry, would you please join me on stage?

Terry has been a resident of Whitehall for as long as anyone can remember, but it is the giving of his time and talents for which he is best known.

Terry has been a member of the City’s Planning Commission for 20 years, serving as its chairman for the past decade. He is a member of the Whitehall Education Foundation Board and is also a member of the Board for Heart of Ohio Family Health Center, which provides quality medical care to low-income residents. He is a true asset to this community and his love for helping others is unmatched. Let’s congratulate Terry.

The second Opportunity Ambassador Award goes to local favorite 2 Tones Brewing Co.  Gentleman, will you make your way up here?

2 Tones Brewing is a great example of the power of young entrepreneurs. They began their business nearly 18 months ago in flex warehouse space off of Hamilton Road. Since that time, both Anthony and Tony have kept their day jobs while following their passion. And that hard work has paid off as more accounts were signed and people throughout Central Ohio found out what we already know – 2 Tones beer is simply one of the best.

Thank you for choosing to start your business in our community.

Progress is all around. Whether that be in new playground equipment at our parks, new safety initiatives protecting our residents, innovative health outreach programs helping those without the means, or providing new and exciting development opportunities, the state of Whitehall is absolutely improving.

Thank you for joining me tonight, thank you to Wasserstrom for hosting us in your stunning new space, and may we all be open to progress in 2018 and the years to come. Thank you and good night.