‘Moving in a positive direction’
BALTIMORE- There’s a lot going on in Baltimore, particularly on the reinvestment front, said Baltimore Mayor Bob Kalish during his annual State of the Village address, Feb. 18.
“National Church Residences will be undertaking a large scale renovation of their Walnut Creek Village property,” he said. Kalish said a federal grant will assist NCR’s $3.28 million conversion of 40 units in the two-story, 32 year old facility into Service Enriched Housing, similar to assisted living. He said the Ohio Department of Aging would make its services available through the Passport Medicaid waiver program.
“The Walnut Creek Village project will begin in the second half of this year,” said Kalish, adding that NCR is the nation’s largest not-for-profit developer and manager of affordable senior housing.
Kalish said the village will receive an Ohio Public Works Commission grant in July for more than $190,000 to pave streets. The streets to be paved include Basil Western, Union, East Water, Railroad, and North Street. “This is truly a step in the right direction,” he said.
Baltimore is working to create value in the Ohio 37 and Ohio 256 corridor by providing city sewer service. “Though this area is outside the Baltimore corporation limits, it is in the 208 planning that was approved by the State of Ohio a couple years ago,” said Kalish. “A 208 planning area helps to map out where no sewer exists at present and looks at who is best to clearly deliver service in the future. We are making it happen in Fairfield County’s new hot spot for economic development.”
Kalish said other village projects include:
• Between Sept. 2013 and Oct. 2014, a $440,000 Safe Routes to School project will be constructed along Ohio 158. The project starts south of Creekview Drive, ends at Johnson Street and includes new sidewalks, curb ramps, signage, and other pedestrian infrastructure.
• Ohio 158 will be repaved from the Lancaster corporation limit to the US 40 intersection, and includes resurfacing through Baltimore. The estimated cost is $3.4 million and will take place between June and October of this year.
Administrator Scott Brown said the village gets by with a little help from its friends. “We have a really active group of volunteer committees,” he said. Brown said he tries to meet with all the volunteer committees, such as the Baltimore Tree Commission and the Baltimore Downtown Restoration Committee, each month to discuss progress. “The residents are shaping Baltimore the way they want it to be,” he said.
Brown said the village reduced water and sewer operational costs 24 percent, meaning there will not be an increase in rates this year. “We had some attrition and found more effective ways of doing things,” he said. “It netted a significant sum of savings.”
Brown said the village has replaced many water and sewer lines around Baltimore, which is a “prohibitively expensive” process. However, with that work complete, the village can turn its attention to “above ground” infrastructure projects, which Brown intends to organize through a five-year plan. He said overall he believes the village is “moving in a positive direction.”
Police Chief Michael Tussey said his department was busy last year, particularly operating with a reduced staff. He said the department was able to place a part-time officer on night shift, which helped to reduce residential break-ins. Sept. 10, there was a theft reported of jewelry and old coins, however the department obtained a confession for the crime. There were 15 drug related arrests last year, t a major heroine confiscation, and an officer discovered a rolling meth lab in a van. “That was a big deal for us,” said Tussey.
He said last year there were 11 drunken driving arrests, and 126 traffic citations were issued. There were also 70 alarm drops and 31 reports of vandalism. “The list goes on,” said Tussey. He was proud that the village could sustain its Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE program amid budget restraints. He said a school resource officer has helped to curtail juvenile crime significantly.
Tussey said Baltimore Police Sgt. Scott Wagner donated his time to monitor the elementary and middle schools following the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy Dec. 14., “so people were at ease.” Kalish recognized Wagner with an official proclamation for his efforts. “He certainly deserved it,” said Tussey.
Liberty Union- Thurston Schools Superintendent Paul Mathews said he appreciated the village’s support and the school resource officer. He is concerned, however, that Fairfield County schools will not be receiving more money through the state’s new funding program. Mathews said smaller Ohio school districts are losing money from many sources while the state’s new program increases funding to larger districts.
“It appears this equalization thing isn’t working,” he said. “Our voters would be unhappy to learn tax money is going to larger districts.” Mathews said the current school funding program funnels public school money to private schools. “That’s unfair,” he said. “We’re keeping public schools in a crisis point while increasing money to private schools. School choice is not school choice; it’s privatization.”
Kalish also presented a proclamation to the Basil Garden Club, “this year celebrating 100 years of cultivating natural beauty in our community,” he said. “The Basil Garden club has been a partner of note with the village for decades and plans to purchase park benches for both Basil and Johnson parks to enable anyone who wishes to just sit and relax and enjoy our park settings even more.” He said the Basil Garden Club is the oldest garden club in the state.