Tom Hinger Volunteer of the Year

Tom Hinger, left, received his Volunteer of the Year award from Mayor Richard Mavis during council's meeting on Sept. 23, 2019. Hinger was honored for his work with the city's adult coed softball program for the past eight years. He organizes about 300 players and 22 teams for the summer league and about 250 players for the fall league.

MOUNT VERNON — With an Oct. 4 deadline looming to apply for Ohio Public Works Commission money, City Council members agreed to change the project for which the money is to be used.

The city intended to apply for the grant for the South Main Street/Columbus Road intersection improvement project. However, consultants have not completed the design work. Noting the competitiveness of the grants, City Engineer Brian Ball said that “we'll lose a lot of points because we don't have the design done.”

Also, the South Main/Columbus Road intersection is seeing increased traffic due to the bridge projects on Mount Vernon Avenue and Parrot Street. A six-to-eight-week closure of South Main is not feasible given the other construction projects.

The North Main/Chestnut Street project involves widening the turn radii on the northeast and northwest corners, adding traffic sensors for left-hand turn lanes, and replacing traffic signal poles. Design plans are 95 percent complete.

Ball said that tractor-trailers cannot make the turn from Chestnut Street onto North Main Street without swinging into the opposite lane and going over the curb. Ten-year traffic statistics include 67 accidents with one serious injury, eight visible injuries, 10 possible injuries, and 48 property damage only.

The city still has to acquire some real estate from the YMCA which YMCA officials are willing to sell. The grant has a 26 percent city match. Auditor Terry Scott said the city has $200,000 set aside for the match.

According to OPWC rules, if the city receives the grant, construction cannot start before July 1, 2020. The exact start date will take into account traffic generated by the Knox County Fair and Dan Emmett Festival.

Widening the turns will eliminate Ohio 13 traffic from going around Public Square.

Ball said the city still plans to do the South Main/Columbus Road intersection improvement in 2020. He said that at this point it will be "more of a cash project" rather than OPWC funding.

Planning and Zoning

Council also fast-tracked an ordinance adding residential as a conditional use under the city's General Business District zoning. The current language provides standards for residential use but does not specifically state residential as a conditional use.

Lacie Blankenhorn, development services manager for the city, said that four developments (The Arbors, Knolls Condominiums, Park Hill Apartments, and Dogwood Place) previously were granted variances for residential use. More recently, she has had three developers inquire about and one specific request for residential use in the GBD.

In other business, council:

  • Approved appropriations and transfers
  • Appointed Scott Brenneman to the city's recreation board
  • Heard an update from Health Commissioner Julie Miller
  • Presented Tom Hinger with his Volunteer of the Year award
  • Held an executive session to discuss acquisition of property. No action was taken.

Budget and Finance Committee

In a 5:25 p.m. Budget and Finance Committee meeting, council members continued discussing creating a Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) in the area of the old middle school on North Mulberry Street.

Potential developer Joel Mazza requested the CRA as a condition of him demolishing the school and redeveloping the property into condominiums and apartments. Council previously stated its preference for a 10-year agreement with abatements declining from 100 percent in year one to 10 percent in year 10.

The proposed CRA states demolition of the school has to be completed 75 days after the commence date. The commence date starts 90 days after council adopts a CRA. Any potential developer has to put up a $500,000 performance bond. If the developer fails to complete demolition on time, the city will receive the $500,000 and use it to demolish the school.

Committee Chairman Sam Barone said Mazza was “pretty adamant” that a 15-year, 100 percent abatement is standard for developments like Mazza is proposing. Councilman Chris Menapace objected, noting that the “developer interested” has “proven himself to be not a friend of the city” and does not have a good track record.

Cautioning about focusing the discussion on one individual, Barone said council should be talking about a piece of legislation that takes into account all of the safeguards needed to ensure completion.

Barone said that he is comforted by the performance bond, dates certain for demolition, and the verbal assurance that $500,000 is enough to cover the cost of demolition should the city have to go that route.

Stormwater Utility

In a 6 p.m. Utilities Committee meeting, council members began commenting on an initial version of what a stormwater utility might look like. The topic receiving the most attention was language relating to which lots would be subject to assessment by the developer for future maintenance.

Chairman Menapace plans another 1 ½ hour committee meeting on Oct. 14. Topics yet to be discussed include rates, credits, and how future rate increases will be approved.

Following is the rest of the schedule if all goes according to plan:

  • Oct. 28 — a one-hour committee meeting with a first reading of legislation
  • Nov. 12 — a 1 ¼ hour public hearing with a second reading of legislation
  • Nov. 25 — a 30-minute committee meeting with a third reading of legislation. Depending on council members' schedules during the holiday week, the third reading might be postponed to the Dec. 9 council meeting.

Menapace told council members of his impending resignation from council. He will move from Mount Vernon sometime within the next month or so. His resignation date could be as early as Sept. 30.

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