2014-01-04 / Front Page

A Look Back at 2013

By Charles Prince and Scott Rawdon
Photos by Charles Prince & Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE AREA – For the most part, 2013 was not a dramatic year locally.

Thankfully, we didn’t have another derecho which knocked out power for days during the 2012 summer or the “backbuilding” thunderstorm that flooded much of Hebron in March 2012. We did have a November tor nado that destroyed dozens of trees and damaged several homes and a windstorm that knocked down major power lines and closed roads in Hebron.

Here’s some our review of the some the stores that shaped 2013:

South Fork Licking River project

In November, ODN R’s project to widen a portion of the South Fork of the Licking River to increase its carrying capacity was completed a couple of months ahead of schedule. The long delayed project returned conditions in the Ohio 79/ Ohio 360 area to those existing prior to the construction of the Seller’s Point spillway. The spillway addressed f looding problems along the South Bank but the additional water flowing out of Buckeye Lake into the South Fork of the Licking River aggravated flooding in the Ohio 360/Buckeye Lake Village area where the South Fork loops as it turns north toward Newark.

Approximately 3.3 miles of the South Fork has been widened. Its additional capacity will offset the additional flow over the spillway from Buckeye Lake. Channel widening began at the Seller’s Point Spillway Outlet and extended north to the Ohio 79 bridge north of I-70.

New pipeline constructed

Some residents initially mistook cleared earthen strips across farmers’ fields and The Dawes Arbortetum for new roads or exits from I-70. The cleared areas were the route for Enterprise Products’ new ATEX Express pipeline. The ATEX Express project consists of 369 miles of new 20-inch diameter pipe from Washington County, PA to Seymour, IN. At Seymour, the new pipeline will connect with an existing Enterprise pipeline that currently moves ref ined products from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest. The products pipeline will be reversed. In Texas, Enterprise will construct 55 miles of new pipeline to connect to its natural gas liquids storage complex at Mont Belvieu. ATEX will be transporting ethane, a natural gas liquid, from the Marcellus- Utica Shale production areas in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, to Gulf Coast petrochemical plants. Ethane is contained in natural gas and is stripped out at a fractionation facilit y. Ethane is a key feedstock for producing ethylene which is a basic building block for plastics. and other chemical product s. I n it ial pipeli ne capacity is 190,000 barrels per day which Enterprise says can be efficiently expanded. Its route was typically along existing utility right of ways.

Lakewood levy approved

In May, voters approved Lakewood’s 5.24 mill, five-year emergency renewal levy by a wide margin. Superintendent Jay Gault said this was a first time a levy passed on its first attempt for as long a he could determine (back through the 1970s) and it won by the widest margin of any other Lakewood levy based on percentage.

Lakewood Treasurer Glenna Plaisted said the levy reduces the amount district taxpayers contribute. She explained the full amount of the levy renewal was $2,353,259 but the taxpayers pay $2,058,646. The difference, she said, is a $ 294,613 reimbursement from the state. “If the school district continues to renew this emergency levy the state will continue to pay the tangible personal property reimbursement amount attached to this levy,” she said.

Plaisted said voters last renewed the levy on March 4, 2008, at 5.8 mills. This renewal at 5.24 mills costs the owner of a $100,000 home $160.48 per year, which is $17.15 less than in 2008.

Plaisted added that – based on the district’s f ive-year financial forecast – with the levy passage, the district won’t need to return to the ballot until 2018, assuming there are no significant cuts in state or federal funding.

Hebron expands fire station

In April, one year after breaking ground for its first villagefunded renovation and expansion, Hebron officials rededicated their fire station. Hebron Mayor Clifford L. Mason said said the $1.2 million project came in under budget. He added that it was built for future, noting that the department typically has four on-duty overnight while the station has eight private bunk rooms.

Goodyear picks Hebron

Goodyear Tire and Rubber is bringing a new research and development center and 30 technical jobs to the village. Goodyear is moving into Southgate Corporation’s

50,000 square foot building on Integrity Drive, south of Mc- Donald’s. The spec building - built without a tenant commitment - will be ready for Goodyear sometime in February, 2014. The building can be expanded up to 150,000 square feet. Most workers will have technical degrees.

Traffic light isn’t warranted

Ohio Department of Transportation traffic engineer Ty Thompson told village council members in November that the village’s only traffic light - at Lancaster Street and Refugee Road - doesn’t meet any of the department’s criteria. But the decision to keep it or remove it is solely the village’s to make since it is not a state signal or owned by ODOT. The report was based on a September traffic study prompted by concerns about northbound drivers on Lancaster Street passing vehicles waiting to turn left onto Refugee Road by driving into the marked area for pedestrians in front of the Circle K gas station. Thompson suggested two alternatives to the light. Convert the intersection to a two-way stop.

School district wants more students

Millersport Mayor’s Assistant and Walnut Township School Board member Vince Popo is seeking about 100 new students for the small district. In September, Popo and Village Council member Dustin Bidwell crafted “A Way Forward” that highlights five areas that could host new development. The two largest undeveloped tracts are the farm land on the west side of Lancaster Street across from the high school and the now village-owned property west of the new water treatment plant. Popo said concerns about the state having to eventually take over the district for financial reasons are real. More students would increase state financial aid and more homes would increase the tax base. Both would help reduce the deficit.

Call for village to build condos

In April, Millersport Mayor’s Assistant Vince Popo told council members that the village owns the largest chunk of undeveloped land within the village. He outlined a conceptual plan for the village to build 8-16 ranchstyle condos on its recently expanded wellfield south and west of the village office on Refugee Road. Popo suggested targeting the units at buyers age 55 and up. He hopes profits from the condo sales, enhanced by the village’s control of water and sewer tap fees, could cover most of its cost to purchase the additional 30-acre tract for its well field and future village facilities such as a new fire station. It would also add to the village’s tax base.

Millersport starts Community Watch program

MIllersport Community Watch volunteers began patrols in July. Police Chief Mark Consolo organized the program, starting with just four volunteers. He hopes to reach 20. The volunteers received 40 hours of training including first aid and CPR from the Millersport Fire Department, radio protocol and the law enforcement computer system, policies and procedures and ethics. Each volunteer must first clear a background check. Two-person teams are currently patrolling within the village, but Consolo has been asked to expand the coverage area to all of Walnut Township.

Questioning Common Core

Some Liberty Union-Thurston parents are questioning the State of Ohio’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards at board of education meetings. Common Core sets national educational standards for English and Math. The parents object to what they call its one-size-fits-all, top-down, centralized standards that replace local and/or state standards. Board members have been urged to keep education decisions local and decentralized.

Water/sewer extension spurs development

Farm Credit Services broke ground in July for their new Fairfield County office. The 5,600 sq. ft. building is being built on a five-acre tract on Ohio 37, just south of the Ohio 256 and Ohio 37 intersection outside Baltimore. The Village of Baltimore extended water and sewer service to the site which Mayor Bob Kalish called the “new hot spot” in Fairfield County.

On-station coverage expanded

Licking Township Fire Company added a part-time paid paramedic or EMT on station from 4 - 10 p.m. Monday through Friday in July. Fire Chief Mike Wilson said the company averaged 310 runs a year in that time period . Wilson is the company’s only full-time employee. He and a paid part-time EMT/firefighter are on duty from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Two EMT/firefighters are on duty from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday nights. Franklin Township pays the cost for two EMT/firefighters from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays at the Franklin Township substation. That crew runs into Licking Township if needed. Currently, the additional $20,000 per year cost can be funded out of the department’s current budget.

Recycling returns to Walnut Township

In August, Walnut Township Trustee President Terry Horn announced that recycling opportunities would once again be available to township residents. Trustees terminated recycling activities about four and half years ago. The township facility on Millersport Road is now a household recycling drop-off location for the Lancaster- Fairfield County Community Action Agency’s Recycling Program. There is no cost to Walnut Township.

Lions return to state playoffs

Liberty Union Lions began the football season on a new note, entering the larger school Buckeye Division of the Mid-State League. They tied for third in the new league with an 8-2 record and just missed winning the league by inches. The 2013 Lions become the first Liberty Union football team to go back-to-back in the state playoffs. They finished with a 9-3 record after a 14-7 loss to the eventual state champion runner-up. Team records were set by the entire defensive unit. The stingy Lions’ defense allowed an average of just 8.9 points per game and caused 26 fumbles, recovering 20. The defensive unit will go down as one of the best defenses Liberty Union has ever had.

Small retires

Buckeye Lake Police Chief Ron Small retired March 29. He worked full-time for the Buckeye Lake Police Department for 20 years, and five years as a reserve officer. Mayor Rick Baker promoted Capt. James Hanzey to chief. He’s been with the department 28 years, 24 as a paid officer and four as an auxiliary.

Buckeye Lake Winery opens

Buckeye Lake Winery staff pulled all-nighters this summer trying to open the new facility by July 3, in time for one of Buckeye Lake’s most festive holidays. The winery, located on the lake’s south shore, opened on time and was met with massive crowds eager for a peek at the new facility.

The Buckeye Lake Winery is one of the only wineries locally (and possibly the only) with boat access, featuring slips for more than 35 boats, and is located between Compass Point and Crescent Cove.

Thurston drops lawsuit

In May, Village of Thurston officials dropped a lawsuit filed against the Village of Baltimore claiming that Baltimore is interfering with Thurston’s ability to provide public water to customers along Ohio 256 east of Baltimore’s corporation limits.

Thurston mayor Mary Boring said her village spent nearly $10,000 in legal fees defending its water service area along Ohio 256 between Baltimore and Thurston villages. Thurston’s current water contract with Baltimore ends in March 2014.

Boring said Fast Max service station owner Mike Wagner never approached Thurston and asked about its capacity to expand water supply on the properties he wished to develop. He went directly to Baltimore. Likewise, Boring said Baltimore never discussed Wagner’s plans with Thurston before installing lines. Ohio EPA issued Baltimore a notice of violation for not submitting plans to them, yet later approved Baltimore’s plans after their lines were already in the ground. The judge assigned to the pending litigation denied Thurston’s request for a temporary restraining order to keep Baltimore from delivering water in Thurston’s service area.

Thurston plans to build its own $2.4 million water plant to serve its customers.

More derelict Buckeye Lake homes demolished

By the end of the year, 50 some derelict homes had been demolished either privately or through the Moving Ohio Forward grant program. Investor Don Dick, who purchased the entire block that includes the Bangkok City restaurant, was also responsible for removing some derelict structures.

Peg Mativi, CEO of Dublin, Ohio’s Solutions Staffing and an investor in the property, said the property is now named The Holstberry Family properties in honor of the original owners and their descendants.

“Our short-term goals are to clean up the property and have it look respectable for Buckeye Lake residents,” Mativi told The Beacon in an email. “The property has long been an eyesore, and our plans are to change that as quickly as possible. We have torn down run down houses, abandoned houses, trailers, burned houses, sheds and much more in the short time we have owned the property. We do have some businesses and homes that will continue to be leased who understand the importance of a clean neighborhood. We will continue to improve the existing properties that remain.”

As for as investors’ long term goals, Mativi said, “We have several ideas regarding long term goals, but right now our total focus is getting the property to a place where Buckeye Lake will be proud to have this gateway to our village cleaned up and an acceptable entry to visitors and residents alike as they enter Buckeye Lake.”

Buckeye Lake Village rejects LEADS’ proposal

Mayor Rick Baker was disappointed in February when LEADS’ plans to construct 30 single-family homes for low income families failed get to a council vote.

LEADS, Licking County’s Community Action Agency, sought a resolution of support from the village for its application for low income housing tax credits. The agency also needed to have control of several village owned vacant lots to get started. The resolution of support would’ve given LEADS a critical point in the competition for the credits which are awarded on the basis of points.

Council member Jeryne Peterson said she was not in favor of promoting low-income housing. “That’s what we already have,” she said. She feared the homes wouldn’t be properly maintained and would eventually collect broken down vehicles. “I have many reasons why I don’t think this is a benefit for the village,” said Peterson.

Lakewood’s solar power woes

In an on again, off again scenario, the Lakewood School District moved forward with its plans to generate most of its electrical power needs via a solar array.

In February, board members agreed to begin working with Solar Planet Company on a solar power purchase agreement, or PPA, to purchase roughly 60 percent of the district’s power needs from a Solar Planet-installed solar array.

The agreement revives plans to use the projected savings from the solar project to repay a loan to finance replacement of old and inefficient windows in the middle school. Its first contractor dropped its 2012 contract with the district after failing to attract enough investors to fund the project. Solar Planet struggled for months to reach an interconnection agreement with AEP. An agreement was reached in December and installation of the solar panels is expected to begin in March 2014.

Thorn Township hires new fire chief

In July, Thorn Township Fire Department volunteers voted 12 to 2 to hire Lt. Cheyenne Wells of the Jackson Township Division of Fire near Grove City as the department’s new part-time chief. Wells also worked part-time for the Hebron Fire Department.

A two-thirds majority vote of the Thorn Township department’s volunteers is required to approve a new chief. Some within the department, including former fire chief Duane Moore who is now volunteering, disagree with the selection method. He said that excluding the paid staff from voting and limiting voting to a specific meeting means a relatively small group will make the decision.

However, Thorn Township Trustee Dale Factor defended the method. “The volunteers are the heart and soul of our department. We couldn’t function without them,” he said, adding that he thought the volunteers should have a say in who the new chief will be. Factor said the paid staff is obviously very important, but they are receiving paychecks and normally paid employees of an organization aren’t able to choose their next boss.

Department volunteers previously rejected Heath Fire Chief Mark Huggins as fire chief by a vote of 10 to 2.

Union Township addresses boundary conformation

In one of the area’s most complex issues, Union Township Trustees learned in July that Heath was the only municipality within the township to properly secede and be independent. Buckeye Lake and Hebron were still technically part of Union Township. This troubled Licking County Auditor Michael Smith because not all Union Township properties were being taxed equally on inside millage, which is the 10 mills of property taxation that isn’t required to be approved by voters. Though it may be only a matter of a few tenths of a mill between properties, Smith said all township residents should be taxed equally. The slight differences in millage arose over time.

The situation was more urgent since both Union Township and Buckeye Lake Village were trying to pass critical fire levies, and worried that voters would approve neither if they knew they would have to pay for both.

Buckeye Lake scrambled to secede from Union Township while Hebron wasn’t so eager and is still part of the township.

Buckeye Lake Village creates storm water utility

It’ll be roughly a year before any money is collected, but in December Buckeye Lake Village Council members agreed to create a storm water utility, despite the urgings of a council member-elect to wait.

A storm water utility is a “stand-alone” service unit within the local government that generates revenues through fees for service. A storm water utility is responsible for funding the operation, construction and maintenance of storm water management devices, for storm water system planning, and management. It generates revenue through user fees, which go into a specific fund specifically for storm water services.

Mayor Rick Baker has estimated the utility will cost village residents $3 to $4 per month.

Council member-elect Peggy Wells asked council members to table approval of the ordinance because of several “specific concerns” she had with its wording. She also wanted to be certain there would be public meetings about the storm water utility before village residents were charged for it. Council members approved the ordinance saying it could be “tweaked” before residents would begin paying for it.

Pizza place buys downtown Thornville lot

In November, Firehouse Pizza owners Joseph and Lilly Langwasser offered to purchase a downtown Thornville lot that was once home to the Thornville Hardware Store for $11,501. The only other bid the village received was for $5,100. Their bid was accepted.

Last September, the village razed the old hardware store, which was in extremely poor condition. There was some debate over whether to try to restore the building for its historical value, but the village received a $60,000 donation to raze the building, provided the village accepted the donation by Sept. 1 of last year.

The lot is expected to be used as a patio for the pizza restaurant.

Licking County consolidates polling places

Many Hebron and Buckeye Lake voters were upset to learn they would be voting at the Union Township Complex on Beaver Run Road Nov. 5, which is miles away from where Hebron and Buckeye Lake residents traditionally voted.

Licking County Board of Elections Director Sue Penick said the consolidation was a cost saving move made possible, in part, through improved voting technology. County-wide, the board of elections reduced precincts from 125 to 95. Buckeye Lake, Hebron and Union Township all lost one precinct leaving the two villages with one precinct each.

Local officials, who were not consulted about the consolidation or move, were concerned that the move would reduce voter turnout since village voters could no longer walk to their polling place and faced a five-seven mile drive. Although volunteers helped shuttle some voters, Hebron voter turnout was roughly 20 percent of registered voters and Buckeye Lake Village turnout was roughly 28 percent of registered voters.

Union Township struggles with fire contracts

It was a wild year for Union Township’s fire contracts as both the township’s contracts – Union Township contracts with the Granville Township Fire Department to cover the region of the township north of the Columbus & Ohio River railroad tracks and contracts with the Hebron Fire Department to cover the southern region – were renegotiated following passage of an additional 1.5 mill fire levy Nov. 5.

New agreements were reached by the end of the year. Prior to the approval of the new levy, Union Township offered Hebron $420,000 for 2014, the same as 2013. Granville was already under contract for $80,000 in 2014. The township paid Hebron roughly $625,000 in 2012.

Shortly after voters approved the new levy, trustees agreed to give each department all the levy revenue generated in their service area. Trustees quickly approved a five-year contract with Granville Township Nov. 18 to receive an estimated $150,000 to $175,000 annually. Negotiations with Hebron took longer, but an agreement was reached by year end. Hebron is expected to receive roughly $670,000.

Price becomes Millersport Fire Chief

Long-time assistant fire chief Bob Price is Millersport’s new fire chief. He replaces Matt Bergum who resigned at the end of the year. Bergum served as chief for two years, replacing Bill Yates after he was elected as a Walnut Township Trustee. Price is a captain with the Columbus Division of Fire, commanding Station 23, at Hamilton and Livingston avenues.

Election changes some faces

2013 was a local election year. Buckeye Lake Village elected a new mayor after Rick Baker decided to step down after one term. Council member Clay Carroll narrowly edged former council member Brenda Hileman for the post with council member Jeryne Peterson a distant third.Former council member Peggy Wells is returning to council and incumbent Michelle McCormick was elected to a full term after filling the rest of Kaye Hartman’s term. Write-in candidate Ken Owens was also elected to a full term, but was found to be ineligible per the village charter. Council members will fill that vacancy by appointment in January.

In Walnut Township, Trustee President Terry Horn turned back strong efforts to make him a oneterm trustee. He led the five candidate field for two seats. Doug Leith will replace Sonny Dupler who retired after three terms.

In Licking Township, former trustee John Holman will replace Ron Acord who retired after six terms. Incumbent Dave Miller was reelected. Neither was challenged.

In Union Township, trustee president Rick Black led the fourcandidate field for a second term and Beacon editor and longtime challenger Charles Prince displaced veteran trustee Jesse Ours.

In Thorn Township, David Lyle led the three-candidate field. He ousted incumbent Dale Factor and long-time incumbent Rick Wilson was reelected.

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