2008-02-23 / News

Partnerships fuel progress in Baltimore

By Scott Rawdon

BALTIMORE - Partnerships are the key to the Village of Baltimore's success, said Baltimore Mayor Bob Kalish in his annual State of the Village address Monday morning. From hiring a new police chief to luring more businesses into town, working relationships fueled the village's accomplishments in 2007.

Kalish told a large crowd at Liberty Union High School that last year an independent assessor interviewed chamber of commerce members, elected officials, and village staff, and determined the village was ready for a full-time police chief. In May, the village hired Police Chief Mike Tussey to provide more police coverage than the village has had in many years. Since his hire, Tussey busted a meth lab, created a bicycle patrol, and spoke to children about Internet safety, among other accomplishments.

Kalish announced $1.8 million of construction projects in Baltimore this year. He said businessman Chet Hauck plans to build a 24,000 square feet flexbuilding (open officespace) near Factory Street. Businessman Greg Bishop plans to build an oil change business on North Main Street, representing a $400,000 investment. The Faith Lutheran Church plans to build a $400,000 structure on its property on South Main Street.

Kalish said residents Matt and Kathy McIntire will restore the old Basil Methodist Church at the corner of Ohio 256 and Oak Street. It will be home to a retail art gallery called The Artist Within. Todd and Kathy Bird will open Freedom Enterprises, a roofingand siding business, on North Main Street.

Fairfield County Economic Director Bill Arnett will work with the village to findways to fillBaltimore's empty storefronts. Kalish said he identified all the empty storefronts in town and asked for help from Arnett, the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce, Baltimore Community Improvement Corporation, and the Baltimore Downtown Restoration Committee to market the village's available retail space.

Kalish said the village, the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce, and the FairfieldCounty Economic Development Officewill sponsor a Baltimore "Show Me the Money" seminar for existing and potential businesses in autumn of this year. He asked chamber of commerce personnel to look over the village's policies and make sure they are all "pro-business."

In 2000, Kalish founded the Robert C. Kalish Memorial Youth Park Program, named for his late father. The park helps local fourth and fifth graders and provides them a summer camp. Kalish said this summer Tussey will present a one day summer camp as a "positive, fun day" for local fourth and fifth graders, sponsored by Amy Eyman of the Fairfield County

This year, Kalish plans to create an overall plan for the restoration and management of the Baltimore Village Hall, which is home to the village offices,a theater, and a massive Masonic Lodge area on its top floor.

Village Administrator Marsha Hall said that last year the village implemented a commercial building department, which she described as a "one stop shop" for commercial builders. The department handles all plan reviews and inspections for the construction new commercial buildings and additions.

This year the village again has $5,000 available to help Baltimore businesses improve their facades. The property owner must provide two times what the grant provides.

Hall expects the village's sewer plant project to be complete this year. The village is creating an inventory of storm water drains and a water system master plan, and the village plans to build a second water tower to its east, which will improve water pressure, particularly for the firetrucks that hitch to the village hydrants. A $750,000 grant will help fund the project.

A criminal has a two percent chance of committing a crime when a Baltimore officeris not on duty, said Tussey...sort of. This year the police department has a full-time officeron duty each shift, so there is at least one officeron duty 98 percent of the day, he said. Before Tussey started, there was an officer on duty only 58 percent of the day. "I think many of you have noticed a stronger presence of police in the village," said Tussey. "We will not tolerate crime in the village." He thanked the Baltimore Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, and Lions Club for providing police bicycles to the department. "Yes, they do ride them in the snow," he said. Tussey added incidents of vandalism are far fewer recently, and there have been no recent vandalism in the village's parks or cemetery. He said the department implemented a security card check program whereby an officerensures businesses are secure during the night and leaves a card stating the time of the security check. "It's a very positive message for us to be sending," said Tussey.

The chief said the village's cruisers received new paint jobs through donations. "My staff and I have great expectations for the future," said Tussey. Kalish formally recognized him for his work earlier in the address.

Village Clerk/Treasurer Flo Welker was present, but didn't speak because she was experiencing laryngitis.

Basil Fire District Chief Rob Cooley said the Studertown Road firestation is now staffed 24 hour per day, and can provide assistance to the main station at any time, if necessary. "We can take care of ourselves, and that's a good thing," he said. Cooley said the department is always seeking volunteers and encouraged anyone interested to contact him. He told the audience that the station provides many community services, such as child safety seat inspections and blood pressure checks. The department will burn down two houses this summer, which were donated for training purposes.

Liberty Union-Thurston Superintendent Paul Mathews said the district partners with the village to discuss the mutual effects from population growth and infrastructure issues. The district also partners with the fireand police departments. "The students in our school know the police chief," he said. Tussey is educating students and parents about Internet safety.

Mathews said the district is on the "fast track" toward receiving funding for a new middle school. District voters are asked to approve a 2.8 mills bond levy March 4, which, if approved, will raise about $6 million for the district. Mathews said passage of the 2.8 mills levy qualifies the district for $17.2 million in state funding, much of which would go toward building a new middle school.

Mathews stressed that 1.59 mills will come off of the tax bills in January 2009, with the expiration of the 1985 high school bond levy. Only 1.2 mills would be "added," compared to calendar 2007 tax bills, he said. The levy, if approved, would cost the owner of a $100,000 house $7.15 per month, or $85.80 per year (that drops to $3.53 per month after the 1985 high school bond levy expires). Senior citizen homeowners are exempt from the first $25,000 of their homes' valuation beginning calendar year 2008. A senior citizen who owns a $100,000 home would pay $5.36 per month or $64.32 per year.

Christ United Methodist Church Pastor Mike Donnally said his church and the Baltimore Area Workcamp Committee is bringing 382 volunteers to town this summer to improve the homes of local residents. Local volunteers are needed, too.

According to a statement from the church, elderly, handicapped, and lower-income residents of the Baltimore can receive free home repairs. As many as 70 local residents will benefit from the work of nearly 400 adult and teenage volunteers at the Buckeye State Workcamp, coming to Baltimore, June 25 through July 5. The workcamp will provide free home repairs through the Group Workcamps Foundation program sponsored locally by Christ United Methodist and the Baltimore Area Workcamp Committee.

The workcamp will be housed at Liberty-Union High School, with workcampers sleeping on classroom floors, eating in the cafeteria, and enjoying evening programs in the gym. Donnally said this service to the community would be impossible without the cooperation of Liberty-Union High School. Group Workcamps Foundation will reimburse all costs to the lodging facility.

Repairs offered though the Workcamp include interior and exterior painting, weatherization, porch and wheelchair ramp construction, and other work. Residents interested in applying to receive assistance should contact Donnally at (740) 862-4343.

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