BUCKEYE LAKE – Buckeye Lake Mayor Rick Baker told council members Monday night that 2010 was a year of accomplishments for the village as he presented his State of the Village address.
He began with the village’s public water project. “As we all know, this has been a dream for the village for many years, and for many administrations, councils, and citizens,” Baker said. He said those who have been drinking bottled water, unable to take a decent shower, or unable simply to wash clothes are “elated.” He said the public water system currently has 753 customers including residences and businesses, and 383 residences have the ability to connect to the system when the property owners desire to do so. The mayor said the village also constructed a unique water tower, which resembles a lighthouse. “Not only is it functional, but also stands as a billboard and symbol to highlight our community,” he said.
“Another big accomplishment that was tied with the water project was the street paving program,” Baker said. Water system construction significantly damaged most Buckeye Lake Village streets, which were repaved last year. “We were able to provide a fresh new road surface for much of the village,” he said. Baker said the village was fortunate to receive funding for the roads when most communities struggle financially to repave just a few roads per year. He said a goal for 2011 is to obtain funding to resurface the rest of the streets needing repairs.
Baker said he’s taken particular interest in the village’s derelict home demolition project that was funded by a federal Neighborhood Stabilization grant administered by the Licking County Planning Commission. “It has been a major goal of mine to rid the community of these dilapidated structures or to encourage rehabilitation,” he said. “We have a goal of tearing down about 50 more.”
Additional grant funding isn’t currently available, but Baker said he was told more may become available in the future. He said the village has taken ownership of three properties with one more in the works (129 Stewart Street). Baker said the village planned to hold onto these properties, but may need to sell them to fund future demolition projects, especially if no grant funds become available.
Baker said another major goal of his is to develop the four-lane Hebron Road boulevard into a “quaint downtown” with “mom and pop” types of businesses housed in a mixture of new buildings and existing cottages. “I have always compared Buckeye Lake to a waterfront community in (the State of) Delaware called Rehoboth,” he said. “I continue to think of this as the example we could use for our development plans.”
Baker said a committee was formed to help plans progress for Hebron Road and other downtown areas. Subcommittees are exploring organization, economic restructuring, design, and promotion. “As part of these promotion ideas, we’re looking into having a variety of different and fun events throughout the year from festivals to musical concerts,” he said, and asked that any citizens willing to help with these events to contact the village.
Baker said other positive changes included a new village welcome sign, a new park coming to the far west end of town, a new PetPlex building, curbs and sidewalks for Hebron Road, and several rumors of new businesses coming to Buckeye Lake Village.
In other council news:
• Council President Charlene Hayden addressed some of the “recent alleged criticism” of recent village projects in local news media. The Beacon published several editorials and letters to the editor last year questioning the quality of the repaving project and the cost and performance of the village’s engineering consultant on that project.
Hayden said she and Baker recently met with ME Companies designer Jack Christy to discuss the criticisms. “In my opinion, all the ME employees have been very willing to field and, or discuss any questions we have at any time,” she said. “I know I have called Jack any time I have had a question and the mayor said he has done the same. The village hasn’t paid extra in any case.”
Hayden said she asked Christy why the paving contractor (Chemcote) did not reimburse the village for the two days it was late in completing its project. She said contracts for work being done in municipalities have a late clause in the event a contractor does not fulfill the contract in the allotted time and the work that has not been completed becomes a detriment to the municipality. For example, she said, if Buckeye Lake didn’t begin purchasing water from Millersport at the agreed upon date, it would have been a detriment to Millersport’s water budget. In Chemcote’s case, “A two-day delay is a negligible amount of time in a project of this length,” said Hayden. “I believe more time than that was lost due to rain.” She said the village could’ve tried to collect, “but it would probably cost more to collect than we would get due to the delay.”
Hayden said some of ME Companies’ charges were brought into question. “ME’s billing is not out of line with other engineering firms,” she said. “As far as the charges quoted in the news media, those were billing hour amounts, not someone’s individual salary.” Hayden said any business has overhead and accounts for it in some fashion, directly or indirectly. She said Christy has had the opportunity to view the work of other paving contractors and he believes Chemcote followed the specifications of the contract and did a good job. He said any time Chemcote accidentally damaged anything, the company paid for it immediately.
Hayden said ME Companies Vice President Kevin Wood contacted all of Buckeye Lake’s funding agencies to see if they had a problem with anything ME did with regards to the work they performed for the Village of Buckeye Lake. “None of them had a single problem,” she said. “I have no problem with anything ME has done for and, or with the village.”
Hayden summed up by saying, “The only entities ME, Stillion, or Chemcote really need to satisfy are the funding agencies and the Village of Buckeye Lake. We have completed a $7 million project that has cost us very little. The grant money and stimulus money we received was largely due to (ME Companies). Owing this small amount of money for our water project allows us to charge our customers only $29 per month as opposed to $50 per month. That’s excellent in anyone’s book!”
• Water Supervisor Toby Miller said McDonald’s, Taco Bell, the Duke and Dutchess service station, and the Super 8 Motel were under a water boil alert after a waterline break Monday. He said there was no evidence of contamination as a result of the break and boil alert was only a precaution. Miller said a faulty valve caused the leak, but the valve was under warranty and Stillion Brothers covered all the repair expenses, including labor.
• Fiscal Officer Vince Popo said the village is in strong financial shape going into 2011. “Life is pretty dog gone good,” he said. “I feel really good about where we’re at. We’re certainly better off than we were five years ago.”
• Hayden thanked resident Tim Herderick for making and placing the Christmas wreathes on the boulevard fence at the village’s north end. “He’s been doing this at his expense for several years,” she said.