Eye on the City – January 2017

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Water…fresh drinking water is VERY important to every community.  We do not need to look far in the news to see the importance of this.  Our neighbors to the north in Flint, Michigan have been dealing with this because of their cost-cutting measures that led to tainted drinking water containing lead and other toxins.  I want you to know that here in the City of Piqua, we have been very diligent over the past years to address EPA requirements to make sure that we do not have happen here what did in Flint, Michigan.  As you may know, the City Commission is voting on two Ordinance’s which have their 3rd reading at our next meeting on January 17th.  

The first Ordinance has to do with rate increases for our water.  The first thing I want to remind our citizens is that our City Charter requires that our utilities be self-supporting.  That means that we can not move money from one enterprise fund to another to help cover the costs.  Our soon to be open new, state of the art water treatment plant is necessary for EPA requirements and will be a huge plus for our citizens and community, but it does cost money and our rates will now rise to pay back the loans we took out for the construction of the plant.  

The second Ordinance has to do with rate increases for our Wastewater.  I agree that no one wants to see rates raised but in my research on both of these Ordinances, the fact is that EPA requirements have changed over time which requires that the city meet the new mandates.  Because of new EPA requirements Wastewater Treatment plant requirements, we must address their concerns and mandates to bring it up to EPA standards.  The plan is for the existing Wastewater Treatment Plant to be upgraded to not only meet EPA SSO (Sanitary Sewer Overflow) requirements but also for new treatment process mandates.  

The truth is that over many years, we have not raised our rates the way we should have on a more consistent basis.  Actually what I discovered was that for over 10 years decades ago our wastewater rates were not raised at all,  and the same with our water rates.  I believe that if we did this on a more consistent basis the truth is they would not be so drastic now…even so this is where we find ourselves.     

The current increase of rates for wastewater is so we are able to show that we can pay the debt service and operation costs for the wastewater treatment plant along with maintaining the wastewater collection system.  If we cannot show that our rates can meet these financial obligations, we will not be awarded a state loan which would require us then to to obtain funding from the bond market resulting in an increase in the debt service and require us to have an even higher wastewater rate increase.

Our current loan application with the state is to repay only the design portion of this project.  The loan repayment requirement is five (5) years.  The rates proposed over the next four years are to help ensure that we can fulfill that obligation.  Without a sufficient repayment plan to our construction loan application would be in jeopardy.  That would mean that we would have to go out for funding on the bond market which certainly would not be at a low  or zero interest rate.

Soon, we will be applying for another loan from the state for the construction portion of the project which would also be a 0-3% interest for a time period of between 20-25 years.  Up to 70% of the construction may be eligible for zero percent financing.  If that loan is approved, we could possibly roll the design loan into the construction loan and finance the total for the 20-25 year period spreading the costs out and preventing higher rate increases. 

As your mayor, I wish there was a better solution, but in speaking to staff at the city in a variety of positions from our City Manager on down to Wastewater Treatment Plant employees, I see no other way to reduce rate increases and still meet our financial obligations in completing the project.  As I said, we  are under the requirement of upgrading the plant per our last issued EPA permit.  Failure to meet this requirement could result in daily fines to the city, and/or loss of our operating permit (which means the state would come in an operate the plant and have full control of rates).

This is a very tough issue, and as I said, I have spent the past two weeks doing my homework and asking questions.  As I am in my first year on the Commission, I have had to bring myself up to date with the history on this project. 

The city has been dealing with this issue of EPA requirements since the early 2000’s and the City Commission was brought into the loop from the beginning.  The city moved forward and in 2014 the Commission authorized the preparation of a facility plan and preliminary engineering report for the improvements needed at our Wastewater Treatment Plant.  There were many work sessions following this to bring the City Commission and Community up to date.  In November of this year, we submitted design documents for the Wastewater Plant upgrade and expansion to the Ohio EPA.  We should have their approval in February or March 2017.

I hate to have this happen because I know this will affect our low income citizens and our senior citizens as well, I feel though if we do not pass this Ordinance now that the rate increases will be even higher for us!  It is not an easy choice but one I feel that we have to make, because if not the consequences will have a much bigger financial impact on our citizens.  Unfortunately from all I have looked at I see no other way around this, and I feel it is in the best interest of our city and will help to move us forward.  Progress costs money, it always does…but I believe the end result will be most beneficial for us in the years to come.

Proclamation for Brock Gessner

Third grade student Brock Gessner has been named as a winner in the Families Matter Essay Contest sponsored through the Family Services of the Greater Dayton Area. Brock’s essay was chosen from hundreds of essays submitted from Dayton and the surrounding area. Brock has been invited to attend the 2016 Annual Awards Breakfast at the Mandalay Banquet Center on November 19th. Congratulations Brock on this great accomplishment!

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Eye on the City – September 2016

A sense of place has always been important to people, and we do not have to look far to see this.  Religious traditions have intertwined people, place, and the divine time and time again.  Place is crucial in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) for defining society, divinity, and the relationship between the two.  We see this continuing even today as the importance of the Holy Land continues to exist at the heart of millions of Christians, who see the Bible as authoritative in their lives. 

Yes, God, people and place are inseparably intertwined in the Hebrew scriptures.  In the Hebrew Bible, the word maqom, is most often translated as “place” carrying with it a sense of purpose rather than a sense of emptiness.  It is a location where something belongs – and many times in the Bible this is a place of worship. 

The importance of place grows out of conversations between our experiences and the physical surroundings.  Think about the historical places you have visited.  In these historical places, you take time to hear the stories and get a sense of how the physical surroundings are part of the stories.  I think about a recent trip to Washington D.C and the many historical places we visited.  In those places we heard story after story that were shared about the places we visited.  Places that are important in the birth of our country. Places that hold history which is important for us never to forget!   

Yes, people love places.  It is true, and there is a love that bubbles up deep within our souls when we think about places like home…where we come from…where we live…where we work and play.  Place is important to us as individuals and it is also important to us as we vision the future of our city.  

The Project for Public Spaces (PPS), which was founded in 1975 is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities.  PPS encourages cities, like ours, to build our communities around places.  PPS’s pioneering Placemaking approach helps citizens transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs. It is a hands-on approach that inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of the community. When we do this the connection between people and places that they share is strengthened, and this is exactly what Piqua is doing as we dream and vision for our future!  

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We began this kind of dreaming and visioning many years ago with the Fort Piqua Plaza.  Yes, what was once a dream is now a reality and Fort Piqua Plaza now serves as a focal point for our city.  We, as citizens of Piqua, have a strong sense of connection to Fort Piqua Plaza as a historic landmark in our city and building our city around places, such as this, is what is leading us and it is what others outside of our city are noticing.  Yes, and we are getting noticed because of what we are  doing and how we are dreaming and visioning for our future!  

This past Tuesday the City Commission made a historic decision for the future of our city. We passed a resolution that allows us to employ Gamble and Associates Architecture + Urban Planning to begin the construction documents for the Riverfront Development. David Gamble, the consultant that we have been working with on this project, will be contracted to perform professional design services for our downtown public park space.  This decision shows the developers that have shown interest in our dreams and visions that we are serious and the city is bought into the dreams and visions we have for our future. slide50

By stepping forth boldly in this way, we will begin the transformation of this public space into something that all citizens will also have a strong sense of connection to as this place will carry with it a sense of purpose and not emptiness. With the history of this place and the canal as its focus the renderings of what could be that line the halls of the Piqua City Building speak of history, speak of purpose, speak of gatherings both formal and informal, and with that they speak of the beauty of who we are as a city.  A city where a river runs through it and our Riverfront Development will be a place where we can come and experience all the river has to offer both visually and physically as well.  The Great Miami River is one of our greatest assets!

People love places.  Yes, place is very important to us as individuals and it is also very important to us as we vision the future of our city.  My friends, our future is bright and our future is closer than we think. THIS. Is Piqua! And THIS is EXCITING!             

Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Together – Piqua & Troy Fight for a Cure!

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Mayor Beamish-Troy, OH & Mayor Hinds-Piqua, OH – Walk to End Alzheimer’s 2016

As many of you know this past Spring, I issued a challenge to my friend Mayor Beamish in Troy.  The challenge was to see who could have the most walkers in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  The walk was held this past weekend and what a great turnout we had!  Local organizations, banks, assisted living facilities, and family and friends of those affected by the disease throughout the Miami County came out to “Walk for a Cure.”

In speaking with Katie Mauch, Director of Communications and Walk Coordinator with the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter so far &58,483.00 has been raised and with the addition of the outstanding scholarship money pledged once all is collected $62,048.00 will have been raised!  That is more than $7000.00 over the goal set for the walk!  Way to go Miami County!

The City of Piqua had a great turn out and thanks to Diana Tamplin, the Walk Coordinator for the City over $500.00 was raised!  Thank YOU – City of Piqua!

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CITY OF PIQUA – WALK TO END ALZHEIMER’S – 2016

You know together we are SO much stronger!  Yes there is a healthy Piqua-Troy rivalry that is talked about time and time again, but I want to point out the evidence of what we can do together as the Miami County region!  Yes, what benefits one of us benefits ALL!

Final numbers show that there were 181 walkers this past Saturday.  Troy had 149 & Piqua had 66.  So I congratulate my friend Mayor Beamish on a great Troy turn out, but Piqua had a great showing as well…with the other Miami County communities way behind both Piqua & Troy in the number of their walkers.  Yes, together we are stronger, and I hope that we can find more opportunities to come together and work to better the place that we call home…Piqua/Troy = Miami County!